How much should my baby sleep?
You probably have a lot of questions regarding your baby’s sleep routine.
- Is my baby sleeping too much?
- Is my baby sleeping too little?
- Is my baby following the “correct” sleep routine?
- Why is my baby awake again so soon?
This blog post will try to answer some of the many questions you might have about your baby’s sleep routine.
Bonus: We have created a reader-friendly chart of your baby’s average sleep needs.
How much should my baby sleep?
During the first 12 months of your baby’s life, sleep needs and sleep patterns change significantly. Newborns have no sleep pattern at all, which can be both a significant challenge and difficult to understand. Each time your baby falls asleep, his/her sleep cycle begins consisting of different stages. It is very important to understand how your baby's sleep cycles differ from those of adults.
The below chart shows the average estimated sleep needs for babies. As you can imagine sleep needs vary depending on your baby’s age – whether he/she is newborn, 3 months or 9 months old. Remember your baby’s sleep routine can have different setups.
Sleep schedule: Baby
Sleep in total
During the first 12 months of your baby’s life, sleep needs and sleep patterns change significantly. Newborns have no sleep pattern at all, which can be both a significant challenge and difficult to understand.
Each time your baby falls asleep, his/her sleep cycle begins consisting of different stages. It is very important to understand how your baby's sleep cycles differ from those of adults.
Your baby’s sleep cycle is shorter than yours
When you sleep you go through sleep cycles. A cycle consists of 4 different stages.
- Stage 1: NREM sleep. The lightest stage of sleep and therefore your baby is easy to wake up.
- Stage 2: NREM sleep. Still light sleep, but deeper than stage 1. The body is more relaxed, the body temperature decreases slowly along with the heart rate.
- Stage 3: NREM sleep. The deepest stage of NREM sleep. The body is completely relaxed, and the sleep is so deep, it’s hard to wake someone up from it.
- Stage 4: REM sleep. The REM sleep is the active stage of the sleep cycle. This is here most dreams happen. The eyes often move behind your eyelids while you are dreaming. The blood flow to the brain increases significantly
When the sleep cycle is completed, you start over with the first stage and this continues until you wake up. How long you spend in each stage and how long it takes for you to go through all 4 stages varies from person to person, but it also depends significantly on your age.
Adults usually spend 90 minutes going through all 4 stages of a sleep cycle. Babies only spend approx. half the time ranging from 30 – 45 minutes.
If your baby typically wakes up after the first stage 4 sleep, it’s because he/his hasn’t learned to transition to a new cycle yet. One way to help your baby is through movement as many babies are soothed by rocking motions as it resembles the mother’s womb. A baby hammock with or without a cradle bouncer can come in handy in these situations.
This is what your baby’s sleep cycle looks like
So, your baby has significantly shorter sleep cycles and goes through this cycle more times than you. Between each cycle you will typically be awake for a short period of time (20-30 seconds). Adults often just fall back asleep and start a new sleep cycle without noticing the brief awakening.
However, babies might have a difficult time transitioning directly to the next sleep cycle with the risk of the baby waking up several times during the night. Below you will find a description of your baby’s most important sleep developments from newborn to the age of 1.
Your baby’s sleep routine from 0 – 12 months
Newborn (0 months)
Your newborn has no fixed sleep pattern.
His/her sleep does not depend on night and day but is determined only by his/her need for food and comfort. However, the sleep rhythm from the time in the mother’s womb might influence your newborn’s current sleep pattern.
If your baby wakes up at night and does not want to go back to sleep, there in not much you can do about it. The brain simply is not developed enough for it to be possible. From 0-2 months your baby sleeps 16-17 hours during the day and you cannot influence the sleep pattern at this age.
At this age your baby becomes more aware of where he/she is as well as the surroundings. This considered it can be more challenging to get your baby to fall asleep. Overall, your baby will sleep significantly less than he/she did as a newborn. At this age the hormone production (melatonin, cortisol) begins to form slowly and gradually, which slowly develops the possibilities of creating specific sleeping habits. Therefore, it’s not until your baby is 3-4 months old you can benefit from establishing a bedtime routine.
At 6 months you may notice a structured sleep routine. Your baby will likely sleep more at night than during the day and for longer periods at a time. Simultaneously, your baby will start being more active during the hours he/she is awake.
At night you may notice that your baby sleep more restlessly and moves more around in his/her sleep. This is completely normal and often you can help your baby back into a comfortable sleeping position.
At this age your baby probably begins to be able to sleep in a more fixed routine. Your baby will likely be more active during the hours he/she is awake as well as when he/she sleeps. You may experience your baby sleeping more restlessly and might both laugh and cry in his/her sleep meaning your baby still needs you – even when he/she is sleeping. At this age your baby begins to dream which can lead to a more active sleep pattern.
When your child reaches its first birthday the daytime naps will gradually decrease to about 2-3 hours. He/she will be awake most of the day and becomes more active crawling/walking around. The more active daytime hours will be reflected in the nighttime sleep and your baby still needs to feel you care.
TIP: We recommend you also read our article “Mental Leaps” to get an even better understanding of your baby.
FAQ / Babies and sleep
In which position should my baby sleep?
It is very important that your baby sleeps on its back. This is to prevent sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). When your baby can turn himself/herself during his/her sleep it is okay to let your baby sleep on his/her stomach.
Can babies sleep too much?
Do not worry about your baby sleeping too much. There is no such thing as sleeping too much. Even though he/she sleeps most of the day. Your baby requires a lot of sleep to process the many impressions he/she receives throughout the day.
When is my baby old enough to sleep in his/her own room?
Health authorities recommend babies should sleep in the same room as their parents until they are 6 months old.
Elaboration: There is no specific time recommendation when to move your baby into his/her own room after the first 6 months. This is entirely up to you and your baby’s needs. However, you might consider the following factors:
- Have you stopped breastfeeding at night and no longer have a practical reason to be close to your baby.
- Are you experiencing issues with your baby disturbing your sleep or vice versa, it might be a good time since studies show children tend to sleep better when they sleep in their own room.
- Please remember never feel pressured into moving your baby into his/her own room just because others do it. Do it in your own terms.