Your Guide To Healthy Baby Sleep
Mr. Sandman, bring my baby a dream!
Your newborn or infant is already a seasoned pro when it comes to one activity—sleep. Baby sleep serves much more of a purpose than just giving them a chance to rest their little head—it’s a cornerstone of their development. If you’re wondering about things like how much sleep do babies need?, how long do babies sleep?, and how do I get my baby to sleep longer at night?, keep reading. We’ve got all your answers, including priceless tips on creating a baby sleep chart and baby sleep schedule to help your infant get quality ZZZs.
Do Babies Need The Most Sleep?
Of all the times in your little one’s childhood, they’ll sleep the most when they’re newborn through 11 months old—and for good reason. Your infant grows more in their first year of life than at any other time, and it’s not limited to their physical body size either. It encompasses just about everything in their development, which will enable them to hit important milestones. Ahead, we’re breaking down how much your baby will sleep by age in their first year, and providing tips on how you can both get better rest at night.
Why Is It Important For Babies To Sleep?
Your baby develops in leaps and bounds during their first year, and sleep is crucial. It may seem like they’re merely recharging from an exciting day, but their brain is fast at work fostering everything from their neurological development, cognition, learning, and memory to their behavior, psychosocial development, and even emotions.
Simply sleeping isn’t the answer—getting a healthy sleep is what matters most. So, what is “healthy sleep”? It’s making sure your baby gets the best possible slumber they can. This involves ensuring they’re getting quality sleep at the right time, for the right amount of time, consistently, with minimal or no disturbances.
Of course, there are ways to be sure you’re getting a healthy Mommy sleep too! One such tactic is to try and nap when your baby does. We know, this is often easier said than done, but just try your best and give yourself permission to let that load of laundry wait or save the vacuuming for another day, then sneak a nap at the same time as your little one. It’s also a good idea to practice good “sleep hygiene,” meaning avoiding caffeine and screens before bed, and trying to stick to a consistent sleep schedule. You’ll both benefit if you’re better rested!
How Many Times a Day Do Babies Sleep?
So, how often and how long can you expect your infant to sleep—and (hopefully) free you up to bask in some of that downtime too? Well, it depends on their age.
0 to 2 months: It’s fairly hard to predict how often your newborn will sleep, but it’s fair to say quite a bit—a whopping 16 to 17 hours throughout the day and night, in fact. They usually drift in and out of sleep frequently throughout the day for short naps that can last as little as 30 minutes to longer bouts that range from two to four hours at a time. There is an upside to this, however, as sleeping in spurts allows them to get the necessary frequent feedings and stimulation they need when they open those adorable eyes.
2 to 3 months: Fortunately, by the time they’re 2 to 3 months old, sleep becomes a little easier to anticipate. Infants in this age range generally nap two to four times a day for around 60 to 90 minutes, bringing their snoozes to a total of 14 to 17 hours every 24 hours. This is also around the time your little one may start to develop sleep patterns, which translate into more ZZZs at night—hooray!
3 to 6 months: At about 3 to 6 months old, and especially the closer they get to 6 months, you may start to see your baby sleeping for longer periods of time. Think a whole six hours at night, followed by two or three lazy two-hour daytime naps. They might also start clocking a little less sleep overall, at 12 to 15 hours every 24 hours. But, keep in mind, they may still wake up once or twice during the night.
6 to 12 months: By the time they’re 6 to 12 months old—congrats!—you two have made it to the baby sleep marathon homestretch! Your little one may nap two or three times during the day for 30 minutes to two hours, and sleep 12 to 16 hours each day and night combined. This means, starting at around 6 months, they may settle in for the whole night and have a lot more playtime during the day. Keep in mind, though, that if you have a preemie, their sleep time may differ.
Be aware, however, that some infants will wake up in search of your reassurance a few times a night regardless. If they do, and you need help soothing them back to sleep, check out How To Calm a Crying & Fussy Baby. Or, give them a belly massage to help relax them.
Of course, at any age, if uncomfortable gas is keeping your baby up, try our Infants’ Mylicon Gas Relief Drops in either our dye-free or original formula. They work quickly to break gas bubbles up to help your baby naturally expel them. And the active ingredient, simethicone, won’t stay in their system, it’s not even absorbed. So, rest easy, you two—and sleep well.
If you have any concerns about the quality or amount of sleep your infant is getting, it’s always a good idea to run them by your pediatrician. It may also be helpful to keep track of your little darling’s sleeping patterns with a baby sleep chart like this one. You’ll be able to get an idea of patterns like how long it takes them to settle down to sleep or wake up, when and for how long they sleep, and how many times they wake up at night. (We’re sure your pediatrician will appreciate having a clear perspective on your baby’s sleep patterns too.) You’ll also be able to keep track of tactics you’ve tried, and what worked or didn’t.
What Is The Best Sleeping Position For Babies?
Over the years, advice on infant care, especially as it related to what position you should place them down to sleep in, has changed quite a bit. But science has held steady on the topic for almost 30 years now. Since 1992, the American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended always placing your infant on their back to sleep or nap. Placing them on their side or tummy has been associated with Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (a.k.a. SIDS), the incidence of which steeply declined following the recommendation.
Other safety measures you can take are ensuring your baby is sleeping or napping in a safe and comfortable environment, which will also help support the quality and quantity of their sleep. It’s also best to keep any stuffed animals or pillows out of their crib or bassinet, and keep their sleeping space away from any cords on the windows or other dangling strings. We should also note, be sure your infant is in a smoke-free zone. Those little lungs are tiny and fragile.
To learn more about how to keep your baby’s room safe and stocked with all your must-haves, dot all your I’s and cross all your T’s with our nursery checklist.
