What to expect about babies' sleep

Babies have sleep patterns that are quite different from older children and adults.

Their stomachs can only hold a small amount of milk, so they wake up to feed often. Most newborns sleep an average of 1–3 hours at a time, day and night. This is normal. As they get older, they will be able to sleep for longer periods of time.

Young babies usually sleep:

  • about 16–18 hours a day for the first 3 months of their lives
  • about 2 hours (and seldom more than 3 or 4 hours) at a time

Babies’ sleep patterns can continue this way until they are 5–6 months old. Some babies may start sleeping longer at night by the time they are 3 months old. Most babies aren’t ready to sleep longer at night until they are at least 6 months old, and even then, it may only be for 5 or 6 hours at a time.

Let your baby eat and sleep when she needs to. She will develop her own eating and sleeping patterns. You don’t need to wake her to feed as long as she is healthy, gaining enough weight and growing (unless you have been instructed to do so by your health care provider).

By understanding and responding to your baby’s sleeping and waking cues, you can help her learn good sleeping habits early.

Helping your baby learn the difference between day and night

Babies will wake to be fed during the night. However, you can help your baby learn that nighttime is also for sleeping. Here are some suggestions.

During the day

During the night

Keep your home light and bright. Keep lights dim or off.
Don't worry about noises such as phones, music and dishwashers. Reduce noises.
Play actively. Keep feedings quiet and voices low.

Most babies feel more secure when they have a similar routine every day. However, a very strict routine doesn’t work well because their needs for food and sleep change from day to day. Follow your baby’s lead for feeding and sleeping and try to have a regular routine for your baby’s care (e.g., bathing, playtime).

Learning to fall asleep on her own

After the first few months, put your baby to bed when she is drowsy but still awake whenever you can. Cuddle or feed your baby to bring her close to sleep and then put her down in her crib. This will help her learn to fall asleep on her own.

Give your baby the chance to fall asleep in her crib or bassinet whenever possible. When babies go to sleep and wake up in the same place, they learn that this is where they sleep. This helps them learn how to get back to sleep when they wake up at night as well.

« Previous: Sleeping Next: Safe sleeping for your baby »