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Sleep Patterns in Babies

How long do most babies sleep?

Most newborns sleep an average of 16 hours a day, but this may vary from day to day and from baby to baby. Most of the time a newborn sleeps in 3 to 4 hour blocks of time. That pattern usually does not match an adult sleeping schedule. At first, babies do not know the difference between day and night. As time goes on, your baby will be more awake during the day and sleep longer at night.

Most babies start sleeping 6 to 8 hours at a time during the night at about 3 months of age. By 6 months of age, many babies sleep 8 to 10 hours at night without needing to feed. If your baby is still not sleeping through the night, don't worry. Some babies don’t sleep through the night until 1 year of age or older.

What about naps?

Your baby's sleep time is divided between nighttime sleep and daytime naps. Some babies sleep for longer times, but less often, and others sleep for shorter times more often. If your baby sleeps well at night, it’s fine to let him nap for as long as he wants. If your baby isn't sleeping at night as long as you wish, it may help to shorten his naptime.

Babies usually take 2 naps at 6 months of age and 1 nap after 1 year of age until kindergarten or first grade.

How can I help my baby develop good sleeping habits?

Babies learn to link certain things with sleeping. For example, if you always feed and hold your baby until he falls asleep, he links being fed and held with sleep. When your baby wakes up during the night, he may not go back to sleep without being fed and held.

After 2 months of age, your baby needs to learn to fall asleep on his own. Here are some ideas that may help:

  • Try feeding your baby ahead of bedtime rather than just before you put him to bed. Some babies do not sleep as well on a full stomach.
  • Get into a regular routine at bedtime, such as a bath and quiet time 1 hour before bedtime.
  • Put your baby to bed drowsy but not asleep. This will help him link bed with falling asleep.
  • Make nighttime different from daytime. For example, use a soft, quiet voice if you talk to your baby in the middle of the night to let the baby know it is nighttime and not time to play.
  • Expect some crying as your baby falls asleep. Crying is a way for your baby to comfort himself and it may take a few minutes for him to get comfortable, settle in, and fall asleep.
  • Make sure your baby is safe and comfortable. Always put your baby on his back to sleep. Keep soft objects, toys, and loose bedding out of your baby's sleep area until he is 12 months old. After your baby's first birthday, give him a stuffed animal or blanket. These things can give your child a sense of security and help him go to sleep.
  • Never put your baby in bed with a bottle of milk, juice, or any sweetened liquid that can damage your baby's teeth.
Developed by RelayHealth.
Pediatric Advisor 2015.2 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2014-01-08
Last reviewed: 2014-01-08
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All rights reserved.
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