How Much Sleep Does Your Baby Actually Need?

Worried about how much your baby is sleeping? We break down how much sleep they really need

If you have just welcomed a new addition to your family, you have obviously discovered that having a baby changes your whole world. No one can tell you how much it changes everything—it’s something you need to experience yourself. You’re tired, overwhelmed and maybe even feeling slightly lost. Take comfort in the fact that all parents feel like this. You’re not alone.

For the first two months of your baby’s life, they’re getting to know you as much as you’re getting to know them. You will notice that they pretty much eat and sleep and need to be changed, cuddled and loved. Their sleep patterns haven’t developed yet at this stage in their early life. Don’t worry! Just make sure that they’re getting the rest that they need at this point. There are no “bad habits” at this age.

As babies grow, many parents question how much sleep they should actually be getting.

Our sleep-wake times are controlled by circadian rhythms. Our internal circadian biological clocks regulate the timing of periods of sleep and wake throughout the day. The circadian rhythm dips and rises at different points of the day and is different for adults and children.

During the early months, babies will sleep around the clock until their sleep rhythms start to develop around six weeks—at six to eight weeks your baby will hit their first sleep milestone. The day/night confusion starts to diminish, you may notice they become fussy late in the day or in the evening and you may even get a good stretch of sleep in the night at this point! This is when we can start establishing a healthy foundation for sleep. On average, newborns will sleep anywhere from 14-17 hours but can sleep up to eighteen hours in a twenty-four hour period!

When your baby is three to four months of age, this is when you will start to notice longer wakeful periods, fewer but longer naps, and your baby will start showing clearer signs of wanting to go to bed for the night. At four months of age we see the second sleep milestone emerge and your baby will fall into a schedule very easily as their circadian rhythms are developing. When we time sleep to occur on their sleep wave then the sleep is consolidated and restorative.

During the 4th trimester children don’t have solid self-soothing skills yet. This is normal but it’s during this time when we find these children waking prematurely from their naps (30 to 40 minutes “on the dot”). The morning nap develops first and the afternoon nap later.

The morning nap is mentally restorative and the afternoon nap is physically restorative. This is when is becomes very important to start working on a specific schedule for your child’s sleep. At 4-months and up to 1 years old, the average recommended amount of sleep is 12 - 15 hours (this is including naps) but they can sleep as much as 15-18 hours.

Your child’s sleep is a work in progress. You need to keep in mind that all children are different and sleep times vary from child to child.  You can’t compare your child to your best friends. There will always be adjustments but in the end, you and your family will be happy and well rested!

Laura Armstrong is a certified Sleep Consultant at Good Night Sleep Site and mother to her amazing daughter Norah, and wife to her wonderful husband Daniel. They live in the west end of Toronto. Laura never realized how much guidance and support one needs to get their child to sleep until she went through it herself. She understands the importance of sleep and wants to be able to help families in need. When Laura isn't helping families sleep, she works as a Registered Massage Therapist at her own practice in Toronto located in Roncesvalles Village, specializing in infant and family massage.

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