When you first bring your little one home from the hospital, many of them will fall asleep wherever and whenever they are sleepy. It seems so simple! During this time, parents don’t usually worry about the amount of sleep their newborns need because they appear to be sleeping enough. Some new parents don’t understand the hype about babies not sleeping because theirs is! This may change as your baby gets a little older. Babies may become more aware and curious about their surroundings, while other babies continue to ignore the activity going on around them. Please read my blog post, Laying the Groundwork for Healthy Sleep Habits for Your Newborn, to ensure you’re doing everything possible so your baby’s environment is conducive to good sleep. Parents typically inquire about their baby’s sleep needs somewhere between 2 weeks and 2 months of age. Because sleep needs change as babies grow, I will break things down by age.
Between 1 to 3 months, you should have no expectations for how your baby sleeps. I know, I know, I feel your pain! But it’s not fair to your baby to have these high expectations that they should be a good sleeper. A baby in these first three months of age needs between 14 and 17 hours of sleep in 24 hours. These months can be tough ones for parents. Baby’s sleep is not consistent most of the time. They may only be awake long enough to feed, change their diapers, and have a short activity. Their waking is driven mainly by their hungry tummy or if they are uncomfortable.
During these early days, they will likely take four or (probably) more naps during the daytime, and the rest of their sleep is at night. They may be waking every 2-3 hours to eat. At this point, it’s basically 24-hour periods of sleeping, eating, and fussing. Their bodies are not yet making melatonin, the sleep hormone; their circadian rhythm is underdeveloped.
During months 4 through 11, their overall sleep need decreases slightly; they now need 12-15 hours of sleep in 24 hours. During these months, you will see your baby’s wake window of time lengthen, and their number of naps decrease. Their sleep becomes more consolidated. Their body is producing melatonin, and their circadian rhythm is beginning to develop.
It’s important during these months (if you’re not already doing it) to start getting them down for a nap or to bed as soon as sleepy signs begin to show. Please feel free to grab my 7 Signs Your Baby is Overtired and How to Keep it from Happening (on my website). As you may have already discovered, your baby can be overstimulated or overtired if they are awake too long. Then, they can have a second wind which will become out of control shortly.
From about 1 year of age through their toddler years, they need 11-14 hours of sleep in 24 hours. It is during the toddler years when they will drop their nap(s); the average age for this is around 2.5 years.
The amount of sleep your baby or toddler needs has much to do with their age and their individual needs as a little person. Most babies have not read textbooks on sleep. Ha! Just as some adults feel rested and function well on 7 hours of sleep each night, others need 9 hours.
When determining your little one sleep needs, I’d suggest following the above guidelines for their age group, then adjusting based on your baby’s response.
Need more help? I can help! Check out my Newborn Sleep Tip Sheet with Coaching service.
August 10, 2023
Trust me: you don’t want your baby to hit this point. If you notice any of these seven signs, it’s time to put your baby to sleep — NOW!
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