How Do I Get My Baby To Sleep Longer at Night
As parents, it’s in our nature to sacrifice a lot for our children—and sleep is no exception. Sleep deprivation is common among new parents. So, as you drag yourself along throughout the day, know that you’re far from alone. The older your infant gets, however, the amount that they sleep gets more predictable and they’ll sleep in longer stretches, so try calming your mind by remembering that the lack of ZZZs is only temporary. Plus, there are ways you can help your baby get more sleep at night. Or, even (gasp!) sleep through the whole night without a peep.
First and foremost, be on the lookout for signs your little one is ready to hit the hay. These may include getting fussy, rubbing their eyes, not making eye contact, and, of course, yawwwning. Their eyes may also get sleepy or look glazed, and they may even bat at their ears or pull at their hair. Take these cues and head for the nursery—someone is likely ready to snooze.
As we touched on, by the time your little one is around 6 months old, there’s a good chance they’re physiologically capable of sleeping all night long, without waking up and calling out for you. But, keep in mind, all infants wake up briefly four to six times a night, and 25-50% of them wake up and want Mommy STAT. The former doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to run to them or feed them, some babies, known as self-soothers, learn how to soothe themselves back to sleep. (More on cultivating those habits in a sec!)
One the other hand: You know the song, Rockabye Baby? Well, in the simplest terms: don’t do it before naptime. Babies who are “signalers” may have gotten too used to you helping to soothe them to bed, be it by rocking them, holding them, or allowing them to sleep in your bed. As a result, they grow accustomed to needing you to fall asleep—which is fine at bedtime, but it won’t help when they wake up and cry at night.
Baby Sleep Tips
Below, we’re helping you and your baby along on your healthy sleep journey. Here are 10 ways to encourage your infant to graduate to the self-soothing camp. “Move over, Mom! I can get to sleep all by myself now.”
Start healthy sleep habits asap: The sooner you start healthy sleep habits with your child, the better. If your little one is still on the way, lay down the foundation with these tips as soon as you get home from delivery. And enlist the help of your partner, relatives, or friends—tap them to cover a few nighttime feedings so you can get a better rest more often. Don’t hesitate or be afraid to ask for help. After all, everyone deserves a break sometimes and, as a Mommy, you have the hardest job of them all.
Keep everything in perspective: It’s easy to be tough on ourselves, especially as new parents. But just remember: Whether or not you have trouble getting your infant to doze off—and stay asleep—isn’t a reflection on your skills as a parent. It takes time for you and your little one to become familiar with one another. Tools, such as the baby sleeping chart mentioned above, can help you along the way. And, since we sincerely understand both how rewarding and tiring motherhood can be, we’re even including the baby sleeping chart here, so there’s no need to scroll back up!
Encourage self-soothing: We’re repeating ourselves, we know, but we feel it’s worth reiterating. Although it may feel instinctual, resist the urge to always hold or rock your little one until they fall fully asleep. Instead, put them down to sleep when they’re still drowsy, but not knocked out. This will help them learn to self-soothe.
Play hard, sleep better: Do your best to tucker them out with play during the day, so their energy drains by bedtime.
Create a healthy bedtime feeding routine: It may feel like the most natural thing to do to get them to sleep is to feed them a warm bottle or breastfeed. But resist! It's one of the most counterproductive things you can do. In fact, using formula or breastmilk to calm them before bedtime is the #1 culprit behind creating that food-sleep association that can trigger signalling—the feeling that they can only fall asleep if you help them. Instead, make sure they’re well-fed a bit before you try and settle them down for bed.
Mommy Pro Tip: If you already have a signaler on your hands, try breaking that food-sleep association by feeding your infant at the beginning of their bedtime routine, outside of their baby room or nursery. If they start to fall asleep, gently nudge them back awake, and grab a book to read them or sing them a lullaby. Then, when the sandman starts sprinkling those beautiful baby eyes, put them down when they’re drowsy, but not fully asleep.
Stick to a bedtime routine: You may find that giving them a warm bath, telling them a nursery rhyme, or giving them a massage has benefits that help them wind down. Whatever you choose, make a short 15- to 20-minute routine with a simple pattern, and do it in the same order each time you’re preparing for bedtime. Also, try putting them down at the same time and place, whether for a nap or the night.
Hit the sack early: It can be tempting to think that the longer your little one is up, the more they’ll sleep, but this simply isn’t true, and can actually have the opposite effect. An overtired baby can create a vicious cycle. They’re tired, yes, very, but this overtiredness causes their tiny body to release hormones to fight said sleepiness, amping them up in the process. Earlier bedtimes, on the other hand, actually encourage longer stretches of sleep.
Create a cozy sleeping cave: We all sleep better in the dark, including babies. If their room is too bright during naptime, that can get in the way of a good sleep. You can look into blackout curtains or shades, or even DIY your infant’s window treatments with black construction paper.
Reel in middle-of-the-night feedings: As we discussed in our monthly sleeping and napping milestones, while it’s true your newborn needs plenty of sleep and food, by the time they’re about 3 months old, most infants don’t need to be fed every hour or two. Try to limit feedings to a couple of times during the night, and try and feed them around the same time. Fairly quickly, they’ll get used to waking up at those times, and, eventually, around 9 months, they may learn to soothe themself to sleep without food.
Sleep when your baby sleeps: We know, we know, we already discussed this one. But it’s so important, we feel the need to say it once more. It’s not always easy, but try your best to sleep when they do, whether that’s by putting yourself to bed when they go down or asking someone to cover feedings, it’s a must-try. Happy Baby = Happy Mommy, and Happy Mommy = Happy Baby.
Next: Just as frequent slumbers are a hallmark of babyhood, so is feeding. Learn about Different Feeding Positions For Breastfeeding and Bottle Feeding so you can both be as comfy as possible.