Typical Nap & Night Sleep Needs from Birth to 14 months

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Disclaimer: all babies are different and have different sleep needs. The information I will share with you is an AVERAGE amount of sleep/naps that a baby needs at any given age.



Under 2 months: babies will have 4 naps or more and there will be no rhyme or reason; some will be 30 minutes, some will be 3 hours. You can help with day/night confusion by making sure to wake baby up every 3 hours for a feed but don't feel that you need to keep baby awake during the day if she appears sleepy. Babies this age sleep 16-20 hours/day.


3 months: babies will often now be on a solid 4 nap schedule with a nap occurring every 1.5 hours or less. We would like to see most naps be over 1 hour, and you may want to consider conducting 'nap extensions' for any nap under 60 minutes.  At this age, 15.5-18 hours of sleep/day is average.


4 months: babies may start to transition from 4 naps to 3 at this age and bedtime will therefore need to be earlier to make up for the loss of the 4th nap. Naps will occur every 1.5-1.75 hours and many people find that baby will go through a 'cat napping phase' around 4-6 months so keeping them well-rested with an early bedtime will be very important. About 4-4.5 hours in naps is average at this age, and 15.5 hrs total in a 24 hour period.


5 months: most babies will be on a 3 nap schedule with the first 2 naps being around 1-1.5 hours in length and the 3rd nap is usually a cat nap of around 30-45 minutes. We want to ensure that naps are ending by about 4:00pm to preserve an early bedtime. Late naps interfere with nightsleep. About 3.5-4 hours in naps is average at this age, and 15 hours of sleep/day.


6 months: some babies will start to show signs of the 3-2 nap transition at this age by refusing the 3rd nap or the 3rd nap begins too late in the day. We can help hold off the transition by capping the first two naps at around 1.5 hours a piece to ensure the 3rd nap can occur. About 3-3.5 hours in naps is average at this age, and 14.5 hrs/24 hour period.


7 months: at this age we see some babies start to drop their 3rd nap and move toward a 2 nap schedule. During this transition, you will want to use an early bedtime (sometimes as early as 5pm) to make up for the loss of that 3rd nap. The goal with babies still on a 3 nap schedule is to protect nightsleep at all costs. An early bedtime is far more restorative than a late crappy 3rd nap. 2.75-3.25 hrs in naps is normal at this age, and 14-14.5 hours of total sleep/day.


8 months: most babies at this age are solidly on 2 naps and are also moving towards a full, consolidated night of sleep (11-12 hours with no feeds). Nap amounts and total sleep needs are the same as at 7 months, but we will see that total dispersed between two longer naps (around 1-1.5 hours a piece).


9 months: all babies should now be on a 2 nap schedule until around 13-18 months (the most common age to drop to 1 nap is 15 months). 2.5-3 hours of naps and 14 hours of total sleep is average and a baby who is well-established on solids can now comfortably go a full night with no feeding (as per doctor's recommendations).  


10-14 months: at this age, we may have to start playing with our nap times/lengths to ensure that both naps are able to be taken without bedtime being pushed too late. Baby may also start to fight the 2nd nap and start to show signs of being ready to transition to 1. We want to avoid moving to 1 nap too early as the jump in awake time needed from a 2 nap schedule to a 1 nap schedule is quite significant. The longer we can hold off the transition, the smoother it will be.  Most children will be napping 2-3 hours/day at this point, and require 13.5-14 hours of total sleep per day.
 

Early Morning Wake-up Help!

Most parents cringe at the thought of their child waking up any earlier than 6:00am (and for some lucky parents even a pre-7am wake-up will cause distress!) but early wake-ups are common with babies and toddlers.  The following are a few reasons that your previous 6:30am riser could start waking up with the roosters and what to do if you find yourself with this problem.

 

who needs an alarm clock!?

who needs an alarm clock!?

  1. Overtiredness. Babies and children have a natural wake-up time of around 6:00-7:00am. If your child is otherwise sleeping through the night but begins to have an earlier-than-usual wake-up, this could mean that bedtime was too late. Most children need a bedtime of between 5:30-8:00pm in order to be well-rested enough to sleep through the night. If the early wake-up is accompanied by nightwakings then severe overtiredness, habit issues, and an inappropriate daytime schedule are likely all to blame.

  2. New Milestones. Early wake-ups can be a side effect when babies & toddlers are on the verge of reaching a new milestone (rolling/crawling/walking/terrible two's/etc). In this case, an early wake-up could be the norm for 2-3 weeks.

