Dad 101: Baby sleep

A rough guide to how much sleep babies need.

A rough guide to how much sleep babies need

The short answer here is that babies need loads of sleep. They will basically spend most of their time asleep  for the first few months, with newborns needing around 16-20 hours per day – just a few hours less than koalas… or some teenagers! 

Here is a rough guide: 

1 - 3 months: a total of 14 to 17 hours is recommended, with no less than 11 hours, and no more than 19 hours. Sleeping pretty much round the clock is the order of the day (in between feeds and nappy changes), with about 1-3 hours awake at a time between sleeps.

4 - 11 Months: 12 to 15 hours sleep every day is recommended, with no less than 10 and no more than 18 hours. By 9 months, most babies will be sleeping through the night, with 1 to 4 naps a day, which last about 30 minutes to 2 hours each.

12 months: at this age most of their sleep should be happening at night, a total of 11 to 14 hours is recommended, with two naps during the day, totaling just over two hours.

18 months: the same amount of sleep as at 12 months but try dropping down to one nap of 1-3 hours during the day.

toddler sleeping

Tips to help get them to sleep 

Cracking the code
 
The trick is to get these little people to sleep when you want them to – at night, ideally when you too are asleep. 
 
The idea that you can get a baby to ‘go through’ the night is a strong focus for new parents who set up intricate routines .
 
The truth is that there is no silver bullet to get a baby to sleep through the night, but when you do manage it – make sure you don’t tell anyone! No weary parent wants to hear that you have cracked the ‘Da Vinci Code of Sleep’.
 
You could always pretend that your child is up all night screaming  to fit in with the majority of sleep-deprived, first-time parents. Plus, as soon as you do tell someone about your little sleeping angel, that angel will probably change its routine and start waking up at 3am – babies are like that.
 
Get into a routine
 
Routine is good. Children benefit from routine or as we called it in our house the Three Bs: bath, book and bed. A routine helps your baby learn when sleep is coming. It can help calms kids down and, while it will not guarantee you a full night’s sleep, a routine can help make things easier for all of you. 

Listen to your child sleep
 
Get to know your child’s signs of sleepiness and sleeping patterns, spend time with them when they are asleep, and don’t be afraid to ask for help from GPs, friends or parent support groups. 
 
Our first child did not sleep through the night for two and a half years, and it was through listening to his sleep that we thought he might have problems. A doctor’s visit showed large adenoids and tonsils, and after an operation (and short recovery) he slept through the night and we have never looked back.

Look after yourself

Remember that you need sleep too. During the sleepless two years, my wife and I could have been extras on The Walking Dead, no make-up required. When that ordeal was over we turned to each other and apologised for any and every fight we had over the past two years. This had been a trying time for our relationship, or as a friend put it, “They use sleep deprivation as a torture technique for a reason.”

The first couple of years can be tough for everyone sleep-wise, but when your little one climbs into bed with you and falls asleep, their little chest rising and falling with yours, it will all seem worth it. 
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