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Sleep Behaviour

Just as with adults, babies’ and children’s sleep patterns vary.  From birth some babies need more or less sleep than others. The following list shows the average amount of sleep babies and children will need during a 24 hours period including daytime naps.

Birth to three months
Three to six months
Six to 12 months
12 months
Two years
Three to four years

Birth to three months

Most new-born babies spend more time asleep than awake.  Total daily sleep can vary from eight hours up to 16-18 hours.  Babies will wake during the night because they need to be fed.  Being too hot or cold can also disturb their sleep.

Three to six months

As your baby grows they will need fewer night feeds and be able to sleep for longer stretches. Some babies will sleep for around eight hours or even longer at night.  By four months, they could be spending around twice as long sleeping at night as they do during the day.

Six to 12 months

At this age, night feeds may no longer be necessary, and some babies will sleep for up to 12 hours at a stretch at night. However, teething discomfort or hunger may wake some babies during the night.

12 months

Babies will sleep for around 12-15 hours altogether.
Sleep habits like other behaviours, need to be learned. It is important to introduce a bedtime routine as it teaches your child the order of events leading up to bedtime and can help prevent sleep problems later on.
If you put your baby down in their cot whilst they are awake they will learn how to fall asleep without the need for rocking or cuddling them to sleep.  If they get used to falling asleep in your arms, they may need nursing back to sleep if they wake up again.
An example of a routine could be:

  • Bath, then put on night clothes
  • Milk or water before bed
  • Brush teeth
  • Go to bed
  • Bedtime story
  • Make sure comforter (dummy, cuddly toy or security blanket) is nearby, then
  • Good night kiss and cuddle.
  • A bedtime routine should not include lively games, or a television.
  • You could leave a dim light on if necessary.

Two years

Most two year olds will sleep for about 11-12 hours at night, with one or two naps in the day.

Three to four years

Most will need about 12 hours of sleep, but the amount can range from eight hours up to 14. Some young children will still need a nap during the day.

Additional Links
Caring for your baby at night
Safer sleep for your baby
Should babies sleep through the night?
Understanding your older child’s sleep

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