Sleep, Your Baby and You
Guidelines on Best Sleep Practices for Newborns to Toddlers
From the National Sleep Foundation
The information you’ll find here has been developed by a panel of leading experts in sleep and pediatrics, brought together by the National Sleep Foundation and supported by a grant from Johnson’s®.
A Good Night’s Sleep for Your Baby and You
A great deal has been written about babies and sleep. No wonder. It’s one of the biggest challenges new parents face. How well, and how much, your baby sleeps can play a big part in your experience of parenthood throughout the early months and years. It also affects your family’s new life together, no matter whether your baby is your first or your fifth. These guidelines have been prepared—and are being shared—with one purpose in mind: to help you understand and work with your baby at each stage of development, so that long-term sleep patterns will evolve naturally as a partnership between you and your baby.
Working Towards a Successful Sleep Partnership
The parent-baby partnership works best when you take your cues from your baby’s natural sleep patterns and needs. But you, the parents, are the ones who determine how bedtime routines will evolve. Your baby learns from you. It’s up to you to make sure that the routine is one you as parents can live with—both now and months, even years, from now.
Pointers for Parents: Newborns to Toddlers
- Every baby has a distinctive pattern of sleep and waking. As time passes, you’ll see that these follow a natural and consistent rhythm throughout the 24-hour day.
- All babies have normal brief awakenings throughout the night.
- Sleep patterns affect a baby’s behavior throughout the day—as well as your baby’s health and development.
- A baby’s sleep is affected by bedtime routines that parents establish.
- All kinds of outside influences can affect a baby’s sleep habits, including illness, stress and any change in routine.
- Sleep patterns change with age and development.
- Parents (and older children) need sleep, too. Try to harmonize your sleep times with your baby’s.
Contact Your Doctor If:
- Your child ever appears to have trouble breathing or is often a noisy breather.
- Your child has difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep.
- Your child has unusual nighttime awakenings, or significant nighttime fears.
- Sleep problems are affecting your child’s behavior
Don’t be afraid to contact your pediatrician any time you’re concerned.
What to Expect
Patterns to Watch For
Here are some guidelines on what to expect, from the time you bring your tightly swaddled bundle home to your baby’s third birthday. Remember as you look at the following information:
- Every child is different. Your baby’s sleep habits will be different from your friend’s baby, or from an older sibling at the same age.
- Build your routines and rhythms around your baby’s sleep needs and patterns. Once you’re familiar with your own baby’s sleep patterns, you can being establishing regular routines to help your baby—and the whole family—get to sleep and sleep well.
No night, no day
A newborn’s sleep cycle is disorganized. In the first few weeks, you can expect your baby’s sleep to be distributed throughout the 24 hours, with each sleep period lasting anywhere from 30 minutes to 3 hours, and with frequent waking periods throughout the night. In about six weeks a more regular, defined sleep pattern should begin to emerge.
While sleeping, your baby may be very busy twitching, jerking, sucking, snuffling—even smiling. This is normal. Even with all this activity, your baby is actually getting a perfectly sound sleep.
Getting in the rhythm
Gradually, over the first few months, your baby will begin to develop a more predictable pattern. Between 2 and 4 months, you will notice a regular rhythm of sleepiness and alertness throughout the day.
Between 3 and 6 months, most babies begin to sleep for longer stretches at night. In the first year, babies naturally cut down their daily naps from 3 or 4 a day to 1 or 2 a day. Note that developmental milestones, such as rolling over and pulling up to stand, can temporarily upset sleep.
New nap schedules
Your toddler may be finished with morning naptime by around 18 months, and naps will disappear altogether between 2 1/2 and 5 years.
At the same time, most toddlers will have learned to sleep through the night, although stressful events and other interruptions (an illness, a trip) can temporarily upset this welcome patter. Switching to a bed is another change that can be disruptive for a toddler, especially if it happens too early. Most toddlers switch to a bed between 2 and 4 years.
If you regularly have to wake your child in the morning, it could be a sign that he or she isn’t getting enough sleep. The number of hours a toddler sleeps will be different for each child. However, most toddlers are consistent in how much they sleep from one day to the next.
How Long Will Your Baby Sleep?
Parents often ask how much sleep their baby should be getting. That’s what this chart is designed to show. But remember, your baby is a unique individual. These figures are averaged from many individuals, to use as a reference point. Some babies or toddlers will sleep up to two hours more, or less, than these averages.
A Wide Range of Possibilities
Newborns have no regular defined sleep pattern in the first few weeks—which usually requires some adjustment for new parents
0 to 2 months
The Range The Average
10.5 to 18 hours 14.5 hours
Night is For Sleeping
The balance shifts towards longer nighttime sleep, with distinct daytime naps.
2 to 12 months
Age Total Average Sleep Total Nighttime Sleep Total Nap Sleep
2 months 14.5 hrs 9.5 hrs 5 hrs
6 months 14.5 hrs 11 hrs 3.5 hrs
12 months 14 hrs 11.5 hrs 2.5 hrs
Busy Days, Restful Nights
Toddlers continue to sleep long hours at night, while the need for daytime naps is tapering off. But watch out! There’s nothing more exhausting than an over-tired toddler.
1 to 3 years
Age Total Average Sleep Total Nighttime Sleep Total Nap Sleep
1 year 14 hrs 11.5 hrs 2.5 hrs
3 years 13 hrs 11.5 hrs 1.5 hrs
Go With the Flow
The first few weeks of your baby’s life are all about adjustment—for your baby and for you. It’s simply too soon to expect structured sleep patters, so it makes sense to take your cues from your baby. Do what works for your baby now, and before long you’ll have the beginnings of a sleep routine.
How to Help Your Newborn Become a Good Sleeper
- Learn your baby’s signs of being sleepy. Many babies become fussy or cry when they get tired, but others will rub their eyes, pull on their ears, or even stare off into space. Put your baby down for bedtime or a nap when your baby first lets you know he or she is tired.
- Follow your baby’s cues. Your newborn may prefer to be rocked or fed to sleep. This is fine for the first few weeks or months. By three months, however, begin to establish good sleep habits.
- Always put your baby down to sleep on his or her back. A baby should sleep on a firm mattress, with no fluffy or loose bedding.
- After the first few weeks, start to actively encourage nighttime sleep if your baby is awake a lot at night and sleeps much of the day. Do this by making sure the bedroom is dark or dim and cutting down on nighttime play.
- Make sleep a family priority. It’s usual to be sleep-deprived with a newborn. But no one benefits if you’re crying from exhaustion while the baby’s crying to be calmed. Tell your spouse (or a friend who’s offered) when you need a break. And, tempting as it is to use naptimes to get things done, you’ll be able to cope better if you nap when your baby does.
- Have realistic goals about sleep. Your baby will not be able to sleep for long stretches at a time for the first few months.
- Take the first steps toward a bedtime routine. The important thing is that it’s built around things that both you and your baby enjoy. Your newborn’s bedtime routine could include:
- Taking a bath
- Getting a massage
- Changing into pajamas
- Rocking and cuddling
- Sharing a song
- Or whatever works best for you and your baby