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How long should my baby sleep, month by month?

Expert advice on the how long your baby should sleep at night and during the day – and how that will change over the course of your baby's first year

small baby sleeping in cot
Published: September 21, 2022 at 5:45 pm

How long should my baby sleep? Are they getting the right amount of sleep in the day? Does it matter if they have lots or short naps or should I be encouraging them to sleep longer stretches? It's an absolute minefield isn’t it?

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If you’re not worrying if your baby is ever going to go to sleep, you're worrying whether they’re sleeping too much! And doing all this as a sleep-deprived new parent makes it even tougher.

Of course, all babies are different but, as an infant sleep expert, I regularly help parents navigate their baby sleep patterns and want to share with you some key information and techniques to help you navigate your baby's sleep in their first year.

What's a normal amount of sleep for a baby, month by month?

The 1st 6 weeks

Total sleep: 16 to 20 hours | Daytime sleep: No set amount | Night-time sleep: No set amount

When you first bring your newborn baby home, their sleep will be irregular and erratic. There isn't much differentiation between night and day in the first few weeks, as babies this little will wake to feed regularly around the clock. Typically, they cannot stay awake for longer than 30 to 45 minutes at a time.

When your baby is in the womb, they often have their days and nights upside down. They tend to be more awake at night when their mum-to-be asleep, and often sleep in the day as their mum-to-be is moving about because this movement 'rocks' them.

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But there are some gentle things you can do to help your baby start to differentiate day and night when they arrive. It's a great skill for your little one to master, so that as their little tummy grows and is able to hold more milk, their longer stretches of sleep happen at night, rather than in the day.

My tips for the 1st 6 weeks: help your baby learn to sleep longer at night

Here's how:

  • Feed your baby their 1st feed of the day in a room with as much natural light as possible.
  • Introduce a bedtime routine early on. Something simple, such as giving your baby a bath/massage, changing them into a fresh sleepsuit and then keeping stimulation/lighting low for the rest of the night, so that they can see a clear change between daytime and night-time.

Months 2 to 4

Total sleep: 16 to 18 hours | Daytime sleep: 4 to 5 hours | Night-time sleep: 11 to 12 hours

Although your baby is likely still to be sleeping for up to 16 to 18 hours over a 24-hour period, they should now able to stay awake for about 1 hour between feeds and you will start to see a bit of a pattern emerging with their naps. They will be having around 4 to 5 naps throughout the day and it's completely normal for some babies to be able to nap for 1 to 2 hours, while others are still doing more frequent 30 minute 'cat naps'.

My tip for months 2 to 4: start getting into the 'putting down awake' habit

Here's why:

Up until this point, your baby has probably been dozing off while having their feeds, as they have been pretty much feeding all of the time! But from now on, it's a good idea to try working towards your baby being tired but content and awake when you put them down for their naps and night-time sleep.
Putting a baby down awake and letting them fall asleep on their own (even if you are with them initially) is called self-settling. If a baby can self-settle, they are more likely to sleep longer stretches, as they will be more capable of putting themselves back to sleep when they wake between sleep cycles.
Try, if you can, to get into a cycle of feeding after sleep: Wake > Feed > Play/Digest > Sleep > Repeat. Feeding after sleep also means your little one will be full of energy when they wake to take a nice big feed.

A new born sleeping in his cradle

Months 4 to 5

Total sleep: 15 to 16.5 hours | Daytime sleep: 3 to 4 hours | Night-time sleep: 11 to 12 hours

At this age your baby's sleep needs over the 24-hour period are starting to reduce a little. That said, this is the time I start to see the most differences between babies' sleep patterns: some babies have settled into a day and night rhythm and are down to 3 naps per day and sleeping 11 or 12 hours across the night (with 0, 1 or 2 feeds); others were in a great pattern but are now going through what's often call the '4-month sleep regression', which can really take its toll.

Teething also starts around the 4-month mark for many babies and often leads to disrupted sleep. If your baby is teething, they will need more comfort during this period and over the coming months, and their sleep may be be disrupted.

Whatever pattern your baby is now in, please don't compare your baby to others. They're all finding their own sweet way. If your baby still hasn't found their rhythm, remember that this is no reflection on you or them; some babies just need additional support.

My tip for months 4 and 5: continue with the self-settling

Here's why:

Once your baby has gone through the 4-month sleep regression, they will start sleeping in cycles, just like us adults. Being able to transition between these sleep cycles in the night without fully waking means that they likely won't need any additional support to help them stay asleep in the night. You can then feel confident that, when they do wake in the night, it's more likely that they are hungry.

