Sleep needs for babies vary depending on their age. While newborns do sleep much of the time, their sleep is in very short segments. As a baby grows, the total amount of sleep gradually decreases, but the length of nighttime sleep increases.
Generally, newborns sleep about eight to nine hours in the daytime and about eight hours at night, but may not sleep more than one to two hours at a stretch. Most babies do not begin sleeping through the night (six to eight hours) without waking until about 3 months of age, or until they weigh 12 to 13 pounds. About two-thirds of babies are able to sleep through the night on a regular basis by the age of 6 months.
Babies also have different sleep cycles than adults. Babies spend much less time in rapid eye movement (REM) sleep (which is dream time sleep) and the cycles are shorter. The following are the usual nighttime and daytime sleep requirements for newborns through age 2 years old:
|Age||Total sleep hours||Total hours of nighttime sleep||Total hours of daytime sleep|
|Newborn||16 hours||8 to 9||8|
|1 month||15.5 hours||8 to 9||7|
|3 months||15 hours||9 to 10||4 to 5|
|6 months||14 hours||10||4|
|9 months||14 hours||11||3|
|1 year||14 hours||11||3|
|1.5 years||13.5 hours||11||2.5|
|2 years||13 hours||11||2|
Once a baby begins to regularly sleep through the night, parents are often dismayed when he or she begins to awaken in the night again. This typically happens at about 6 months of age. This is often a normal part of development called separation anxiety, when a baby does not understand that separations are temporary. Babies may also begin to have difficulty going to sleep because of separation anxiety, overstimulation, or overtiredness.
Common responses of babies experiencing these night awakenings or difficulty going to sleep may include the following:
Because sleep problems may also occur with illness, consult your baby's doctor if your baby begins having difficulty going to sleep or staying asleep, especially if this is a new pattern.
You can help your baby sleep by recognizing signs of sleep readiness, teaching him or her to fall asleep on his own, and comforting him or her with awakenings. Your baby may show signs of being ready for sleep with the following:
Babies may not be able to establish their own sleeping and waking patterns. Surprisingly, not all babies know how to put themselves to sleep, or are able to go back to sleep if they are awakened in the night. When it is time for bed, many parents want to rock or breastfeed a baby to help him or her fall asleep. Establishing a routine such as this at bedtime is a good idea. However, be sure that your baby does not fall asleep in your arms. This may become a pattern and your baby may begin to expect to be in your arms in order to fall asleep. When your baby briefly awakens during a sleep cycle, he or she may not be able to go back to sleep on his or her own.
Babies who feel secure are better able to handle separations, especially at night. Cuddling and comforting your baby during the day can help him or her feel more secure. Other ways to help your baby learn to sleep include the following:
Here are recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) on how to reduce the risk for SIDS and sleep-related deaths from birth to age 1:
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