When a baby is born, new parents go through different aspects of their habits, including the baby’s sleep patterns. Parents may wonder if the baby is getting the right amount of sleep, including the daytime naps. Sleep requirements vary depending on the baby and their age. The duration and timings are also different for every child.
Read this post to understand the amount of sleep a baby needs, steps to take when they are not sleeping enough, and how to modify their sleep habits.
How Much Sleep Do Babies Need?
Newborn babies are asleep for most of the day. As the babies grow older, they start consolidating their sleep and stay awake for longer hours. Here are the baby sleep recommendations as per age (1) (2).
|Age||Total hours of sleep in 24 hours|
|Newborn (0-3 months)||14-17 hours, including naps|
|Infant (4-12 months)||12-16 hours, including naps|
|Toddler (1-2 years)||11-14 hours, including naps|
|Preschooler (3-5 years)||10-13 hours, including naps|
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Below are some notable attributes of a baby’s sleep as per their age (3) (4).
- Newborn babies (0-3 months): The sleep cycle includes multiple short naps as they often wake up to feed. The total nap time is around 3-4 hours. Newborns do not have a fixed sleep pattern and may sleep at different segments of day and night. Most do not sleep for the entire night. Parents mostly have to work with variable newborn sleep schedules and adjust according to their needs.
- Infants (4-12 months): The nap time may reduce, but they may still nap for about 2-3 hours a day. Infants start consolidating their naps and sleep for longer hours at six months. Most start sleeping through the night at this age. However, they may continue to sleep for 3-4 hours during the daytime.
- Toddler (1-2 years): The nap time and the number of naps reduce. Toddlers may nap only for 1-2 hours a day.
- Preschoolers (3-5 years): A significant number of preschoolers (about 50%) stop napping regularly by the age of three.
- Premature babies: Premature babies sleep for a longer duration compared to full-term babies. A full-term baby may usually sleep 70% of the time in 24 hours, while a preterm baby may sleep for nearly 90% of the time. Their sleep may also not be as deep or consistent as full-term babies. The sleep patterns of preterm babies gradually become similar to those of full-term babies over the first year of their life.
How Many Naps Does A Baby Need?
The naps vary according to the baby’s age and sleep requirements. Here are the number of naps a baby takes as per their age (3).
- 0-5 months old: The baby may take 1-5 naps in a day. The average number of naps is three.
- 6-11 months old: Most babies start taking fewer naps and sleeping through the night during this age. A baby may take about 1-4 naps per day with an average of two naps a day.
- 12-35 months old: The number of naps may reduce further as the baby grows into a toddler. They may take only about 0-2 naps per day with an average of one nap. Some toddlers may stop taking naps completely.
Can Infants Sleep Too Much?
Babies may sometimes sleep in excess, and it may not always indicate a problem. The sleep pattern depends on several factors, such as the baby’s stage of development, age, health, daily routine, home environment, culture, and family (3). Some infants may sleep for shorter durations, while some may sleep for a long time.
Sleeping an extra hour or two does not matter. If the baby is healthy, gaining appropriate weight, and urinating and pooping the required number of times, there may be no issue. However, a newborn should not sleep more than 2-3 hours at a stretch during the day or more than four hours at night without breastfeeding.
If a newborn does not wake up, they need to be woken and fed. Newborns need to feed 8-12 times a day, while bottle-fed or older infants need to feed 5-8 times a day. Appropriate urine and stool colors are good indicators of a well-nourished infant (5). Consult a medical professional if you are concerned that the baby is sleeping too much or the baby’s excess sleep is interfering with feeding.
What If Your Baby Is Not Sleeping Enough?
Seek a doctor’s opinion if your baby is sleeping less than the recommended hours or showing signs of overtiredness but not sleeping. A pediatrician can determine if there is an underlying health issue or sleep deprivation problem (2).
Here are a few techniques that may help the baby sleep better.