Baby sleeping in crib

Months 6 to 8

Total sleep: 15 to 16.5 hours | Daytime sleep: 3 to 4 hours | Night-time sleep: 11 to 12 hours

Your baby should still be sleeping between 15 and 16.5 hours a day, with 11 to 12 hours at night and the rest across 3 naps in the day: ideally 2 longer naps and then a short power nap before bed. Don't be worried that a power nap too late in the day will impact bedtime; it's actually the opposite! A wee 45mins power nap that ends about 1.5 to 2 hours before bedtime means they won't be overtired and should settle better – and sleep better at night – as a result.

Around the 8-month mark, babies will start to increase their capacity to stay awake after sleep – also known as 'wake windows' – from about 2 hours to 3 hours. This will then lead to a transition from a 3-nap structure to a 2-nap one. This can be a difficult time for families as your baby will often fight having a 3rd nap but not quite be ready to go all day with only 2 naps. It's important for the 3rd nap to remain as long as possible but when it finally goes, I would advise for naps to be spread out a little to ensure that there is no more than about 2.5 to 3 hours between the final nap ending and bedtime.

My tip for months 6 to 8: feed before AND after bath time

Here's why:

If your baby is still waking for a number of feeds at night, one tip I have is to help them take as much pre-bed milk as possible is to feed before AND after the bath (or if no bath, then before the bedtime routine starts and then before your baby goes into their cot). It means they get a boost of energy before their bath which can make it more enjoyable, and it also can take the pressure off the feed right before going into their cot. If they are tired, they may fall asleep on the feed and not take as much milk as they need, so doing it over 2 sittings can be beneficial.

Months 9 to 11

Total sleep: 14 to 15 hours | Daytime sleep: About 3 hours | Night-time sleep: 11 to 12 hours

Most babies will be down to 2 day naps at this point: usually a short 45mins nap in the morning and a 1.5 to 2 hour nap post lunch.

Separation anxiety and increased physical development (standing, crawling, pulling themselves up) can cause a sleep regression around 8 to 10 months (along with the nap transition around 8 months described above). If this happens, my advice is to give your little one as much support as they need but try not to introduce any dependencies that you might not want in the future.

My tip for months 9 to 11: congratulate yourself

Well done! You are coming to the end of your 1st year. As amazing as parenthood is, it's hard at times and you should be so proud of yourself.

Cute Baby Sleeps At Night In A Cradle For Babies Without A Canopy And Bumpers.

Questions parents often ask me about baby sleep – answered

Do bottle-fed babies wake less often than breastfed ones?

No. There is a bit of a myth that bottle-fed babies sleep better at night but there isn't much evidence of this. There are some differences in the early days; a breastfed baby may cluster feed before bed which sometimes leads to a later bedtime but it also can mean they sleep a longer stretch after this. After the 4-month sleep regression, what makes the biggest difference in how many times a baby will wake up is the ability to transition themselves between sleep cycles. When a baby is able to connect sleep cycles, they are more likely to only wake when they are hungry. If your baby is unable to connect sleep cycles, often because they use feeding or rocking to get to sleep initially, they then look for this support frequently in the night.

My baby was premature? Does that affect how long they'll sleep?

In a 1st month of a premature baby's life, they will spend a lot of time sleeping. But so do all newborns!

The 4-month sleep regression is a good indication of your baby's sleep development. Some preemie babies hit the 4-month regression at their birth age; some at their corrected age. This is a good anchor to understand where they are progressing from a sleep perspective.

Can a baby sleep too much?

There is an age-old phrase that 'you shouldn't wake a sleeping baby'. I've never really bought into that.

Firstly, a newborn baby should be woken for feeds if they are asleep too long. And there are some situations where an older baby should be woken too. It's important that your baby gets the right amount of sleep over a 24 hour period and that the periods they are awake in the day are not too long for their age. Therefore, if one of their naps is running too long it's often best to wake them to ensure you can fit in another nap. It's also OK to wake your little one if their nap is finishing too close to bedtime and it's starting to make bedtime difficult.

What do I do if my baby isn't sleeping enough?

If you're worried your baby isn't getting enough day sleep, I'd advise you to have a look at some age-appropriate routines. I have lots on my Daddy Sleep Consultant Instagram page which can be used as a good guide.

If it's night sleep you're concerned about, then I'd really focus on your baby being able to put themselves to sleep at bedtime. This helps them learn how to sleep independently and transition between sleep cycles in the night.

About our expert Chris McFadden

Chris McFadden AKA The Daddy Sleep Consultant is the 1st qualified male baby and toddler sleep consultant in the UK & Ireland and a dad of 3 boys, Teddy, Rafferty and Malachy. He specialises in designing gentle sleep training programmes specific to individual families and their lifestyles. He does not believe in, or use, the "crying it out" method.

Pics: Getty

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