Your baby- and his schedule- are both changing quickly.
As the days turn into weeks, and the weeks turn into months, your baby’s sleep needs are constantly evolving.
So how much sleep does your baby need?
It depends on his age.
The Importance of Sleep
I think most people underestimate the importance that quality sleep has on the entire family.
When my oldest daughter was born, she didn’t sleep. Her naps usually maxed out at 20 minutes, and she rarely slept for more than an hour straight at night.
Everyone said that sleep deprivation was normal, so I accepted it as a horrible reality of this phase of life.
That period of time, which should have been beautiful and full of joy, was marred by inhumane levels sleep deprivation for all of us.
My daughter had permanent bags under her eyes, and screamed for hours a day.
I had lost my sanity. My marriage was crumbling.
I’m not even kidding.
Sleep is absolutely vital to your mental health, physical health, and quality of life.
And you know what? It’s just as important for your baby.
The first few days after your baby is born, he will be very drowsy, assuming he wasn’t overdue.
This is a beautiful honeymoon phase when most parents think that they birthed the best sleeper in the world.
Soak it up and enjoy it. Also, use this time to recover as much as possible.
Your baby’s sleep will be erratic for a while, as he has not developed a circadian rhythm yet.
Remember, he has just spent his entire life in the dark where there is no difference between day and night.
During this time, place more of your focus on feeding and bedtime routines.
These routines will eventually signal your baby that it is time to sleep.
Pay close attention to the awake times, looking for signals that your baby is tired.
Some infants are naturally poor sleepers and will not go to sleep without prompts.
If you let your baby stay up for too long, he may quickly become overtired and overstimulated.
When your baby hits the 6 week mark, she will begin to sleep for longer stretches at night; typically between 4 and 6 hours.
The length of night sleep will probably vary from night to night though.
Number of naps: 6-8
Length of naps: Varies widely from 15 min to 4 hours
Awake time between naps: 30-60 min
Total hours of sleep needed per day: 15-19 hours
Over the course of these couple of months, your baby’s midday naps will become more predictable (generally around 9am and 12pm), and she will begin to drop many of her night feedings.
During this time your baby will also experience a 4 month sleep regression, which is often marked by restlessness, fussiness, and increased night wakings.
The important thing to know about this sleep regression is that it is normal, and that night wakings don’t necessarily mean that your baby is hungry or in need of anything.
Simply put, her sleep patters have changed, so she now wakes up between sleep cycles.
If you haven’t already, work on establishing a consistent bedtime ritual to help signal to your baby that it’s time for bed.
Number of naps: 4-5
Length of naps: 30 min – 2 hours
Awake time between naps: 1-2 hours
Total hours of sleep needed per day: 15-16
By six months, your baby should be consolidating her naps into fewer, longer chunks.
If she isn’t already sleeping through the night, she should be able to do that now.
If babies are consuming enough calories during the day, they should be able to go the whole night without eating.
That being said, some parents are still quite uncomfortable letting their baby go all night without eating.
There is no harm in continuing to provide your baby with a dream feed (feeding without waking them) until they are 10-12 months old.
Number of naps: 2-4
Length of naps: 1-2 hours
Awake time between naps: 2-3 hours
Total hours of sleep needed per day: 14.5 (this includes 11 uninterupted hours at night)
Your baby’s 9-12 months will be marked with both another sleep regression, and reduction in naps. Cool.
Generally speaking, babies don’t get better at sleeping after this point.
If your baby isn’t learning to put herself back to sleep now, chances are incredibly low that she’s going to start doing it on her own in a few months.
If you want to sleep train, now is the best time. From here on out, your little one’s lungs and willpower are only going to get stronger.
Number of naps: 2
Length of naps: 1-2 hours
Awake time between naps: 4-5 hours
Total hours of sleep needed per day: 14
It might be tempting to let your baby drop her second nap when she’s about 13 months.
After all, she’d rather stay up and play than go to sleep.
Trust me on this though, you should really try to wait until she’s 15 months old before you ditch the second nap. Most babies can’t handle that drop in sleep without getting overtired.
There are occasional babies who launch a nap boycott no matter what you do. Those are rare though.
Baby should be able to sleep through the night without eating.
Number of naps: 1-2
Length of naps: 1-2 hours
Total hours of sleep needed per day: 13-14
What Will it Take?
Getting the right amount of sleep is critical for your baby’s brain development and the wellbeing of everyone in your family.
That being said, I realize that getting babies to sleep is much easier said than done.
I’m not even going to try to give you a lecture about that. You know. You’re not an idiot. And you’re already trying like hell.
What I’m trying to say is, if your baby isn’t getting the sleep he needs, find out how to change it.
Do you need to sleep train?
Put him to sleep earlier?
Pass off bedtime duties to your partner?
You need to do this for you, because without sleep, you can’t be the mom that you want to be.
Do you ever feel like you're constantly failing at this mom thing?
No? That’s awkward. Maybe it’s just me.
But if you do, I created some awesome, FREE meditative affirmations for new moms.
You know, to remind you of how freaking hard you’re working.
You can totally have them if you want.
Other content you might find helpful on your parenting journey: