Your Baby's Sleep Needs

Children, including babies, need sleep just as much as adults do, if not more. Though some of the effects of sleep deprivation in adults are either not relevant to or not observable in infants, some are — especially crankiness. A cranky baby is no joy to be around! The fact that the mom and dad may be cranky themselves, due to their own sleep deprivation if the baby had them up all night, only exacerbates an already bad situation.

You know your baby needs plenty of sleep to grow and be healthy and happy, and you want him to get a good night's sleep, rather than sleeping all day. Unfortunately, babies don't come equipped with “sleep” buttons or on/off switches. Getting a baby to sleep isn't as easy as turning off a stereo or putting your computer into “sleep” mode.


Your baby may well be sleeping through the night by age six months at the latest. If he isn't and it is causing a problem for you and if none of the solutions in this book works for you, then discuss the situation with your pediatrician to see if there is a medical problem that's causing the situation.

Fortunately, however, there are things you can do to help your baby get the rest she needs and help the rest of your family have a peaceful night's sleep at the same time. You need to be prepared for the possibility that your baby's first few nights or even her first few weeks will include more wakeful time than you would like. In one recent study, researchers observed newborn babies to find out just how many hours per day they slept. Babies in the study slept an average of two-thirds of the time, about sixteen hours per day. Yet, that is merely an average. Some babies in the study slept as little as nine hours per day; while at the other extreme, some slept for twenty-one hours.

What is the average sleep requirement for a baby?

  • One week old: a bit over 16 hours per day, of which half is nighttime sleep and half is daytime sleep

  • Three months old: around 14½ hours per day

  • One year old: a bit under 14 hours per day

  • Eighteen months old: around 13½ hours per day

  • But again, these are average or typical figures. If your child sleeps more or fewer hours, that doesn't mean he is unhealthy or displaying troublesome patterns. It doesn't necessarily mean anything is wrong.

    By the age of six weeks, your baby's body should recognize night from day, with the baby sleeping more during the nighttime hours than during the daytime hours. As she gets older, her sleep will become more consolidated: She will sleep for longer stretches at a time at night and she will remain awake for longer stretches at a time during the day.

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