  3. Nap Transitions. Early wake-ups occur during all nap transitions in 95%+ of well-rested children who consistently sleep through the night.

  4. Seasonal. The natural wake-up time of most children will shift earlier with the onset of an earlier sunrise. The effects of this earlier wake-up would be apparent in May, peak in June, and return to 'later' near the end of July. Ensuring that you have room darkening shades or using other methods to darken the room will be key to helping prevent this type of early wake-up.

  5. Major Teething (e.g. top front teeth & molars). Although teething does not cause half of the sleeping problems that parents blame on it, the week before these teeth erupt can be particularly hard on baby and can cause a temporary early wake-up.

 

What can we do during this time?
 

We need to tweak the child's schedule to ensure that baby does not become overtired and to maintain a healthy amount of nightsleep.  And we must be consistent!  This will almost always involve using an earlier bedtime.  All of the above scenarios will eventually pass and if we can help baby to continue to sleep through the night and work to not create any bad habits, then everything should naturally fall back into place without any crying, retraining, or severe sleep deprivation for the entire family.

 

Tips for Travelling with Kids

All parents know that vacationing with kids is not usually 'a vacation' at all, but if we are prepared and have a plan of action we can spend less time worrying about sleep and more time worrying about how much sand they've eaten :-)

Before your trip

  • Make sure you are calling the hotel ahead of time to be sure that there is a crib for your baby/toddler to sleep in. If not, bring along a playpen (there are many hotels whose cribs may not meet the Canadian standards so you may want to think of bringing yours from home anyway).

  • Prepare a 'fun pack' for the car/plane. Bring along snacks, books, new toys that will keep their attention longer, a portable DVD player, I-pad, and whatever other tricks you have up your sleeve to help pass the time. Take one thing out at a time and drag it out for as long as possible.

  • Bring along everything from baby's crib to make their environment as similar to home as possible. This can include their white noise machine (very important!), stuffed animals/loveys/blankies, an unwashed crib sheet, and any other objects your child may use to feel at home.

At your desination

  • Prepare baby's room once you arrived so that it is set for nap/bedtime. A great place to put baby's playpen would be in the bathroom or a walk-in closet if one is available. This will ensure that the room is dark and quiet. It seems a little nuts but I can ensure you that baby won't mind!

  • If the bathroom is too small or there is not a closet large enough for a playpen, then try and designate an area of the hotel room as 'baby's room'. This might mean being creative and tacking a bed sheet to the walls to divide baby's room from yours. This is where white noise is important as it will help to drown out the sounds from the rest of the room. Darken baby's 'room' as much as you can using black construction paper, tin foil, or a blanket/bed sheet on the window.

  • You really want to avoid co-sleeping if it's entirely possible (unless of course you are already co-sleeping). Depending on the length of your trip, baby will become accustomed to this new sleeping arrangement and you may find it difficult to kick the habit once you're back home. As well, a baby that is not used to sleeping with mom and dad (and a mom and dad that aren't used to sleeping with baby!) may find that they do not get a restful sleep together.

this is the life!

this is the life!

Time Zone Shifts

Having a plan in place and understanding the effect that travel has on your child's sleep pattern is important to avoid worry and limit problems.  Children and adults cannot adjust instantly from one time zone to another, although children often have an easier time adjusting than adults.

If you are travelling west (1-3 time zones)

  • Try to keep baby awake until the 'correct' bedtime in the new time zone. If the change is too significant to accomplish the first night, do it gradually over a couple of days.

  • You may have to wake up early with your child for a day or two. Try to leave him in his crib as close to 6:00am the new time as you can, but if he's very upset it is not fair to leave him crying since he has not fully adjusted, so you may have to live with an early wake-up for a couple of days. Chances are you will be awake as well as your body will have not adjusted either.

  • Do not let your child 'over-nap' to make up for a loss of nightsleep. We want to avoid baby making up nightsleep during the day as this will only lead to less nightsleep the following night and the cycle will continue. Try to delay his naps (but only by about 15-30 minutes for younger children) to get them as close to 'normal' nap time as possible.

If you are travelling east (1-3 time zones)

  • Your child will probably be staying up later than he usually does for the first night or two.

  • Wake your baby the next day up at the 'correct' wake-up time according to the new time zone. Again, if the change is too large to accomplish in one day, do it gradually over a couple of days.

  • Do not let your child 'over-nap'. Naps, like bedtime, will run late by the amount of the time change, so allowing him to nap longer than usual will only push bedtime even later.

