Ah, the mystery of baby sleep. What’s normal? What’s abnormal?
Why won’t they just close their eyes already?
Normal sleep habits can seem like a distant myth but most babies do fall into a similar pattern. Your baby’s sleep will change based on their age, their eating habits, and their weight.
As a newborn, your baby will probably wake every 1-4 hours to eat. This is why breastfeeding mothers often feel as though all they do is nurse. Because...well, that’s kind of all you’re doing. Bottle fed babies may sleep a bit longer but it’s not a guarantee. Once they reach about 12 pounds they typically begin to sleep for longer stretches. A newborn baby can get up to 20 hours of sleep in 24 hours. This is obviously split into different periods of time between nursing.
Between 1-2 months of age you’ll probably notice your baby becomes more alert during the day and more sleepy at night. Their naps will likely shorten but most babies need a minimum of two naps a day. These will last anywhere from 1-3 hours. Savor those sweet sleep moments! Around 6 weeks you may notice baby begin to “cluster feed” or eat more frequently around bedtime. They’re storing up for the slumber ahead but it’s still normal for your little to fuss and wake. Until about 4 months your little one will need between 15 and 18 hours of sleep a day.
It’s no coincidence that we recommend sleep training about 12 weeks of age. At the 3 month mark your baby is likely ready to start sleeping longer stretches of time and even work towards dropping middle of the night feeds. They’re growing out of the “newborn” phase and into the “baby” phase.
(and, yes, they do grow up SO fast.)
From about 6 months through toddlerhood your baby will need between 12 and 14 hours of sleep a day. Their needs tend to be less and less the older and more active they get. Naps are important! Giving your baby that rest midday can set them up for success overnight.
Not normal? Excessive crying.
Previously called “colic”, this can have many different causes. From Acid Reflux to being overly tired, your baby crying for extended periods of time is not normal baby sleep. If you notice your baby crying for what seems like a long time, it’s not a bad idea to check in with your pediatrician to rule out common causes.
Establishing healthy sleep habits when your baby is young can mean healthy sleep for their whole lives. While that sounds like a lot of pressure, it really isn’t. Simple tips can help them sleep better (have you read our Blueprint for Exhausted Parents yet?) and effective sleep training techniques can support them learning just how to drift off into sleep all by themselves.
Baby sleep cycles are shorter than those of an adult so dozing in and out of REM sleep is common. This is why it often seems like your baby just won’t stay asleep. When they’re in a deep sleep you likely notice you can run through the house stomping and dancing without waking them but the second they come out of that cycle it’s game over. The perfect way to stop this from happening is sleep training. By letting your baby learn how to fall asleep independently they’ll be able to go through their sleep cycles with ease (and without needing to be soothed).
An effective sleep training method will take into account your needs and your baby’s personality and temperament. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to helping your baby learn to sleep just like there isn’t one for learning anything else in life. Your baby is a unique little individual.
When you know what’s “normal” it’s much easier for you to navigate life with your baby.