The Importance of Sleep for Babies
It is important for your baby to get consolidated sleep – sleep that is non-fragmented and uninterrupted. Your newborn probably sleeps a total of 10 ½ to 18 hours a day on an irregular schedule with periods of one to three hours spent awake. If your baby is six months of age, nighttime feedings are probably not necessary as many infants sleep through the night (70% to 80% will do so by nine months of age). Your infant typically sleeps 9-12 hours during the night and takes 30 minute to two-hour naps, one to four times a day. By age 1, they will be taking fewer naps.
Below is a table that breaks down what you can expect in terms of nightly sleep, naps, and total sleep at each of your baby’s ages.
|Baby Age||Nighttime Sleep||Daytime Naps||Total Sleep|
|Newborn-2 months||2-4 hours between feeding||4-5||16-18 hours|
|2-4 months||4 hours between feedings||3||14-16 hours|
|4-6 months||5-8 hours||2-3||14-15 hours|
|6-9 months||8-10 hours||2||About 14 hours|
|9-12 months||10-12 hours||2||About 14 hours|
|12-18 months||11-12 hours||1-2||13-14 hours|
|18-24 months||11-12 hours||1||12-14 hours|
No matter what your baby’s age, getting enough sleep is important for healthy development of your baby’s growth, learning, and mood.
Important for Growth
As your baby sleeps, growth hormones, immune regulators, and growth factors all work together to build tissue, provide energy, and bolster the immune system. Additionally, the most intense time for release of growth hormones is shortly after the start of deep sleep. Therefore, sleep time is needed to develop your baby’s skeletal structure, limbs, and muscles.
Important for Learning
Studies on babies’ sleep show the importance of getting sufficient sleep to help learning. Consider the following:
- Good sleep is important for an infant’s mind to mature and consolidate memories.
- Efficient nighttime sleep results in high cognitive scores.
- Sleep provides a baby’s developing brain with more nerve stimulation than sensory stimulation.
Without sufficient sleep, your baby’s attention span and concentration is compromised, making it difficult to respond to stimulation and retain information.
Important for Mood
Research has shown that children who do not get enough sleep are sometimes impulsive, hyper-active, and overly emotional. A well-rested baby is alert, pleasant natured, and ready to respond to stimuli.
Parents frequently notice that if their baby does not get enough sleep, grumpiness and irritability results. Adding more frequent naps and making sure your child gets enough total sleep with naps and nighttime sleep will return your child to a happier, more pleasant mood.
You as the parent know your own child and their sleep needs. If your child falls asleep easily and wakes up happy, their sleep schedule is probably fine. The following tips can help assure your baby gets enough quality sleep.
Tips for Newborns
- Watch for your baby’s sleep patterns to identify signs of sleepiness.
- Place your baby in the crib before they are asleep. Do not wait until they have dozed off.
- Lay your baby on his/her back.
- Make sure the head is uncovered and clear of blankets and anything soft, such as a stuffed animal.
- Encourage nighttime sleep, by making sure the room quiet and dark.
Tips for Infants
- Develop a regular sleep schedule, including times for daytime and nighttime sleep.
- Make sure your baby’s room provides optimum comfort for sleeping.
- Establish and maintain a bedtime routine.
- Encourage your baby to fall asleep independently – to become a “self-soother.”
A typical newborn baby spends 16½ hours of the day asleep. By eighteen months of age, this decreases to about 13 ½ hours. Remember: This information and the chart at the beginning of this article are only averages. Every baby is different and has differing sleep needs. Observe your baby and modify sleep habits as needed to have a happy, healthy, thriving baby.