If you are travelling across more than 3 or 4 time zones

  • Children handle these large changes much more easily than adults do. This is because the drive to sleep during the day when our adult bodies aren't supposed to sleep is much higher in children (especially, of course, with those that are still napping). Parents often find that their children adapt quickly so there is no need to make big, elaborate plans.

  • You can't force a child to sleep when he is not tired but you can force a child to stay up (within reason) when he is sleepy (or when he should be awake according to the new time zone). Baby will self-correct quickly by making up for the lost sleep at proper times according to the new time zone. If you wake him up when he is asleep at the 'wrong times' he will want to sleep at the 'right times'. This is the most important advice so if you keep it in mind, everything will work out.

  • If you travel east - your child will probably fall asleep much later than usual at first and have to be awakened in the morning. If you travel west - he will want to fall asleep much earlier and you will have to keep him awake. Either way, the times he wants to sleep or be awake are going to be very erratic for a couple of days but it should not last for more than that.

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Travelling, especially across time zones, with children can be stressful, but if you have a solid plan in place and are prepared that it will take a couple of days to adjust, it doesn't need to be a major headache.  The best way to re-set our biological clocks is sunshine.  Especially if you are travelling to an exotic place, it shouldn't be too difficult to make sure your child is getting plenty of sun during the day (especially early morning and early evening depending on which direction you are travelling).  Most people make the necessary changes without even thinking about them because of expectations driven by activities, meals, and other obligations.  Safe travels!

What Does 'Sleeping through the Night' Mean to You?

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Everybody has that friend.

The one who says that their baby sleeps through the night at 6 weeks. But the definition of 'sleeping through the night' is different to some than others.

For me, this means baby is sleeping 10-12 hours at night with no feedings.  To others, this might mean that baby is still waking up for 1-2 feedings, but promptly returns to sleep afterwards.  Or even others, their baby might be getting way less than the recommended 10-12 hours of nightsleep, maybe only 7-8 hours, and although it's uninterrupted sleep, it's not nearly enough.

In general, a baby is capable of going 10-12 hours at night with no feedings around 8/9 months, as long as solids are well-established and weight gain is sufficient according to your pediatrician.  Anything earlier than this is a bonus!

To give you an idea of what is in the realm of normal for your baby at any age in terms of feedings at night, here is what you can expect from birth to the age of 1.  Please note that all babies are different, and if your baby has more feeds at night - that is fine!  If they have less - you are lucky!



Under 2 months of age - babies need to eat around the clock day and night, so this might mean baby is waking up every 2-4 hours at night for a feed.  This is completely normal, especially if baby has their days and nights mixed up. One way to help them get their nights and days sorted out is to ensure that you are waking them up during the day every 2-3 hours for a feed.

3 months of age - around this age we start to see a longer first stretch of sleep emerge as sleep patterns begin to mature.  Most babies will do a 4 hour first stretch, and then may wake up every 2.5-4 hours thereafter (usually about 3 feeds/night).

4 months of age - The first stretch is increased to around 5 hours, and the 2nd feed happens about 3.5-4 hours later.  Most babies only have 2 feeds at this point.

5 months of age - First stretch around 6 hours, 2nd feed is happening around 3.5-4 hours later.

6 months of age - As solids begin, most babies at this age are only waking up once at night to eat.  Their first stretch may be about 7 hours long, and they may be comfortably able to go until wake-up time for another feed.  Before we start enforcing this one nightly feed, we want to make sure that solids are well-established for baby; this means 3 meals a day containing all 4 food groups in addition to the milk feeds: grains, protein, fruit/vegetables, and fats.

7 months of age - Babies at this age who are eating a range of solids may be down to 1 feed/night, sometime after midnight.

8 months and beyond - This is around the age where we can begin to work on baby sleeping a full, consolidated 11-12 hours of sleep every night.  Do not worry if your baby is still feeding at night - he will get there!  If you find that he is still waking up for a feed in the wee hours, try moving his nursing/bottle from the end of his bedtime routine to the beginning (i.e. before bath, jammies, etc).  If you try this and he is still waking, move it even further away from sleep time, to immediately before/after dinner.  We want to completely seperate feeding from sleeping in their little brains, as this association is very strong and can cause them to continue waking at night.




So next time a well-intentioned friend tells you their baby is 'sleeping through the night' at 3 months of age, don't feel like you are doing anything wrong - there may just be a difference in definition.