Parents everywhere can take a deep breath and stop wondering if their baby’s sleep is normal. Research shows that infant sleep varies widely from baby to baby - so it’s ok if your little one doesn’t sleep through the night just yet.
New parents often wonder if their baby’s sleep patterns are normal. Some newborns sleep all day and are awake most of the night, while others have larger wake periods during the day and rest peacefully for long stretches at night. Some parents yearn for a magical age when their child will suddenly start sleeping through the night, something many pediatricians say happens for the first time between 4-6 months. And yet, many babies wake multiple times throughout the night until beyond their first birthday.
So, why do baby sleep patterns vary so widely, and how can parents help their little ones get a better night’s rest?
Firstly, infant sleep tends to be tied to a lot of factors. For example, if your baby is breastfed, he will probably wake frequently throughout the night because breastmilk digests more rapidly than infant formula. It’s also important to consider where your baby sleeps. If you co-sleep, your baby might wake more frequently if she can feel you toss and turn in bed or hear you make noise in your sleep. Age seems to be a factor as well. Developmentally, newborns need to wake more frequently because they need to eat more frequently. Newborns are also living in the notorious “fourth trimester,” and are still learning to cope with the outside world - and therefore need more comforting. Certain medical conditions can impact baby sleep as well. You and your partner’s work schedules might also impact your child’s sleep patterns.
The bottom line is, there is no “right way” for a baby’s sleep patterns to develop, and parents have to learn to go with the flow. While many pediatricians encourage some type of sleep training around 6 months of age, parents should take note that sleep is developmental, and eventually your baby will sleep through the night, even if it takes longer than expected. Certain methods of sleep training might cause more stress in both parents and babies, and it’s important to acknowledge that it is ok for babies to wake during the night well into the first year of life.
If you’re curious about general sleep patterns by age, check out the information below. Remember, these are typical patterns - but not all babies follow them.
- 0-2 months: Newborns will often take up to 5 naps during the day and sleep about 8 hours at night (with frequent wakings), for a total of 16-18 hours of sleep per 24 hours.
- 2-4 months: Babies at this stage will take 3-4 naps during the day and sleep 9-10 hours at night (with frequent wakings), for a daily total of 14-16 hours of sleep.
- 4-6 months: Babies at this age will often take 2-3 naps during the day, and sleep for a total of 10 hours at night, with a daily sleep total of 14-16 hours.
- 6-9 months: Babies might take 2-3 naps at this age, and sleep a total of 10-11 hours at night, for a total of about 14 hours per 24 hours.
- 9-12 months: Older babies might drop the third nap, and sleep longer at night, for a total of about 14 hours of sleep per day.
- 12-18 months: Toddlers will take 1-2 naps per day and sleep 10-11 hours at night, for a total of 13-14 hours of sleep per 24-hour period.
- 18-24 months: Toddlers might drop down to 1 nap at this age, and sleep 11-12 hours at night, for a total of 13-14 hours of sleep per day.
Keep in mind that these are general guidelines, and sleep can be affected by growth spurts, developmental leaps, teething, illness, traveling, moving, starting daycare, and more.
If you’re worried about your little one’s sleep irregularly, here are some ways you can encourage your child to sleep through the night.
- Use blackout curtains in the nursery. The darker the bedroom, the easier it will be for your child to sleep. If the room remains dark, your child might sleep later in the mornings.
- Play lullaby music or use a white noise machine. Using a sound machine in the nursery can help soothe your baby to sleep and mask any unwanted noises throughout the night.
- Maintain a consistent bedtime routine. Try to come up with a simple bedtime routine (such as bath, brush teeth, read, and rock in a chair) and maintain that same routine every night. Bedtime should be at the same time every day, and the nightly routine should be done in the same way. You can write down your routine so that other caregivers can follow along as well.
- Emphasize the contrast between day and night. Make daytime full of light, noise, and excitement. Open the windows to let sunlight in. Go on walks around the neighborhood. Play games and sing songs together. On the other hand, make night time a calm, peaceful time. Dim the lights, put away loud and stimulating toys, and engage in calm activities such as bath time, baby massage, or doing puzzles. This will help your baby understand the difference between day and night and might make it easier for her to fall asleep.
Trying out some of these pointers might just give your little one the boost he needs to sleep longer periods at night!
Parenting is awesome. Sleep is overrated. Every day is an adventure.
Meet Our KeaMommy Contributor: Kaitlyn Torrez
I’m Kaitlyn Torrez, from the San Francisco Bay Area. I live with my husband and two children, Roman and Logan. I’m a former preschool teacher, currently enjoying being a stay at home mom. I love all things writing, coffee, and chocolate. In my free time, I enjoy reading, blogging, and working out.