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Sleep Needs by Age

November 3, 2021

Sleep is developmental and what works for one baby doesn’t work for another. Even for adults sleep is a range of needs: one person functions perfectly fine on five hours of sleep while another finds they can’t function with anything less than eight. Sleep recommendations are created as  guidelines. Experts agree that the best sleep guideline to follow is recognizing how you are feeling. If you and your baby are happy and energetic throughout the day, sleeping well at night, then you’re following the perfect customized sleep plan for your needs. Sleep quality is not only objective but subjective. If you sleep a full 8 hours with little to no disruptions, but woke up not feeling rested, then you did not get quality sleep. The same is true for your baby. If your baby gets the perfect amount of sleep based on the guidelines for their age, yet seems very tired, then some adjustments should be considered. 

Newborn 0-3 months

A newborn should call the shots when it comes to sleep. But because they don’t have a circadian rhythm (their biological clock that recognizes daytime from nighttime) until they’re a bit older, they need our social cues to learn when to sleep more and when to play more. Plan for your baby to take naps next to you in daylight and with daytime noises. Bedtime should be very dark and include white noise. Respond to Baby’s night wakings with little energy so they don’t get overly excited to see you. They should be napping throughout the day and waking frequently to feed at night. They may take 4-6 naps a day lasting anywhere from 30 minutes to 3 hours. Night sleep should have longer periods of sleep, but still waking every 3-4 hours. In total, expect to see 11-17 hours of sleep in a 24 hour period. Your  baby’s  sleep is really determined by their feeding needs. With a stomach the size of an egg, Baby needs frequent feedings which wakes them frequently. So if someone asks you if your baby is a good sleeper, and they wake every 3-4 hours throughout the day and night, then your answer is yes! They are the perfect sleeper for their individual and developmental age appropriate needs.

Younger Infant 4-7 months

Following your baby’s cues, you should begin to notice that they’re waking less to feed at night and stretching out their wake windows in the day. They are developmentally ready to fall into a sleep routine. Many parents find that even though they seemed like “great sleepers” as newborns, their infant suddenly forgot the difference between night and day and is demanding night time slumber parties! This is pretty normal. If you find your infant is challenging you during naps and bedtime, it may be time to start sleep learning. How will you know when the time is right? Your infant should be getting 3-3.5 hours of daytime sleep spread across three to four naps and then sleeping 11-12 hours at night. It is completely normal and healthy for them to continue waking for one-two feedings. If your baby is refusing naps,  seems grumpy and is frequently waking at night, a program like Dream Lab is for you! But remember these numbers are only recommendations, so if your baby is getting what’s recommended but you’re all happy and enjoying your days and nights, then that’s perfectly healthy for them.

Older Infant 8-12 months

Sometime around 8 months you may find that a third nap is a struggle and your baby is waking up too early for the day. These are signs that they are ready to drop down to a two nap schedule. They still may need 2-3 hours of sleep split between those two naps and 11-12 hours of night sleep. Your baby may also be ready to drop all night feedings, but it’s completely normal to continue to need one until closer to 12 months. This is a time typically filled with many sleep disruptions, such as teething or a new milestone. Staying consistent with your routine and letting them practice their new skill as much as possible between naps will help you get back on track quicker.

Toddler 1-2 Years 

Happy One Year! You have a toddler now! This comes with many obstacles, but also tons of fun. Try to keep your baby in their crib as long as possible, and even closer to 3 years, to avoid any serious bedtime and naptime protests. Typical sleep ranges are becoming tighter with less sleep time required and will continue to do so for the rest of their lives. They should be sleeping 11-12 hours each night and getting 1.5-3 hours of daytime sleep over 1-2 naps. You’ll know when it’s time to drop that second nap when they are lasting longer and sometimes getting too close to bedtime.

Preschool 3-5 Years

It’s the age of learning independence! While some kiddos are ready to stop napping in the day, others still seem happier with a nap. They may nap 1.5-2 hours once a day and need 11-12 hours of nighttime sleep. You may find that preschool or daycare determines if you’re able to squeeze that nap into your schedule. If you find your little one still needs a nap but you can’t make it happen, pull bedtime earlier for a little bit to help them adjust. They’ll get there in no time!

Parent Sleep

We always focus on the babies, but let’s be serious: helping your baby get enough sleep while you aren’t won’t help you feel better! It’s so important for us to get good sleep as parents, but we just don’t make it a priority. On average adults need more than 7 hours of sleep to feel well rested, but that’s actual sleep not time laying in bed. Some simple habits to start for healthy sleep is setting a bedtime and wake time for yourself. Be consistent as possible by going to bed at the same time and even if the night was rough, waking at the same time. Studies have shown that having an inconsistent sleep schedule is the same as constant jet lag! If you find you’re exhausted from pulling an all-nighter at Club Diapers, taking a 10-20 minute nap in the day can help you feel more rested than sleeping in! Schedule your nap at the same time as your little one and  wake up before they do to feel more rested and able to  tackle whatever nap time activities you need to accomplish!


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