sleep guidelines

Sleep Needs By Age

When reading through this chart please note that your child’s estimated date of delivery determines when will typically hit sleep milestones.  For example, a baby born three weeks early will tend to hit sleep milestones three weeks later than they would if he had been born on their due date.

The following is a guideline only. You know your baby best and you should always use your best judgment (in consultation with your pediatrician) when determining an appropriate sleep schedule.

  • For newborns, sleep comes when it wants to and there is no discernible pattern to their sleep. Let your baby sleep as often and for as long as they would like.
  • It is impossible to put newborns on a sleep schedule as their brains are not yet developed enough to influence a sleep pattern.
  • Day and night confusion is common in newborns and they tend have long stretches of sleep during the day rather than at night.
  • At this age it is ok to do whatever is necessary (and safe) to soothe your baby and get everyone in your family the sleep they need.
  • Many babies are fussier in the late afternoon. Most will grow out of this behavior at around 6 weeks of age.
  • Around the time you see the first social smile (not just from gas), you can look for night sleep to lengthen which also means earlier bedtimes between 6-8pm.
  • Your baby is now becoming a social being and might not be able to fall asleep as easily as they had been during their first 8 weeks.
  • This is a great time to lay the foundation for healthy sleep which includes trying to put your baby down drowsy but awake, having a consistent sleeping place (i.e. crib or bassinet), watching for sleepy cues (yawning, eye rubbing, zoning out or pulling ears) and implementing a consistent soothing routine.
  • Right now you can expect wakeful periods of about 45 minutes to 1 hour before your baby will need to nap. This means that your baby will likely be taking 4-6 naps a day of varying length.
  • Bedtime should fit into your baby’s wakeful period (that is, it should be about an hour after he wakes from his last nap) and you should expect between 2-4 feedings at night.
  • At 3 months you will still need to be watching the clock to ensure your baby doesn’t become overtired.
  • At this point you can expect that your baby will take 4 naps a day.
  • Bedtime should be between 6pm – 8pm and your baby may need 2-4 feedings at night.
  • Now is a good time to let your baby “practice” self soothing.  If your baby wakes early from a nap try giving them a few minutes to see if they will return to sleep.
  • Your baby is now old enough to be on a daytime sleep schedule. Most babies this age take 3 naps a day at approximately 9am, 12pm, and 3pm.
  • The goal is to have the morning and afternoon naps be at least 1 hour.  To do this, try leaving your baby in their crib for a full hour even if they are awake.  This will also give your baby a chance to learn and practice self-soothing skills and possibly go back to sleep.
  • Bedtime should be about 2-2.5 hours after the end of your baby’s last nap.
  • Try your best to put your baby down sleepy but awake to promote self soothing skills.
  • Between 4-5 months old your baby’s daytime sleep is really starting to become organized. Therefore you will need to be patient and as consistent as possible in scheduling naptimes and giving your baby the opportunity to soothe themselves back to sleep if they wake early from a nap. The most important thing you can do is to be consistent so your baby understands what is now expected of them.
  • Between 6-8 months of age, most babies are taking three naps a day (at approximately 9am and 1pm with a variable third nap starting about one and a half  to two hours after the end of the second nap).  The third nap will be a shorter nap because it only serves as a buffer to keep your baby rested until bedtime.  You should not start a third nap after 4pm, in order to not interfere with bedtime.
  • Bedtime should be about 3 hours after the end of your baby’s last nap of the day and should vary based on the quality of daytime sleep (i.e. bedtime should be earlier if the quality of day sleep was poor).  Your baby may need 1 or 2 feedings at night.
  • Your baby may still need three naps a day because the length of the first two naps are not sufficient to get them through until bedtime without becoming overtired.  However, this is a common time for your baby to give up their third nap in favor of two naps at approximately 9am and 1pm (time frames based on 7am wake times.  If wake times are earlier than 7am, you may need to adjust nap times accordingly).  The second nap is typically the longer of the two.
  • It is important that you pay special attention to making bedtime earlier when the transition from two naps to one nap occurs so that your child does not become overtired.
  • Bedtime should be about 3-4 hours after the end of your baby’s second nap of the day and should vary based on the quality of daytime sleep (i.e. bedtime should be earlier if the quality of day sleep was poor).
  • One night time feeding may still be necessary through the ninth month.
  • This is a fairly consistent time and your babies’ sleep will most likely not change too much.
  • However, there is a common 11 month sleep “regression” that can lead parents to think their babies are ready to transition to one nap.  Be patient and stay consistent with two naps at approximately 9am and 1pm, adjust bedtimes earlier when needed and your baby should go back to napping well again.
  • During this period you can expect your child to transition from two naps to one nap a day.  There are several signs that this change is occurring: your child may play through their morning nap, the morning nap may start later and last too long to fit in a true afternoon nap, or the morning nap remains intact but your child may refuse to take an afternoon nap or the afternoon nap starts too late and interferes with bedtime.
  • This can be a difficult transition and it can take months for your child to fully settle into their new schedule.  An early bedtime during this time will help prevent your child from becoming overtired and will make this difficult transition as smooth as possible.
  • Around 2 years old, many children will lengthen their nap times up to 2-3 hours.  Do not allow your child to nap past 4pm or this will affect the quality of their nighttime sleep.  It’s important at this age to be consistent with this nap because your child needs this nap to stay rested.
  • Your child will still require a nap until about 3 years old.  However, some children may still take a nap up until 5 years old.
  • As your child approaches 3 years old, there may be a period of time when they begin to not fall asleep right away and instead play a bit during their nap.  Many parents believe this means that their child is transitioning out of this nap.  However, do not jump to this conclusion without first moving the start time of your child’s nap a bit earlier. It is only natural for the start of your child’s nap to become later due to activities, the needs of your other children, etc.  Often, simply moving the start time of the nap to 12:30 or 1pm is enough to restore your child’s nap.
  • When your child transitions out of napping you should institute quiet time (about an hour during which they stay in their bedroom and quietly play).
  • Your child may start waking up in the middle of the night due to your child’s new “no napping” lifestyle.  A consistent early bedtime will once again become necessary to help alleviate the night wakings and help your child become less overtired.
  • During this time while your child is adjusting to their new schedule, the earlier your child’s bedtime, the better they will be able to tolerate this long wakeful period.