How much sleep does your baby need?

by Sr Ann Richardson
baby sleeping
Reading Time: 3 minutes

As your baby’s every waking moment is spent learning about the entire world and exploring the surrounding environment, it is understandable that he will need his baby sleep, says BYY’s parenting & sleep expert Sr Ann Richardson.

As your baby’s every waking moment is spent learning about the entire world and exploring the surrounding environment, it is understandable that he will need his rest. When asleep, your baby processes all that he has experienced during his awake time.  His brain must take stock of all this exciting information for him to grow and develop. If your baby is awake for too long, he will become overstimulated, which can cause excessive fussiness and crying.

Although sleep requirements may differ from baby to baby, this is a guide to the approximate amount of time your little one might spend in dreamland:

 Newborn sleep

During your baby’s first few weeks of life, he may have no concept of night and day. He will most likely sleep when he’s tired and wake up when he’s hungry. Most newborn babies spend approximately 16 to 20 hours per day sleeping (although premature babies will sleep more).

During the day, your newborns awake window is between 45 – 60 minutes before he will need a sleep. Breastfed babies are likely to sleep for two to three hours at a time, as breast milk is digested very quickly. Bottle fed babies may spend slightly longer periods sleeping, 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.

Try not to let your newborn go for more than four hours without a feed, as this may cause baby’s blood sugar to drop too much. Also keep your eyes open for extreme lethargy as this could be a symptom of other problems such as jaundice. If your newborn is sleeping for excessively long periods of time, please consult your healthcare provider for advice or a check-up.

Check out: Sleep training the gentle way

3 – 6 months baby sleep

By the time your baby is between three and six months old, he will spend more time awake. His awake window will be around 90-120 minutes. At this point, he will sleep for approximately 13 to 16 hours per day. It is during this time that his wake/sleep rhythm will become more routine. Your baby will begin to sleep more at night and less during the day.

Please bear in mind that daytime naps are still crucial to prevent him becoming overstimulated.  

He will begin to link his sleep cycles together for longer stretches during the night, although there may still be a feed at some stage during the night.

6 – 12 months baby sleep

During the second half of your baby’s first year of life, he will need around 12 hours of sleep per night, with a couple of shorter naps during the day. He needs to sleep around 12-14 hrs per During the day, his awake window will be in the region of 2 – 3 hours before he is ready for a nap. If your baby is healthy, growing well and consuming a healthy balanced diet during the day, he will be able to stretch around 10-12 hrs at night without needing nutritional support.

Inevitably your baby will go through phases when he is ill, teething or plunged into a new environment, where he may experience difficulties sleeping. Unless your baby is ill, it is important to stick to your chosen routines and rituals.

Also read: Baby massage- how to do it

Books to buy: 

Baby Sense

Sleep Sense

Also read: How much formula does your baby need?

Does your baby sleep through the night? Tell us in comments.

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