It's recommended that babies up to 3 months get 14 to17 hours of sleep per day (24 hour period). This includes daytime naps.
Younger infants up to 6 months tend to sleep on and off around the clock, waking every 1 to 3 hours to eat. As they near 4 months of age, sleep rhythms become more set. Most babies sleep 9 to 12 hours at night, usually with an interruption for feeding, and have 2 to 3 daytime naps lasting about 30 minutes to 2 hours each.
Is it normal for babies to wake at night?
- Yes. It is normal for babies to wake during the night. Some babies sleep much more than others. Some sleep for long periods, others in short bursts. Some sleep through the night, some don't for a long time. Your baby will have their own pattern of waking and sleeping and it's unlikely to be the same as other babies you know.
- It may help to remember that all babies over 5 months of age wake 4 to 6 times during the night, as they come to the end of each sleep cycle. This is normal and also occurs with older children and adults. It's the falling back to sleep that can be difficult.
Do babies and young children automatically fall into a good sleeping pattern?
- No. All babies and children need to be supported to develop a good sleep routine and good sleeping habits. It is a process that will take time and can’t be achieved in a few days. This can be a struggle, especially when you are sleep deprived and feel constantly tired yourself.
- All babies are different and will start sleeping through at different times.
What routines and habits promote good sleep
- Fortunately, there are many practical ways to develop and improve your child’s sleeping routine and habits. Tips for newborns are below.
Newborns (0 to 3 months)
- Sleep during the early months occurs around the clock. The sleep, wake cycle is driven by the need to be fed, changed and given attention.
- Newborns sleep a total of 14 to 17 hours across a 24 hour period, on an irregular schedule with periods of 1 to 3 hours spent awake. The sleep period may last a few minutes to several hours. During sleep, they are often active, twitching their arms and legs, smiling, sucking and generally appearing restless.
- Newborns express their need to sleep in different ways. Some fuss, cry or rub their eyes.
- It is best to put babies down to sleep when they are drowsy but not asleep. They are more likely to fall asleep quickly and eventually learn how to get themselves to sleep.
Newborns can be encouraged to sleep less during the day by exposing them to light and noise and by playing more with them in the daytime. As evening approaches, the environment should be quieter and lighting dimmer with less activity.
Sleep tips for newborns:
- Observe newborn’s sleep patterns and identify signs of sleepiness.
- Put newborn in a cot or Moses basket (even during the day) when they are drowsy and not asleep to encourage self-settling.
- Encourage night time sleep. As evening approaches try to make the environment quieter and lighting dimmer with less activity.
All babies cry and it can be upsetting and frustrating. Not every baby is easy to calm but that doesn’t mean you are doing anything wrong. For tips on infant crying and how to cope see ICON and, or talk to your health visitor.
Safer sleep tips:
- Simple steps can be taken to ensure that your baby sleeps in a safe environment, which will reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), commonly known as cot death.
- The safest place for babies to sleep is close to their parents’ bed, in their own clear safe sleep space, such as a cot or moses masket, in the same room for at least the first 6 months
- Never co-sleep on a sofa or armchair. If you sit down with your baby and you are feeling tired put your baby in a clear safe sleep space, for example a cot or Moses basket.
- Never co-sleep if you or your partner have smoked or have used alcohol, medication or drugs
- Put babies on their back for every sleep
- Maintain a clear and flat sleep space
- Keep your home smoke free day and night
- Breastfeeding can reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)
Daytime naps advice:
- Daytime naps provide much needed downtime. This aids the important physical and mental development that happens in early childhood
- They help keep babies and young children from becoming overtired which can affect their moods and make it harder for them to fall asleep at night.
- They also give parents a break during the day.
There's no single rule about how much daytime sleep children need. Your baby is unique so try not to compare. It depends on their age, the child and the sleep total during a 24 hour period. For example, one baby may sleep 13 hours at night with only some daytime napping, while another gets 9 hours at night but takes a solid 2 hour nap each afternoon.
If your child is napping 'on the go' (for example in the car) try to ensure that this is balanced by daytime sleep in their own bed at home so that they get good quality daytime sleep over the course of a week.
Example of a sleep friendly environment:
The safest place to sleep is in a cot or cot bed with all sides up.
Babies should sleep on a firm and flat mattress. The sleeping area should be clear of toys, cot bumpers and duvets both at home and when staying with family and friends.
The mattress should be at an age and development appropriate level. For need to know information about what kind of cot mattress is best see the Which? guide.
Place baby to sleep on their back for every sleep, with face and head clear of blankets and other soft items.
Babies need to be a comfortable temperature. Aim for a room temperature of 16 to 20°C. Use light bedding or a lightweight, well fitting baby sleeping bag. Please always read the label on a baby sleeping bag to ensure the tog and age rating are appropriate for your baby.
Ideally lights off, or at least dimmed. LEDs emit much more blue light than white bulbs and therefore have a greater impact on quality sleep, so ensure these are switched off.
There does not need to be silence. It can be helpful for your baby to get used to some noise, though noise needs to be at a level that it does not disrupt sleep. Be aware that a sudden loud noise such as slamming doors or the toilet flushing may wake your baby.
A smoke free home is safest for babies and children.