When you’re a new parent, one of your top concerns is making sure your little one gets enough quality sleep. But how much is enough? And how do sleep needs change as your baby grows from newborn to toddler? This guide breaks down the recommended sleep ranges by age so you can ensure your baby’s getting the rest they need for healthy development.
Sleep is essential for babies and young children as it directly impacts their growth, learning, and overall health. Getting the right amount of high-quality Zzz’s can have long-term benefits. On the other hand, chronic sleep deprivation can negatively affect physical and mental development.
While guidelines provide a general idea of appropriate sleep durations, keep in mind that individual needs vary. It’s also normal for sleep patterns to fluctuate occasionally due to growth spurts, changes in environment, illness, etc. Focus on following your baby’s cues versus trying to “force” a set schedule.
Newborn Sleep Needs (0-3 Months)
In the first few months of life, expect your newborn’s sleep to be all over the place. Newborns tend to sleep in short bursts around the clock, waking frequently for feedings and diaper changes. Here are some guidelines for newborn sleep:
Total Sleep Hours: Expect your newborn to sleep a total of 12 to 16 hours per 24-hour period. However, this will be broken up into small chunks rather than long stretches.
Nighttime Sleep: At first, newborns have no sense of night versus day. But over the first couple of months, they’ll start to sleep for longer stints at night, building up to about 8 nighttime sleep hours.
Daytime Sleep: Newborns spend about 8 to 9 hours total napping. Nap duration will range from 2 to 4 hours per nap.
Feeding Schedule: For at least the first couple of weeks, aim to feed your newborn every 2 to 3 hours around the clock (8 to 12 times per day). Once they regain their birth weight and show sustained growth, they may go longer between night feedings.
Newborn Sleep Tips:
- Swaddle your newborn for calming and containment. Stop swaddling once they start showing signs of trying to roll over.
- Use white noise to dull sounds that may startle them awake.
- Follow the “eat, wake, sleep” pattern during the day.
- Cluster nighttime feedings so they learn to differentiate between night and day.
Infant Sleep Patterns (1-6 Months)
As your baby matures, they’ll start sleeping for longer stretches and develop more consistent day/night cycles. Sleep needs remain high though to support rapid development. Here’s what to expect during the first 6 months:
1-3 Month Sleep:
- Total sleep: 14-17 hours per day
- Nighttime sleep: about 8 hours
- Daytime sleep: Around 6-9 hours with 3-4 naps
- May start differentiating between daytime alertness and nighttime sleep
4-6 Month Sleep:
- Total sleep: 12-16 hours per day
- Nighttime sleep: About 8-12 hours, with 5-6 hour stretches
- Daytime sleep: About 3 naps per day
- Should be able to sleep through the night regularly
Infant Sleep Tips:
- Establish a calming pre-bedtime routine like a bath and massage
- Put your baby to bed drowsy but awake so they learn to self-soothe
- Use a sleep training method like graduated extinction or fading if needed
- Watch wake windows and try to have naps align with them
Older Infant Sleep Needs (7-12 Months)
During the second half of the first year, infants transform into more mobile, curious babies. Their sleep starts to consolidate more at night as daytime naps decrease. Here are the sleep recommendations from 7 to 12 months:
- Total sleep: 12 to 16 hours
- Nighttime sleep: Around 10-12 hours
- Daytime sleep: 2 naps, which may shorten in duration
- Most babies this age can sleep through the night without feeds
Between 6 and 12 months, separation anxiety and sleep regressions are common. To help your older infant sleep:
- Maintain a soothing bedtime routine
- Choose a transitional object like a lovey for comfort
- Consider a toddler bed when they start climbing out of the crib
- Stick with sleep training for consistency
Toddler Sleep Needs (1-3 Years)
The typical toddler sleeps about 11-14 hours over a 24-hour period. Here’s a breakdown by age:
- Nighttime sleep: 10-12 hours
- Daytime sleep: One nap lasting 1-3 hours
- May go through periods of waking at night
18 Months - 3 Years:
- Nighttime sleep: 10-13 hours
- Daytime sleep: Either one nap or dropping to no naps
- Naps get shorter in duration as they near preschool age
Toddler sleep challenges like bedtime resistance, night wakings, early rising, and nap transitions are common. Tips for dealing with toddler sleep issues:
- Maintain structured bedtime and naptime routines
- Use a toddler clock to teach time concepts
- Limit daytime sleep to preserve nighttime sleep
- Modify environment and schedule to fit changing needs
- Wean off pacifiers and night feeds around 1 year old
- Avoid letting toddler sleep in your bed, which can lead to sleep associations
While toddlers may fight sleep routines or skipping naps, aim to provide an environment conducive to winding down. This includes limiting screen time before bed, keeping bright lights dim in the evenings, and reading calm stories.
Establishing Healthy Sleep Habits
In addition to understanding general sleep recommendations, there are steps you can take to promote healthy sleep from the start:
Maintain Consistency: Keep bedtime, naptime, and rituals like bath time and stories as consistent as possible. Regular routines signal to your baby’s body that it’s time to sleep.
Prioritize Sleep Safety: Follow safe sleep guidelines like room sharing without bed sharing, sleeping baby on their back, and eliminating loose bedding from the crib.
Adapt to Changing Needs: As your baby matures, modify the environment and schedule to support evolving sleep needs.
Encourage Self-Soothing: Help your baby learn to fall asleep independently by putting them down drowsy but awake. This teaches them to self-soothe and fall back asleep when they stir.
Watch for Sleep Cues: Following your baby’s sleep cues helps ensure you put them down at the right moment. Cues include rubbing eyes, fussiness, yawning, and disengagement.
Handle Night Wakings: For infants, respond to night wakings for feeds but keep lights dim and stimulation minimal. As your baby matures, consider sleep training methods to help them learn to self-soothe at night.
Nap Early: Schedule naps early based on your baby’s first signs of tiredness. Overtired babies have a harder time falling and staying asleep.
Following healthy sleep habits from the newborn stage onward helps everyone get the high-quality rest essential for health and development. While challenges will arise, you can work through them by responding to your baby’s evolving needs.
The Importance of Sleep for Your Growing Baby
Sleep is just as vital to your baby’s growth as nutrition. Ensuring your little one gets enough rest during infancy and toddlerhood provides benefits that extend far down the road. Some of the key reasons babies need ample, high-quality sleep include:
- Supports rapid physical development of muscles, bones and body systems.
- Allows time for brain connections to organize and strengthen.
- Impacts mood, behavior and emotion regulation abilities.
- Reduces risk of obesity later in childhood.
- Helps immune function and fighting illness.
- Provides time for memory consolidation and learning.
- Prepares child for healthy sleep habits long-term.
Lack of sleep beyond the occasional bad night can negatively impact your baby. Effects of insufficient sleep on babies and toddlers can include:
- Irritability, tantrums, and hyperactivity
- Delayed cognitive and motor development
- Increased injury risk if sleepy while mobile
- Difficulty recovering from illness
- Weight gain and metabolic issues
- Reduced immune function
Of course, grab those cat naps when you can as a tired parent! But when it comes to your baby’s sleep, stick as close to the recommended guidelines as possible. Trust your instincts, respond to your child’s needs, and establish healthy sleep habits from the start.