When you come home with your newborn in your arms, the first big change for you is to bid your beauty sleep at night goodbye. While babies sleep for most of the day and night during the initial stages of their life, this sleep is not continuous. They may wake up frequently to feed and then drift back to sleep after a while. For a new parent this can get confusing because you don’t know how to plan around the baby’s sleep cycles. But this is not only why you need to understand your baby’s sleep pattern. Adequate sleep is also crucial for their development and health and by being informed about the healthy baby sleep schedule by age, you can ensure your little one is getting all the sleep she needs at each stage.
Baby Sleep Schedule by Age
The First Few Weeks
Baby has spent the first few months of her life in the dark, warm confines of your womb. Over the first few weeks post-birth she is still slowly getting accustomed to the day and night pattern that she has been brought out into. At this stage she is too young to be brought on a schedule.
Over the 24- hour period of each day, she may spend between 16 and 17 hours sleeping. Typically, she sleeps for 8 to 9 hours of the day and 8 hours at night in total. These could be split into naps lasting 2 to 3 hours followed by 45 to 60 minutes of awake time.
Remember that by the end of the first two weeks, the baby should ideally go back to her birth weight. Gradually as she is a few weeks old, she starts sleeping for longer stretches at a go.
Between 1 and 2 Months Old
Baby’s awake window slightly increases now to around two hours but she is still taking naps during the day and waking up at night-time to feed, more than once. Check with your paediatrician if you can start waking the baby for a feed if she is napping for longer than an hour and half during the day in her second month. An important thing to note is that breastfed babies wake every two to three hours for a quick meal at night while for formula fed tots, this could extend to three to four hours.
Between 3 to 6 Months
At this stage, baby is beginning to understand the difference between day and night and so her sleep pattern begins to settle down. Swaddling, white noise, rocking and other such techniques help you soothe her and get her sleepy enough to drift off peacefully and quickly.
At night she sleeps for longer stretches, maybe even six to eight hours if you are lucky, without waking for a feed. During the day, her sleep times are reduced slightly and she wants to play or cuddle for longer in between naps and she is active for more hours overall. If it is past her bedtime and she seems active, try the swaddling- rocking- white noise trio of techniques to slowly help her calm down and go to sleep.
Make sure to wake her up if the baby’s sleep during a daytime nap stretches longer than one and half hours because fewer daytime feeds mean more night-time feeds. Try to slowly wean her away from the habit of feeding to fall asleep. After the last meal she has, switch to other calming methods to put her to sleep so that you begin breaking the feed- sleep association. By the time the baby is nearing her six month birthday, she is edging closer to getting one long uninterrupted sleep stretch at night, followed by a shorter nap after a feed.
Between 7 to 9 Months
As she enters her seventh month, baby is ready to skip her night feed and get a single long stretch of sleep. Of course, pre-bedtime feed is still very important but you may be able to break the midnight snack habit now with your paediatrician’s advice. This is also the time to start nudging your little one towards self- soothing so she can go back to sleep on her own even if she wakes up in the middle of the night.
White noise is still a perfectly safe, non- intrusive sleep inducing method you can use but swaddling is not as advisable as baby has started to move a lot on her own now. Try to fade away the rocking- to- help- baby’s sleep habit as well so the baby can slowly learn to drift off on her own without needing you nearby. If you haven’t stopped feeding to help her sleep already, do it now. You can stop a habit by shortening the length of time for which you do it before putting the baby in her bassinet to sleep so that she is calmed down but not asleep when she’s in sleeping position.
9 to 12 Months
By now you are definitely yearning to know when babies sleep through the night. You are almost there! Although she is sleeping for an eight hour stretch at night, she may be waking up early for a feed. Now she’s beginning to try solid foods too so her meal times may be farther apart as well and hopefully you have managed to wean her off night time feeds by this stage. Now the baby is sleeping for anywhere between 14 and 15, maybe even 16, hours daily with most of the sleep taking place during the night. Yay!
If you haven’t started teaching babies how to self soothe, you must start now. At bedtime, she goes into her crib or bed when she is sleepy but still awake. On most days the baby’s sleep will be uninterrupted through the night and she’ll wake early but on the few nights that she does wake up in between, try not to pick her up. See if she’s able to soothe herself back to sleep or else pat her to sleep in her crib. Taking her out and into your arms can bring her to full wakefulness.
By the time, baby is one year old, she is ideally sleeping through the night and also self- soothing to sleep. She still needs a pre- sleep time feed but she isn’t dependent on the feed to go to sleep now.
However, what you must remember is that every baby is different. If your little one isn’t exactly following this schedule, it is not a cause for concern as long as she is getting enough rest and is growing at the right pace. Your periodic paediatrician visits will keep you apprised on baby’s development and overall health. Do not try to force fit your little one into the typical baby sleep schedule by age pattern. Instead try to gradually nudge her into a night time sleep- daytime- play pattern overall.