How much day sleep does my baby need?

Updated: Dec 4, 2020

How much day sleep your baby needs depends on their age but too much day sleep and they'll be partying at night; not enough and they'll be super cranky and hard to settle come bed time!

Babies are supposed to sleep a lot, right? We all see the newborn babies in their capsules at the cafes, seemingly sleeping for hours on end, not bothered in the least by the cacophony! While that may be true for newborns, babies sleep needs change as they get older as their maternal melatonin wears off and they become more alert and inquisitive about the world around them.

It's important that we adapt with our babies as they grow and mature and we adjust their schedules and stretch out their awake time between naps and bedtime. If we continue to keep a 4 or 5 month old baby on a newborn schedule, they may end up having too much day sleep which will inevitably take away from their night sleep and we'll end up with a baby who's ready to party through the wee hours! Conversely, if we are not allowing them enough awake time between naps as they get older, they may protest at nap time and/or sleep for a shorter period of time as they were simply not tired enough to go to sleep and there was not enough sleep pressure to keep them asleep for longer.

Babies of the same age are all different and they do have differing sleep requirements, however babies' sleep needs really only differ from one another by a maximum of 3 hours across a 24 hour period.

  • Newborns will sleep between 14-17 hours a day

  • 4-11 month olds will sleep between 12-15 hours a day

  • 1-2 year olds will sleep between 11-14 hours a day

  • 3-5 year olds will sleep between 10-13 hours a day

Depending on your baby's age, their day sleep will be split across 1, 2, 3 (or even 4 naps a day if they're a serial catnapper!)

How you will know your baby is getting enough sleep will be based off what your observe with their behaviour. Do they appear content or are they irritable and unsettled? Are they feeding well or fussing during feeds? Are they waking frequently in the first half of the night? Are they waking early in the morning (I'm talking before 6am, which is still the middle of the night as far as I'm concerned!)

So what if your baby isn't getting enough sleep in the day? If your baby is fighting naps or waking early from naps and still appearing tired, then it is really important that you look at how much time they are spending awake between naps. Too much awake time and your baby will be unsettled and difficult to put down due to the higher levels of stimulating hormones coursing through them. An overtired baby tends to take shorter naps, waking after one sleep cycle, and unable to drift back into another cycle. A day of short naps then results in an overtired baby at bedtime, and consequently frequent night wake ups and early morning wake ups. If this is the situation with your baby, the most important thing you can do is to break the cycle and get on top of the overtiredness. For a day or two you may need to assist your baby in whichever way you can just to get them to sleep. Take them for a walk in the pram, for a ride in the car, pop them in the front pack or hold them to sleep if you need to. Once you have gotten on top of the overtiredness, then you can work on getting your baby to nap in their bassinet/cot for at least one of their naps.

If you are struggling with your baby's naps or wanting to establish an age appropriate nap routine for your little one, contact me for your FREE 15 minute consultation to discuss your situation and how Sleep Speak can help.

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