Ever worry whether your baby is getting too much sleep or not resting enough? - We explain how much sleep your baby is likely to need and when.
Young infants spend every waking moment exploring the world and learning about everything in it; consequently they need a lot of sleep. During sleep their little body's rest from the tiring activities of being awake, alert and receptive and their minds consolidate and start to make sense of everything they've experienced during their waking hours. While the sleep needs of each infant are different (just like adults), as a rough guide we explain how much time your baby is likely to spend asleep....
Babies are born without any sense of time or circadian rhythm and as such they have no concept of day and night; instead they sleep when they're tired and wake when they're hungry. Most newborns spend between 16 and 20 hours a day sleeping (more for premature infants and less for those that suffer with colic) and while this sounds a lot, as their little stomachs can only hold tiny amounts of milk at a time, this tends to only be in very short bursts. Breastfed babies tend to sleep for 2-3 hours at a time and need to be fed on waking as breastmilk is digested very quickly. Bottle fed infants may spend slightly longer periods asleep (between 3-4 hours) as formula milk is less easily digested and as such they may not need to feed as regularly. By making night time feeds quiet and dark and daytime feeds active and light you can help your newborn to associate sleep with night and wakefulness with day.
3 - 6 months
At this age babies tend to spend between 13 - 16 hours a day sleeping. By this time and with your help they should start to sleep more routinely, still waking for feeds but spending longer periods asleep at night (between 4-6 hours in a go) and shorter periods asleep in the day. By introducing a regular, restful bedtime routine you should be able to help encourage this. You can also start to teach your baby to settle him or herself back to sleep by reassuring them rather than picking them up when they become fussy.
6 - 12 months
Between 6 and 12 months your baby is likely to need between 12 and 14 hours of sleep a night. Its important to remain consistent with your baby's bed and nap routine during this period in order to establish good sleep habits and eventually help your baby to sleep right through. Most infants go through phases of having difficulties sleeping and settling even if they usually have no trouble dropping off. This often coincides with illness, disturbance (such as holidays, changes in routine or having visitors to stay), periods of motor development or growth spurts. Although it may be difficult, try to stick with your chosen sleep routine throughout this (unless your baby is unwell of course) and he or she should learn to settle themselves again relatively quickly.
1 - 3 years
This is an incredibly active phase for your little one so they're still going to need a lot of sleep; between 10 and 12 hours is common and an afternoon nap will still be needed by most. Make sure you stick to a regular bedtime by scheduling naps earlier in the afternoon and maintaining a relaxing bedtime routine so that your infant can settle easier at night and avoid becoming overtired.
Do you worry about how much sleep your baby is getting or are they pretty good at settling down? Share your questions and advice with other parents in our AskBaby Forums