How Much Sleep Do Babies And Toddlers Need?
baby in dads arms

Baby Sleep

How Much Sleep Do Babies And Toddlers Need?

by Emmy Samtani | posted 1st September, 2020

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Understanding your baby or toddler’s needs when it comes to sleep isn’t exactly straight forward. Not only does the total amount of time they sleep for change frequently in those early months, but the way it is broken up does too! 

A lot of sites will talk about your baby’s total amount of sleep hours, but that information can be almost useless when you don’t know how to apply this to the day or night. There is another *very* important factor that comes into this: awake times. Like sleep, their ‘awake times’ will change frequently and knowing what these are (based on their age), will play an important part in settling them for sleep. Having an over or under tired baby will result in resistance at nap times, which can have an effect on the balance of sleep overall. 

Having worked with Mothercraft Nurse Chris Minogue over the years, we have helped thousands of families better understand how to navigate these sleep challenges through practical and easy to follow rhythms. These will help you to identify their *needs* when it comes to feeding, sleep and awake times. 

This isn’t about putting strict timings in place but more about understanding what they need and how to fit all of this into your day. Children thrive off predictability and there is an amazing flow-on effect that comes with getting your little one’s sleep ‘right’. If you have a child with needs that have been met, it will ensure a much calmer and happier household. Sleep deprivation can be so debilitating long term, so dedicating some time to getting this right will benefit your family for years to come. 

 sleeping newborn in dad's arms

0-3 weeks
Newborn Sleep
Summary of sleep

A day in the newborn world is the whole 24 hrs, which means that sleeping and feeding will be around the clock. A newborn baby will generally sleep anywhere and very well but this ‘sleep’ will come in short bursts. Be prepared for them to sleep anywhere between 1.5-3 hrs during those first weeks. This is really a time where you will let your baby lead and just go with the flow. Establishing feeds if you are doing so by breast, can play an important part in how long your little one may sleep for. 

Awake times

A newborn baby won’t be able to stay awake for long periods at a time. This is generally only for the length of a feed and cuddle. Once you have reached your baby’s maximum awake time, it is a good idea to wrap them to quieten and calm their body for sleep. 

What you should know

All babies will have an unsettled period each day – find reassurance in knowing that this is perfectly normal and will settle after a few weeks. This will generally occur in the evening, between 2 feeds and can last for a few hours. Cluster feeding and getting rest when you can earlier in the day will help you get through this time.

baby sleeping with mama

3-6 weeks
Sleep Changes
Summary of sleep

At this stage, your baby is still too young to have a predictable routine but you can still seek a gentle rhythmic pattern to your day. Daytime will essentially be when it’s daylight and nighttime when it’s dark.  

Awake times

Your baby’s awake time is now somewhere between 1hr 15 mins and 1hr 30 mins, including the feed. If you notice jerky movements or your baby starts to grizzle and whinge, this is a sign that they are ready for sleep. They may still have an unsettled period in the early evening, somewhere between 6 pm-11 pm but this is perfectly normal and won’t last forever.

What you should know

As your baby starts to come out of their deep newborn slumber, external factors such as light and noise will start to interfere with settling. It is a good idea to start putting them down to sleep in a quiet and calm room during the day. This will help them to settle much easier without the distraction of environmental factors. 

baby looking to the left

6-12 weeks
A New Alertness
Summary of sleep

Your baby is still in the newborn phase and will still determine their own sleep and feeding pattern. In saying this, as your baby gets older you will start to notice a day and night pattern forming. For now, they will still lead when it comes to their feeding and sleep schedule but you can help them through the day by ensuring full feeds and being aware of their awake window. 

Awake times

You will notice a new alertness in your baby around the 6-week mark. They will be able to stay awake longer and there will be more time for activities. Their ‘awake window’ will be around 1.5 hours now including the feed. You would have become familiar with your baby’s tired signs over the last few weeks, so watch out for grizzling, jerky movements and whinging – these are all signs that it is time for sleep.

What you should know

This is a great time to introduce an evening routine such as feed-bath-feed. You can start this at anytime a feed is due between 5.30-7.30am. The feed-bath-feed sequence is where you offer one breast (or half a bottle), then bath your baby before finishing the feed in a calm, quiet and darkened environment. It’s important that your baby understands it’s time for sleep. This will become a nightly ritual that will continue as your baby gets much older.

baby girl sleeping with mother

3-5 months
The ‘Sleep Regression’
Summary of sleep

During the day, your little one will typically have a longer morning and afternoon nap with a catnap in between. As they are becoming more alert, you may find it harder to extend these sleeps. Try to extend the morning and afternoon naps by gently resettling them in their bed. You can do this by patting and ‘shushing’ them where you find them. If they become too unsettled, pick them up and cuddle them until calm and then place them back down in their bed again.

Awake times

Your baby will be able to stay awake for 1.5 hours at this age, which means you will get to enjoy some playtime after feeding and before they go to bed. Be sure to watch out for those tired signs towards the end of their ‘awake window’ and support them by putting them down for sleep at this time. 

What you should know

You will hear a lot of people calling this stage the dreaded ‘sleep regression’ but you should think of this more as a change in your baby’s awareness and development. Your baby just needs you to help them fall back asleep, rather than simply ‘regressing’ or resisting sleep. Once you change this perception in your mind it can make all the difference to your approach. 

baby sleeping peacefully

5-7 months
Sleep and Solids
Summary of sleep

There are a lot of expectations around sleep at this time. A lot of people will look forward to their little one sleeping through as a result of solids being introduced. In some cases, this doesn’t always turn out as planned and some babies will continue to wake throughout the night. Don’t be too disheartened – as longer periods of sleep may only be a few tweaks away.

