This is how Much Sleep Your Newborn Needs

Newborn sleeping in mother's arms
Credit: iStock

How much newborn baby sleep is the right amount? From daytime napping to an unbroken night’s slumber (we can dream), we look at how much they should be getting

Making sure your newborn baby sleeps for the right amount of time, and gets the right amount of quality sleep right from the get-go will not only assist with their development, but it’ll help bolster their learning ability, behaviour, creativity and emotional balance too. And, of course, a good night’s sleep for them means a good night’s rest for you too!

READ MORE: What to expect in those first few days with a newborn

As The Baby Show’s sleep expert explains, “Sleep is essential for your baby’s cognitive development, immune system and general growth, and fortunately there are many ways you can help to ensure they get enough rest.”

We all know that, as adults, we should be aiming for that elusive eight hours’ sleep each night, but what’s the score when it comes to a newborn?

How many hours should a newborn sleep?

Newborns will sleep on and off throughout the day and night – chances are they’ll be asleep more than they’re awake.

Trouble is, there’s no magic number when it comes to how much sleep they should be getting – it can be anywhere from eight up to 20 hours. Some may sleep through the night from as early as eight weeks old, but if you’re breastfeeding then it’s much more likely that they’ll wake for a feed.

It’s important to remember that every baby is different, so don’t compare their sleep patterns to others. If your baby can’t quite make the whole night through, don’t worry – only a quarter of babies sleep through the night by 12 weeks old.

For the first few weeks, your baby probably won’t be able to stay awake for more than two hours at a time. At such a young age, it can be helpful to have a pattern, but don’t feel like you need to stick to it – you can always change it to suit your needs. A more solid routine isn’t necessary until around three months old.

How Much Sleep Does a one-year-old Need?

Once your baby reaches 12 months old, it’s recommended by the NHS that they sleep around two hours and 30 minutes in the day, and 11 hours at night, totalling 13 and a half hours all together.

Break up the daytime sleeping into two until you feel like they’re ready to nap just once during the day for a short time. This is usually around 18 months old.

Naps are hugely beneficial for toddlers; being well-rested will help with their learning and development. In fact, they should really be napping during the day up until the age of four.

How Much Sleep Does a two-year-old Need?

Once your toddler reaches the age of two, their total sleep time reduces slightly. It’s recommended they get an hour and 30 minutes worth of sleep in the day, with 11 hours and 30 minutes at night.

As with babies, every toddler is different; they may struggle to sleep almost 12 hours at night, or might need more naps during the day to keep their energy levels up. Whatever their routine, do what works for them rather than abiding by strict guidelines.

READ MORE: How to set a successful sleeping routine for your baby 

Now that we have more of an idea of how much sleep your tot needs, here’s how to ensure their getting the right amount of shut-eye.

Read the signs

During the first three months, your baby’s sleep pattern will be erratic, but as you get to know them, you’ll notice they give you clues to their tiredness. Along with obvious clues like yawning and eye rubbing, you may notice changes in their behaviour. “They may be more irritable than normal or restless and cry more than usual,” says Chireal. Don’t miss the window of opportunity to put them down for a nap as soon as you sense drowsiness, and use the time to relax yourself so you feel refreshed for the rest of the day’s activities.

Balance baby’s sleep-awake system

At around three months you can start to set up an evening sleep routine with your child by following the same pre-bedtime routine. This could involve bath time, followed by baby massage, reading a picture book together with the lights dimmed and lots of cuddles to release the stress-busting hormone oxytocin. “Your baby’s body rhythm matures at nine months so between three-to-nine months their sleep may still fluctuate. Try not to get frustrated and just remember this is totally normal. They will find their natural rhythm when they are ready,” explains Chireal.

Enjoy the sunshine

Take your baby out for a walk in their pram every day so they have plenty of exposure to natural sunlight. This will reinforce the difference between rise-and-shine time and when to hit the sack – naturally helping to regulate their internal body clock. Sleeping in a darkened room at night will also help to boost levels of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin. “Use a balanced combination of blackout blinds and low lighting to ensure your child drifts off happily,” advises Chireal.

‘Dream feed’ your baby

Waking your baby up for a feed when they are asleep might sound counter-intuitive but it’s thought that having a full tummy will help them sleep for a longer stretch at night. At around 11pm give them a bottle or nurse them – without making eye contact. Introduce this as soon as possible. “You can drop the feed when your baby is old enough without the worry that they will wake up,” adds Chireal.

Make THEM feel safe

Providing a cosy, secure environment that will encourage daytime naps will also help your child to sleep better at night. “Turn on white noise, leave a picture of you in the room, and a blanket smelling of your natural scent. This will allow your child to feel safe and to focus on these things,” shares Chireal. Reducing the space they sleep in will also help them feel more secure, so try swaddling them so they feel snug and cosy.

Regulate the temperature

Babies wake in the night when they’re too hot or too cool so adding or removing layers when necessary is key to making sure they are not too sticky or cold. Make sure your baby sleeps away from radiators or windows in the room, and use a temperature gauge to regulate the coolness. “The optimal temperature is 20˚C,” says Chireal.

Now, have a read of this for more baby sleep tips. 

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