- Developing a consistent sleep schedule and bedtime routine
- Improving the sleep environment — eliminating exposure to stimuli, putting them to bed in a quiet, dark room
- Implementing good practices such as putting the baby to bed when they are drowsy
- Encouraging behavioral modifications that could help in sleep, such as self-soothing
- Establishing safe sleep measures, such as crib with high guard rails
How To Modify Your Baby’s Sleep Habits?
You may consider modifying your baby’s sleep habits if you feel they are erratic or inappropriate. However, a baby’s sleep habits cannot be modified in a day. It may take about 3-14 days for a baby to adjust to the new routine. The following measures and interventions may help improve the baby’s sleep schedule and habits (6).
1. Determine the habits associated with the sleep issue
Certain sleep aids and techniques may cause the baby to grow dependent on them, making it difficult for the baby to sleep without them. Below are a few habit-forming sleep aids.
- Rocking the baby to sleep
- Feeding the baby right before their bedtime
- Letting them go to sleep at a spot other than their bed, such as your arms
- Playing music during bedtime
- Giving them a pacifier to help them sleep when they cannot put it back themselves
2. Gradually eliminate sleep habits that cause sleep issues
Eliminate the sleep habits that may cause night awakening in the baby before establishing a new sleep routine. Here are a few techniques to achieve this step.
- Do not place the pacifier back in the baby’s mouth and wait for the baby to self-soothe without the pacifier. You may consider eliminating the use of a pacifier during sleep if you feel the baby has become habituated to it. Older babies can be taught to handle their pacifiers without the mother’s aid.
- Feeding right before bedtime may make the baby associate feeding with sleeping. You could avoid this by feeding at least 20 minutes before bedtime. If the baby is already six months old, you may consider phasing out the night feeds.
- If your baby sleeps by listening to music and needs it again to go back to sleep, stop playing it around bedtime.
3. Create a positive bedtime routine
A positive bedtime routine includes multiple activities performed in the same order at the same time each night before bedtime. A few activities before bedtime include giving a bath, storytime, cuddling for a bit, and lights out. The routine should be comfortable for both you and the baby. Follow it consistently to see results. You may also ensure that your baby naps appropriately during the day to prevent overtiredness and difficulty with the bedtime routine at night.
4. Teach your baby to self-soothe
Babies should be taught to fall asleep on their own or go back to sleep on their own if they wake up during the night. The following techniques may help in teaching self-soothing to the baby.
- Controlled crying: The controlled crying or controlled comforting method involves slowly reducing the attention you give to your baby when they wake up in the middle of their sleep. It is done by gradually reducing the time spent pacifying the baby at night, stopping the pacification eventually.
- Camping out: Place the baby in the crib and sit on a chair next to it. Gradually increase the distance from the crib each night until you stop sitting next to the crib entirely. It is also called the no tears method and is useful for babies who need a parent’s company to fall asleep.
These two techniques prove to be effective in nearly 80% of the cases. Choose the method that suits you best. However, keep the following points in mind to ensure maximum efficacy.
- These techniques may lead to a significant change in your baby’s life. Therefore, do not try these methods when the baby is experiencing another life event or change, such as a change of home or illness.
- If you sleep in the same room, you may add a screen between your bed and the baby’s crib. It could encourage your baby to self-soothe to sleep since they cannot see you.
- Since you are trying a new sleep routine, the baby might take longer to fall asleep. Ensure that you and the baby compensate for missed sleep through daytime naps.
In 20% of cases, babies may show sleep regression and start waking up after sleeping well for two weeks. In such cases, continue using the technique for a few more days. Consult the pediatrician if the baby continues to wake up even after a week of controlled crying and two weeks of camping out.
Baby sleep patterns often go through several changes. Parents may spend several sleepless nights before understanding their baby’s sleep and creating a structured sleep schedule. Developing a positive sleep routine can ensure that your little one gets the sleep they need. However, achieving this landmark requires consistent efforts and patience. If you have any concerns about your baby’s sleep, maintain a sleep diary for a few days. It could help the pediatrician diagnose any issue better.