Awake times

Your baby’s awake window will now be somewhere between 2-2.5 hours and you will really start to enjoy being able to get out and about with them. It is a good idea to organise outings between their morning and afternoon nap so that they can get a more restful sleep in their cot for these sleeps. 

What you should know

Most people will get excited at the fact their little one really enjoys their solid food. Babies who take to solids quite easily will generally eat quite a bit, so they will need your support with regulating their solids intake at this early stage. If they have too much solid food this can compromise milk feeds which in turn can affect sleep. It’s a good idea to give solids at least 1.5 hours before the nightly milk feed, so that they won’t wake for a milk feed.

baby looking at parent

7-9 months
Dropping the Day Nap
Summary of sleep

Your little one will drop their catnap around this stage and will have two big day sleeps – one in the morning and another in the afternoon. It is a good idea to try and have these in their bed where possible. This will help to ensure they don’t fall back into catnapping when out and about. 

Awake times

Their awake window is getting longer (2.5-3 hrs) but they will need your support in extending the gap between waking and the next sleep when dropping the nap. If you are heading out and about, driving too close to nap times may result in them falling asleep and transferring to their bed can get harder with age. 

What you should know

Between 7-9 months, your little one will be developmentally able to sleep through the night. If you are still having difficulty getting them to resettle or stay asleep overnight, there are many great services available to help you through this.  

baby sleeping on a pillow

9-12 months
Sleep Changes
Summary of sleep

You should have a nice little day pattern developing by now and your little one’s sleep will be quite consistent. During this time they might start to object being put down but try not to rush in. Give them the chance to resettle themselves first, they may just need 5 minutes to do so. 

By 12 months the morning sleep may have shortened and the afternoon sleep has become longer. Your baby should be able to go through the night without a feed or waking up and can sleep for 10-11 hours. 

Awake times

With your little one being able to stay awake for longer periods at a time, now is a great time to travel with your baby. You will really be able to get out and about to enjoy the surroundings for 3-3.5 hours at a time before they need to sleep. 

What you should know

It is important to resettle your baby during their afternoon sleep to extend it past one sleep cycle i.e 45 mins. This sleep will continue until they are almost 3 years old! 

Toddler on the bed

12-14 months
Toddler Sleep
Summary of sleep

The morning nap will shorten, closer to that of a catnap. Whilst your little one may want to sleep for much longer, encouraging a shorter nap here will mean a longer afternoon nap. This will help with the transition to one day sleep in the coming months, where the morning nap will be dropped.

Awake Time 

Your little one can stay awake for anywhere from 3-3.5 hours. This is a really great time to take them out for outings or holidays, as they will be quite independent with food and you can stay out for longer… 

What you should know

If you start to notice more frequent waking at night, this may be a sign that your day sleeps need to be adjusted. Oversleeping during the day can result in more wakefulness at night. By simply shortening the suggested day sleeps, it may help with better sleep overall. 

Toddler sleeping with teddy bear

14-18 months
Moving To One Day Sleep
Summary of sleep

The biggest transition during this time is where your toddler moves from 2 day sleeps to one. They will be ready for this sleep around 5 hours after getting up, so put them down after their lunch and they will generally be able to sleep anywhere from 2-2.5 hours. 

Awake Time 

Your toddler can now stay up for 5 hours, which makes life so much easier (and fun!) when you can actually get out and about for longer periods at a time. 

What you should know

Staying home for a few days while your little one transitions to one day sleep will help. Putting them in a pram or car during this time may make them fall asleep, which will make an adjustment much harder. 

Toddler with pacifier

18 months-2.5 years
Resisting Day Sleep
Summary of sleep

Whilst your little one will still be on a day nap at this stage, you may notice them starting to fight their day nap as they get closer to 2.5 years. If you notice this happening, you can look to reduce the day nap to one hour and ensure it doesn’t fall too late in the day. This isn’t always easy to avoid, especially if you are travelling in a car late in the day!

Awake Time 

This is still generally around 5-6 hours but as they get older, they will want to stay awake for longer. This is when you will need to get a little crafty with day sleeps. 

What you should know

Try to ensure any day nap is no longer than 1-1.5 hours and that it doesn’t fall past 2/2:30pm. Otherwise, this may mean they resist sleep at bedtime or wake overnight. Some ideas for getting a sleep from your little one might be to go for a car trip or offer a movie on the lounge. 

Toddler preparing to sleep

2.5 years
Moving To A Toddler Bed
Summary of sleep

Between 2.5 and 3 years is likely when your little one will drop their day nap. A lot of parents want to hold onto this as it is some downtime for them. It’s important to know that oversleeping during the day can have consequences on night sleep. So it’s best to adjust their day sleeps accordingly. 

Awake Time 

This can be a tricky time where your little one doesn’t sleep during the day but you need to travel home in the car later in the day/evening. This can be a challenging time but be reassured this won’t last forever. If your efforts to keep them awake on the car ride home fail, just make sure you reduce any stimulation once home and wind them down for bedtime. 

What you should know

This is often a time where your little one will be ready to move to a ‘big bed’. This can be an exciting time and a lot of parents want to do it much sooner than they are ready. Your little one will need to have the cognitive understanding that they need to stay in their bed. This may take some time for them to adjust but with time and patience, it will come together. 

Final thoughts…

There are going to be times in your little one’s life where they will cry or become distressed. This is all part of the parenthood journey and whilst some days might feel long and hard, there are simple strategies you can use to get through it.