All new parents get warned by all existing parents to say goodbye to sleep — and it’s true, the early days are exhausting! After a few weeks though, you’ll start to work around your baby’s sleep schedule and might even start to build new routines that work for both baby and parents. Knowing what to expect from your newborn sleep schedule can help you navigate the twists and turns of baby sleep training — and set your mind at rest when your baby won’t stick to the routine!
How Much Sleep is Enough Sleep for a Baby?
The short answer to this is “lots!” Babies are basically eating and sleeping machines for the first few months of their lives. Don’t expect a rigid sleep schedule straight away and never try to force one — your tiny person needs to eat so many times a day that it’s natural for them to only sleep in 2-3 hours bursts for the first few weeks of their life. We’ve outlined how much sleep your baby needs during the first year of their life below. Remember, these are only guidelines and every child is different. Always speak to your family pediatrician about any concerns with sleep.
Newborn to 2 Months Old
When they first arrive, your baby will probably need around 18 hours of sleep a day. Don’t expect any of this to be when you want to sleep! Sleep will occur in bursts of 1 to 3 hours, interspersed with feeding, gazing lovingly at you, and learning a phenomenal amount about the world around them. A wonderful time to get pictures of your cute, sleepy baby.
2 to 3 Months Old
By 2 months old, your baby may have progressed to sleeping in 5- or 6-hour chunks. Some babies take longer to get to this point, and that’s okay. Even if they don’t sleep through, you can still help your baby by setting a soothing bedtime routine — more on that later. At this age your baby needs around 16 hours of sleep.
3 to 6 Months Old
Your baby still needs 15-16 hours of sleep until they’re about 6 months old, but you may start to see a shift. More and more of this sleep will occur at nighttime as your baby gradually settles into a more natural sleep cycle. Naps will normally be at more regular times, allowing you to plan your day more easily.
6 to 12 Months Old
Between half a year and a year old, your baby will eventually reduce their sleep needs to 12 hours a day. This happens at different times for all babies. By 1 year old, most will be sleeping for 12 hours, with between 60 and 75% of this being at night. Most 1-year-olds will nap twice: once in the morning and once in the afternoon, for between 1 and 2 hours.
Do I Need a Baby Nap Schedule?
This really depends on your needs as a parent, and how often your baby needs to feed. Realistically, newborn babies feed on demand and then nap when they are full and happy. Trying to go against your baby’s natural rhythms can cause more stress for you and the baby. However, as they get older and feed less frequently, but for longer, you might find that you naturally end up with a fairly regular baby nap schedule.
- Newborn — Whenever they like. They’ll sleep in your arms, on your lap, in the crib. Let them!
- 2-3 months — You might find your day starts early — between 5:30 and 7 am, but your baby will nap frequently and for longer allowing you to get some much-needed rest. Expect 3 or 4 naps at around half an hour to an hour each. Try popping your baby in their crib at the same time every morning or afternoon if you notice sleep cues such as eye-rubbing, yawning, or zoning out.
- 3-6 months — Your baby might be getting up at a regular time by now and having 3 naps, one in the morning and two in the afternoon. These naps can be anything between half an hour and 3 hours, but you can put your baby for a nap at the same time every day to help them maintain some routine. They might not settle quickly every day depending on how busy they’ve been and how much they’ve eaten.
- 6-12 months — Your baby should be going to bed a little earlier and getting up a little later, meaning nap time during the days gets cut down. Expect at least 2, possibly 3 naps still, but you may see them shortening as your baby develops.
When Will My Baby Sleep Through the Night?
The question every parent wants an answer to! Unsurprisingly, there is no definitive answer. Every baby is different, and sometimes kids who sleep through will suddenly regress and start waking in the night again. It’s all completely normal and a sign that your baby’s brain is constantly developing. In fact, you may see some developmental milestones that indicate your baby is getting ready to start sleeping for longer during the night.
- You may notice the “Moro Reflex” or startle reflex stops. That’s when your baby suddenly flails their arms and legs for no apparent reason — very cute, but also very disturbing for good sleep.
- Your baby no longer needs to feed in the night, or feeds less.
- Your baby can sometimes settle themselves back to sleep when they wake.
Baby sleep training means always being there for your baby when they need you, but giving them the opportunity to learn to “self soothe,” or calm themselves. Rather than picking them up whenever they make a sound, you can sing gently to them, stroke their head, or simply be next to them for a few minutes. If murmuring escalates into crying, of course, pick them up and cuddle them. Babies need to know they can rely on you for care and physical attention. But, if they settle on their own that’s great news for both you and baby as they’re learning an important sleep skill.
