A Guide to Baby's First Year of Sleep

by Nicole Johnson

During the first year, navigating baby’s sleep needs can be downright overwhelming, especially if you’re missing out on those all important ZZZs yourself. This sleep guide to the first year will give you the peace of mind you need and will help your baby sleep, well, like a baby. If your little one is having trouble at a particular stage, just know you’re not alone. Many babies just need a little guidance in getting it right.

baby sleepNewborn to 3 months

In the first weeks of your baby’s life, her schedule is likely to be inconsistent. Preventing your baby from becoming overtired is the key to better newborn sleep. Most newborns can’t stay up for even one hour before they need to sleep again and short naps are common up through six months. Bedtime will vary a lot and your baby should be sleeping 10 to 12 hours at night and three to four hours during the day. At the beginning, your newborn baby will likely have day/night confusion, which can take several weeks to sort out, and he will need to eat every three hours. Some babies will continue to need a feeding every three hours until they are 3 months old.

4 to 6 months

If your baby started to sleep in longer stretches through the night, but now seems to be regressing to shorter periods, she is most likely between 4 and 6 months old. You are not alone and this is very common with 4 month old sleep. During this time, babies start processing sleep more like adults, which can introduce the issue of sleep associations if your baby does not learn how to fall asleep on her own (without a pacifier, you rocking her, etc.). Many 4-month-olds still need up to two feedings each night, with their longest stretch of sleep usually being the first five hours. An early bedtime and good naps are critical to a good night’s sleep, but it still might be too early for a schedule for many babies. At this age, you can expect an early bedtime (6-8 p.m.) and your baby should be sleeping 11 to 12 hours at night and two to three hours during the day.

7 to 9 months

 Baby sleep and feeding schedules are now possible with most babies. An example schedule is: Wake at 7 a.m., naps at 9 a.m., 1 p.m., and 4 p.m., with a 7 p.m. bedtime. To help set an appropriate schedule for your baby, you should base it on his past tendencies (not all babies sleep 12 hours, for example). To help set an appropriate schedule, consider logging his sleep. You can use pen and paper or online baby schedule software. All naps should be at least one hour, except for the third nap, which is usually just a 30 to 45 minute catnap to help get to bedtime. Many babies will take three naps up through 9 months, but some babies only ever take two, and the rest will go from three to two naps around 8 months old. Many babies are now sleeping all night without a feeding, while some still need one feeding per night. At this age, continue an early bedtime (6-8pm) and your baby should still be sleeping 11 to 12 hours at night and two to three hours during the day.

10 to 12 months

Most babies are sleeping through the night by this age, but a small number still need a single feeding to make it through. Any more night-wakings than that and you likely need to encourage your baby to fall asleep on her own. All babies are different and it highly depends on your baby’s temperament and personality as to the best method to encourage independent sleep. At this age, continue an early bedtime (6 to 8 p.m.) and your baby should still be sleeping 11 to 12 hours at night and two to three hours during the day. Babies generally do not transition to one nap until between 15 and 18 months, on average, so she is still taking two naps.

Whether you have a family bed or your baby has been in a crib since birth or whether you breastfeed or formula feed, your baby’s sleep is essential to her growth and development. Your sleep is important, too, as we are all more effective parents when we get adequate rest. Everyone’s situation is unique so keep in mind that what works for one family may not work for another. It takes courage and dedication to work through your baby’s sleep issues, but the time you spend will be well worth it.