Probably the most-discussed aspect of baby care is sleep or lack of it. The quantity and quality of their baby’s sleep affect the well-being of everyone in the household. And sleep struggles rarely end when a child moves from a crib to a bed. Instead of cries, it’s pleas or refusals; instead of a 3 a.m. feeding, it’s a nightmare or request for water.
Sleep quantity needs vary based on age, and there’s no magical number of hours all kids need in a certain age group. Here are some approximate numbers based on age, with some tips to help you get your child to sleep.
- Babies (Up to 6 Months)
Newborns’ internal clocks aren’t fully developed. They sleep up to 18 hours a day, divided about equally between day and night. Newborns should be awakened every 3 to 4 hours, usually within the first few weeks, after that baby sleeps for longer periods.
Infants may sleep for as long as 4 or 5 hours at a time, after those first weeks, this is about how long their small bellies can go between feedings. If babies do sleep a good stretch at night, they may want to get the bottle or nurse more often during the day.
At 3 months, a baby averages about 14 hours of sleep total, with 8 to 9 hours at night (with an interruption or two, usually) and two or three daytime naps.
- Babies (6 to 12 Months)
At 6 months, babies still need an average of 14 hours of sleep a day, with 2 to 3 daytime naps, anywhere from 2 hours to 30 minutes lasting each. Babies who are breastfed may still wake at night, but most no longer need a middle-of-the-night feeding.
If your baby wakes in the middle of the night, but you don’t think its due to hunger, wait a few minutes before going to your baby. Sometimes, babies just need a few minutes to settle down on their own. Separation anxiety as normal part of development comes into play between 6 and 12 months. The rules at night are the same through a baby’s first birthday: Try not to pick up your baby, sing, play, talk, turn on the lights or feed your child.
Most toddlers, from ages 1 to 3, sleep about 12 to 14 hours over a 24-hour period. Separation anxiety, or just want to be up with mom and dad (and not miss anything), can motivate a child to stay awake.
Parents sometimes make the mistake of thinking that keeping kids up will make them sleepier at bedtime. But the truth is that kids can have a harder time sleeping if they’re overtired. It’s important to set regular bedtimes and nap-times and to stick to them. Most toddlers take 1 to 3-hour naps during the day, you don’t have to force your child to nap, but it’s important to schedule some quiet time, even if your toddler chooses not to sleep.