Babies need LOTS of sleep. A baby’s body and brain are RAPIDLY developing, and sleep is one of your best tools to help your baby grow! A number of studies have been completed on infant sleep, and the findings from these studies indicate that getting the sleep your baby needs will impact a whole lot: their memory, language, executive function, cognitive development, healthy weight gain, and physical growth (Tham, Schneider, & Broekman, 2022).
I’m sure you don’t need a study to tell you how important sleep is. If you have had a baby (and I’m assuming you have if you are reading this blog), then YOU know how sleep deprivation feels!
So how can you ensure that your baby is getting enough sleep? There are averages that we will look at which tell us how much sleep MOST babies need at certain ages. While these averages are helpful, they are NOT the only indicator that your little one is getting enough sleep.
Some babies will fall outside of these averages but they will still get the rest they need! These are referred to as “high” or “low” sleep needs babies. This is why it’s not only important to look at these averages, but also to keep an eye out for other signs of a well-rested baby:
The First 1-2 Weeks:
During the first few weeks, it may feel like ALL your baby does is sleep. Many parents have a hard time judging how long a wake window should be because it almost seems like their baby is NEVER awake. Do not stress about wake windows at this age: they are supposed to be short! Awake time fluctuates between 30 and 45 minutes at this age, and this includes feeding time!
Your newborn baby may sleep up to 16-18 hours a day. Keep in mind that not only will this sleep be very broken up, but they SHOULD be waking frequently to feed. Since newborns have a high sleep drive, you might need to wake them to feed sometimes! I recommend waking your baby to feed them if it has been longer than 4 hours since the start of their last feed.
Don’t be surprised if your baby gets more sleep during the day and has some wakeful moments at night, too! Babies are not born with a strong circadian rhythm; it develops over time! While this won’t get better overnight, there are steps you can take to lay great sleep foundations from day ONE. I walk you through all these steps in my newborn guide:
2 weeks-3 Months:
Over the remainder of the newborn period your child’s sleep needs will very gradually and slowly drop. You will also notice that they become more alert and interactive during awake time (which makes it easier to gauge how long wake windows truly are)!
During this time, you will notice that your child’s circadian rhythm starts to develop (and is typically fully developed between 2-3 months). This means that they will start getting the majority of sleep at night, likely in longer stretches than before!
While sleep needs are dropping, babies still need a lot of sleep in a 24-hour period! Total sleep can vary from 14-17 hours a day. The number and length of naps may feel unpredictable at this age, but we typically see anywhere between 4-6 naps a day.
Keep in mind that during the newborn days, it’s normal for sleep to happen in 30-minute to 3-hour chunks. It may not always feel like your little one is getting the sleep they need, but these frequent wake-ups are completely normal during the early months, and over time sleep WILL consolidate!
At this age, night sleep should be mostly consolidated. We should see your baby getting 11-12 hours of night sleep (with or without night feedings/wakings). Your baby will also get 3-4 hours of sleep during the day. Most babies have a total of 15 hours of sleep in a 24-hour period!
Now that night sleep is consolidated, the next thing your baby will work on is naps! It is completely normal to struggle with short naps at this age! In fact, the last nap of the day will STAY short until your baby drops down to two naps a day (around 8-9 months!).
The rest of your child’s naps should consolidate between 5-6 months so that they are getting two longer and one short nap a day! If you are not seeing those first two naps lengthen out, then it is usually due to needing to fine-tune wake windows OR needing to work on independent sleep skills. Don’t know where to start with this? Let’s schedule a time to chat:
I LOVE this age. Wake windows start to lengthen out, and it finally feels like you can run an errand in between nap times! On top of that, your child’s personality is going to EXPLODE around this time. Sleep needs will drop again, but not by a whole lot! I like to see babies getting 10-12 hours of night sleep and 2.5-3 hours of day sleep!
On average your child will sleep for 14 hours in a 24-hour period!
This age is also notorious for separation anxiety, which may disrupt sleep! If you don’t know what to expect with separation anxiety then be sure to check out my blog.
During this age, you may not notice that your child’s sleep needs drastically drop, but their nap schedule will change – which will cause their wake windows to get MUCH longer! Most babies will drop down to one nap a day during the 13-18 month range. They will continue to get 10-12 hours of sleep at night and will typically sleep for 2-3 hours during the day. Total sleep needs during a 24-hour period can range between 13-14 hours.
Don’t be surprised if your child’s nap is only an hour and a half when you first transition to one nap! It takes some time for that nap to lengthen out to a full 2-3 hours. It’s a BIG transition and there are usually some bumps along the way due to those extra-long wake windows. Check out my blog on the 2-1 nap transition so you feel prepared!
At some point during this stage, you may notice a drop in your child’s sleep needs. Wake windows may elongate even more, and their nap or night sleep may become a bit shorter! As they get closer to 3 years old, you may even notice that they skip their nap sometimes!
Usually at this age, we see closer to 10-11 hours of sleep overnight and 1.5-2 hours of sleep during the day!
My goal with blogs like this is always to help parents feel more comfortable with their child’s sleep, but sometimes I find that it causes anxiety to SPIKE! If this has made you anxious, please do me a favor and take a big breath in and out. Averages are just that… averages. Children will fall outside these averages, which is normal. It is ESPECIALLY normal to fall outside of these averages during illness, teething, or regressions. A certain number of hours of sleep does not determine whether you are a good parent. I’m sure you are doing a wonderful job! But if you are worried, I’m here and I would love to chat more with you.
Edited By: The Phenomenal Emily Schafer