Baby sleep patterns

While all babies have sleepy days and wakeful days, as a rule the amount of sleep they need each day, and how many sleeps they have each day, is dictated by their age.

Newborn – 3months

Birth to 6 weeks Approx. 1 hour 2-3 hours 5-6 sleeps in 24 hour period
6 weeks to 3 months 1 – 1.5 hours 2.5-3 hours 4-5 sleeps in 24 hour period

While many babies up to three months don’t differentiate between night and day in their sleeping patterns, it’s not unusual for them to have an extended period of wakefulness in the early evening (sometimes referred to as the ‘arsenic hour’ – if only it lasted for one short hour!) where they entirely miss out on one sleep period or only manage to doze fitfully. To encourage your baby to learn to recognise the difference between day and night, try to stick to a routine from early on during night feeds.

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3 – 6 months:

3 months to 4.5 months 1.5 – 2 hours 2 – 2.5 hours 3 day sleeps
4.5 months to 6 months 2-2.5 hours 2 – 2.5 hours 2-3 day sleep

From four and a half months onwards, most babies are capable of sleeping for 8 hours at night without needing a feed. The trick is then to get them to sleep for the same 8 hours as their parents! Try waking him before you go to bed for a quick top-up feed, slip him back into bed and quietly tip-toe away.

6 – 12 months:

6 to 9 months 2.5 – 3 hours 1.5 – 2 day sleeps 2 – 3 day sleeps
9 to 12 months 3 -4 hours 1st sleep: 1-2 hours
2nd sleep: 1 hour
2 day sleeps

As your baby matures and moves from one sleep routine to another, you will find that there will be a period of adjustment for each change and it pays to be flexible. If your baby has moved from three day sleeps to two, you may find that after a week of the new routine he suddenly seems exhausted and needs three day sleeps once more. Return to your old routine for a couple of days before attempting the new routine again.

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Find more related articles and links for baby sleep advice

This article was written by Ella Walsh for Kidspot – New Zealand’s parenting resource for newborns and baby. Sources include SA Government’s Parenting and Child Health and Karitane.

One Comment

  1. adewey 05/07/2017 at 8:50 pm

    Thank you so much for this article–so many helpful tips here. But, I just saw this post (“Instant Baby Sleep MP3 Sound Track”) and actually was reading about this same topic the other day. I did some searching around and stumbled onto this cool article… I thought it was helpful…

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