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Baby Sleep Guidelines – Newborn to 12 Months

By Alanna McGinn

When I had a newborn I don’t think there was anything I was more obsessed about than sleep (perhaps poop). So I asked Alanna from Good Night Sleep Site if she would do a bit of a breakdown of baby sleep guidelines. It may not give you the extra sleep you crave, but at least you’ll have some framework so you don’t think something is wrong when your newborn isn’t having three hour naps – not that I would know anything about that. ::cough::

It’s also worth checking out Alanna’s e-book, This Baby Loves Sleep. It gives a very detailed breakdown of practical, science based baby sleep steps.

Understanding Your Baby’s Sleep Timeline:

The first thing I tell parents of newborns (ages 0-3 months of age) is to take the pressure off. There are no real sleep rules at this stage and biologically your baby is unable to follow a clocked sleep schedule.

First Month (0-4 Weeks)

What’s Going On? In the first month of life, your baby is sleeping most of the time. They can be asleep for 2.5 to 4 hours at a time, and up 45 mins to 1 hour or more in between sleep phases. Their day and night sleep is unorganized and there are no consistent sleep patterns. Night sleep isn’t consolidated and baby is still being fed throughout the night. While a safe sleep space should be created by Day 1 there aren’t any habits that have been created at this time that can’t be undone when your baby is a bit older. You can’t spoil a newborn. Bedtime is typically between 8-10 pm.

Second Month (5-8 Weeks)

What’s Going On? Slight consistency in sleep patterns begin to emerge at this age and your baby is likely napping 3-5 times a day for 45 mins to 1 hour or more per nap. Their night sleep is becoming more organized and their day and night confusion ends. Suddenly you may start to see longer stretches at night as well – maybe 4-6 hour stretches starting later in the evening – hurray! Bedtime slowly moves up to 7-9 pm and it’s at this age where you want to start working towards more of a consistent sleep environment and start watching those sleepy cues. Watch that their wakeful periods aren’t too long – they can maybe only go 45 minutes to an hour between sleep phases and that’s okay.

Third Month (9-15 Weeks)

What’s Going On? It’s at this age that you will start to see longer wakeful periods and baby is moving towards 3 naps a day (morning, midday, afternoon) for 45 minutes to 1.5 hours per nap. Night stretches can be as long as 4-8 hours between wakings and at this point we have pretty predictable wake times each day ranging from 5:30 to 7 am. Bedtime moves up earlier again to 6-8 pm and your baby’s sleep environment is set at this point.

4-8 Months

What’s Going On? It’s between 4-6 months of age where you can start to take a bit more control in your baby’s sleep schedule. Their natural sleep rhythms are starting to develop and you can start looking at the clock a bit more. While we’re still following the cues of our babies you can now start to develop a more consistent daytime nap schedule and bedtime if this is something you want to do.

A natural wake-time for this age group and older is between 6-7 am.

Morning Nap:
Start nap – 8-8:30 am
Wakeup from nap and feed – 10:30-11:00 am

Afternoon Nap:
Start nap – 12-12:30 pm
Wakeup from nap and feed – 2:30-3:00 pm

A catnap is offered at this age group. This nap is meant to act as a buffer between the afternoon nap and bedtime. This is a quick 30-45 minute nap and you would typically drop this nap between 6-8 months of age.

Bedtime: 5:30 pm – 7:00 pm
Early bedtimes are important as the better rested your baby is going down to bed the easier it will be for your baby to fall asleep and sleep more restfully throughout the night. I understand that early bedtimes can be tough to achieve given certain circumstances like work life, other children, and lifestyle. You have to choose a routine that works best for your family but if you are struggling with bedtime battles and frequent night wakings I recommend that you look at your baby’s bedtime and see if you can even make it slightly earlier than what you are aiming for now.

8-12 Months

What’s Going On? There aren’t huge changes at this age except shifting the schedule slightly later and eliminating the catnap.

Morning Nap:
Start nap – 9:00 am
Wakeup from nap and feed – 10:30-11:00 am

Afternoon Nap:
Start nap – 1:00 pm
Wakeup from nap and feed – 3:00 pm

Bedtime: 6:00 pm – 7:00 pm
*Start bedtime routine 30 minutes before bedtime

Following an age appropriate schedule is a great place to start, and sometimes just by making small tweaks to your baby’s routine can improve the quality of their sleep and get everyone on a schedule that works for your family.

Here’s a bit of a baby sleep guidelines cheat sheet.

(Keep in mind that your baby may not give a shit about what other babies are doing ; )

Related: Sleep Training Tips You Can Start Tonight (That Don’t Include Crying It Out)

Baby Sleep Guidelines chart – Newborn to 12 Months

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