What’s really normal for baby sleep?

Every baby is different. Your baby’s need for sleep will change as they grow and develop. In time, you’ll start to understand what is normal for your baby, and the ways to you support their sleep development. 

Try not to compare your baby to other babies because this can lead to you becoming anxious and upset about your baby. You may also be feeling sleep deprived, exhausted and emotional which can have an impact upon your abilities to care for your baby, your other children or work.

It’s important that you understand what is normal for your baby and ways in which you can support their sleep development.

New born babies sleep patterns can be vastly different. 

It is common for new born babies to sleep between 16-18 hours each day until they reach around 4 months of age. 

It is normal for new born babies to wake up every 2 to 3 hours to be fed or cuddled. This is because they have small stomachs. If you are breast feeding your baby night time feeds help breast feeding mums to make breast milk. 

Your baby’s need for sleep will change as they get older.

From around 4 months your baby will usually be sleeping for between 12-16 hours per day. 

Babies do not routinely start sleeping through the night until they are around the age of 1 year. 

As your baby grows, their day-to-day rhythm will develop. This means by the age of 3 months your baby may be sleeping for around 5 hours usually at night. By 5 months of age your baby may be sleeping for up to 8 hours at night. 

It is also quite normal for babies to start waking ago when they have previously slept through the night. This can happen when your baby is around 4-5 months of age and again when they are 8-9 months of age. 

Is my baby getting enough sleep?

If your baby is growing, alert and happy when they are awake then you can be assured that your baby is getting enough sleep. 

The tips below are some suggestions of things that help with getting a better night’s sleep:

  • Have a routine. For example, getting up at the same time each morning can help bring yours and your baby’s body clocks and sleep patterns in line. 
  • Open your curtains and your windows. This will let natural light into the room and can help your baby to wake up naturally. 
  • In the morning, do your daily routines as normal, not quietly. Allow your baby to wake up naturally by allowing daylight into the room and continuing your routines around them. 
  • Stay active and do things that you and your baby enjoy. This will help build up their need for sleep by bed time. 
  • Carry on as normal if they are sleeping in the day. You don’t need to adjust the environment around them or make allowance for noise and light levels. 
  • Try to go to bed at the same time as your baby. Make the most of the longest sleep period that your baby has. 
  • If your baby does wake during the night try to respond in a relaxed manner by reacting quietly and keeping the environment dark and quiet, we know this will sometimes feel hard.
  • Try different ways of managing difficult thoughts you may have when you and your baby are getting less sleep, such as meditation or mindfulness. 
  • After the first few months, if your baby is waking frequently during the night try to reduce the amount of time that they sleep during the day. Your baby will not need to sleep as much during the day time at this stage.

Useful links

  • Cry Sis - support for crying and sleepless babies
  • BASIS - baby sleep info source
  • Possums - the parent wellbeing and baby developent collective