Setting the Mood for Bedtime
Your newborn sleep schedule might be a work in progress, but there are plenty of things you can do to cement a nightly routine and signal to your baby that it’s nighttime. In fact, it’s really important to teach your newborn the difference between night and day.
When your baby is in the womb, they’re in the dark pretty much all of the time. They have nothing to differentiate between night and day. Once they’re born, all that brightness during the daytime doesn’t automatically tell them that it’s time to be awake, and darkness is associated with wriggling and being active, as well as sleep. No wonder they’re confused!
Help your baby out by keeping days active, lively, and bright. Keep a light on when it’s gloomy outside or when it gets dark earlier. When the weather is great, take them out and about, and play age-appropriate games with them. Consider a baby group, or visiting friends or family. This helps your baby to associate daytime with doing things and being awake and active. Once it’s bedtime, start to wind down and set the mood for bedtime by:
- Dimming the lights
- Switching off all screens and loud music
- A warm bath helps release melatonin, a chemical that promotes sleep
- You may have a soft piece of music that you can play every night to indicate the switch from playtime to bedtime
- White noise may help your baby sleep — remember, they’re used to lots of noise in the womb!
- Make sure their sleeping area is clutter-free to avoid distractions
- Try to avoid letting your baby fall asleep at the breast or bottle, as this can prevent them from learning to soothe themselves to sleep. Inevitably, they will do this sometimes — especially at nap time — so don’t beat yourself up about it! Sometimes babies are just super sleepy, and that soothing milk sends them to dreamland. Remember to pat or rub your baby’s back after feeding to help them get rid of any gas. This can sometimes gently wake them, at which point you can lay them on their back to fall asleep.
Where to Put Baby to Sleep
Once your baby is warm and sleepy, you can put them to bed. Finally! But where should your baby sleep? Part of your newborn sleep schedule should involve making sure the baby has a crib or bassinet that’s close to you.
The American Academy of Pediatrics states that sharing a room with your baby for the first six months of their life reduces the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) by up to 50%. That’s because you’re present and able to deal with any issues quickly. That’s why an effective baby monitor is so important for the times when you have to be out of the room or the baby is napping through the day.
While sharing a room is recommended, sharing a bed is generally not. Your tiny baby can’t move away from you quickly if you suddenly roll over in the night.
Sharing a room is also great for moms that breastfeed as you don’t have to go as far to reach your baby. Always put your baby back into their crib or bassinet once they’ve fed.
How to Create a Comfortable Sleep Environment
The official advice on putting your baby down to sleep is as follows:
- Always put your baby to sleep on their back, even if it’s just for a short nap
- Make sure their mattress is firm
- Use a fitted sheet and no other bedding like blankets or comforters — their sleepwear should be enough to keep them warm as a newborn, and wearable blankets or safe swaddles are an option when it gets cool
- Don’t put soft toys or pillows in with your baby
- Make sure the baby’s crib or bassinet is away from hazards such as dangling cords or electrical outlets
The Importance of Monitoring Your Baby
There are many reasons why you might not be in the room with your baby when they are sleeping, even if you share a room. In the early days of parenting, you may sleep exactly when your baby does out of sheer exhaustion! In fact, it’s a great idea to rest when you can. As your baby sleep training progresses, though, you’ll find more time for yourself meaning you’ll rarely go to bed at the same time as your baby.
Your baby may also be alone in the room if they are napping, if you are busy with other children, or if you are fixing bottles or other errands. Remember, it’s healthy to have your own space and take some“me” time, and an effective and innovative baby monitor helps give you that back without the stress of worrying that your baby needs you.
Once your baby moves into their own room, the baby monitor helps you sleep. Yes, when they cry, it’s the monitor that wakes you! But because you’re not listening for every little noise coming from the next room, you’ll actually sleep better and be much less anxious.
At around 4 months old, you may find that your baby goes into sleep regression where it feels like your carefully curated newborn sleep schedule goes out of the window. This is completely normal and nothing to worry about. In fact, it’s evidence of your child’s deepening awareness of the world around them and shows that they’re going through a developmental phase. Sleep regression can occur many times in childhood, but you can deal with it by maintaining a consistent bedtime routine, listening to your child’s needs, and keeping bedtime calm and soothing.