Baffled by how much sleep baby needs? Baby sleep chart to the rescue!

Babies sleep a lot.  The question is how much sleep do they need?  How many naps, how long between naps and how long are the naps?  It’s all a bit much!  If only there was a handy baby sleep chart that you could reference, even pin on your wall.  Ah ha, you’ve come to the right place!

In this post, I will cover the ins and outs of how to use this nifty baby sleep chart you will find further down. Print it, pin it, use it.  You won’t regret it!

My two babies, turned toddlers, are great sleepers; they took regular naps in the day in line with their age, as per the sleep chart below, and before long were sleeping through the night.  Besides the fact that a well-rested baby means a happy baby, sleep is fundamental to healthy growth and development.

Days when naps get missed are NOT days to remember! The result: grumpy, fussy babies who become impossible to settle and whiny, teary-eyed toddlers who don’t have the stamina to enjoy the afternoon.

Baby sleep chart - ensuring lots of sleep and happy baby
A baby sleep chart can ensure your baby gets enough sleep and is always happy

This baby sleep chart will answer your questions on how much sleep, how many naps, how long between naps and more!

Why we care that baby gets enough sleep

This is kind of obvious, but sleep is pretty darn important!

Chances are if you have a small baby you are still getting up frequently to feed and not getting your typical 8 hours shuteye. A brutal reminder of just how much you need sleep! It’s even more crucial to babies, toddlers and children since they are still growing and developing.

The crucial role of sleep to babies

Sleep is crucial for growth, development, restoration & regeneration

  • SLEEP PROMOTES GROWTH – growth hormone is active primarily when kids sleep
  • SLEEP HELPS FIGHT SICKNESS – infection-fighting cytokines are activated during sleep
  • SLEEP PROMOTES RESTORATION OF NEURAL PATHWAYS – the genes regulating this restoration are only active during sleep
  • SLEEP PROMOTES LEARNING & MEMORY CONSOLIDATION – building and strengthening neural connections
  • SLEEP HELPS REGULATE EATING – leptin, the hormone that tells us when we’re full and eaten enough, is partly regulated by sleep (lack of sleep inhibits it, so we continue to eat when we no longer need to)
Baby sleeping well who followed baby sleep chart
Important developmental processes occur during sleep

To simplify, sleep is directly related to:

  • Concentration levels
  • Attention
  • Mood
  • Social skills
  • Health
  • Eating habits

The issues caused by lack of sleep

Sleep deprivation can lead to mood, illness and excessive weight gain.  Even a loss of a few hours sleep a day for a few days can start to impact.

The effect of too little sleep on behavior was investigated in depth in this US study of just under 9,000 pre-schoolers (aged around 4 years).  The average sleep duration of all 9,000 kids was 10.5 hours.  Children sleeping less than the 9.5 hours a night, struggled with significantly higher levels of overactivity, anger, impulsivity, tantrums, ‘annoying behaviors’ and, most of all, aggression.

In addition, kids enduring long-term lack of sleep are more susceptible to illness and excessive weight gain (leptin, which regulates when we feel ‘full’, and signals to stop eating, can deregulate leading to overeating).

Not enough sleep may mean:

  • Poor concentration
  • Low threshold to stress
  • Aggression
  • Easily triggered and frustrated
  • Overactivity
  • Depressed immune system and increased risk of illness
  • Excessive weight gain

To read more about the importance of sleep to kids, this and this are great reads.

To read specifically about the science behind the craziness of newborn sleep, check out my ultimate guide: Confused by your newborn’s sleep? The ULTIMATE guide to get you in the know

But just how much sleep does your baby need?

So I think I’ve mentioned a good few reasons why you should ensure your child gets enough sleep and use a baby sleep chart.  First a word of caution…

OFFICIAL baby sleep guidelines for newborns

The figures in the sleep chart below are AVERAGES and need to be treated as a GUIDELINE ONLY.

Newborns, in particular, have very different sleep needs.  If yours sleeps wildly more or less than these figures it doesn’t necessarily mean there’s anything to worry about.

In fact, there’s been so much difficulty in establishing exactly how much sleep a newborn needs, that The American Academy of Sleep Medicine only offers sleep guidelines for babies 4 months or older, as follows:

  • Infants 4–12 months: 12–16 hours
  • Children 1–2 years: 11–14 hours

One study noted an average of 14 hours for babies at 4 weeks old, but there was a huge range to these results.  Some babies only slept 9 hours while at the other extreme, others were sleeping 19 hours a day. Source.

This article investigates reported newborn and baby sleep needs in depth.

So when it comes to figuring out how much sleep a newborn needs, there isn’t a magic number for each age and stage.

Older babies and toddlers have more similar sleep needs

As babies grow a bit older, there’s less variability in their sleep needs. i.e. although some babies need more sleep than others, the difference might be 11 hours vs. 13 hours at 2 years old (instead of 9 hours vs. 19 hours at 4 weeks old).

Baby sleep patterns become more similar into toddlerhood
Toddlers have similar sleep needs and patterns

How to get started with this baby sleep chart

So if babies have different sleep needs, you’re probably wondering what use is this baby sleep chart?  How on earth do I use it?

Well, firstly look at how much sleep your baby is currently getting and where they fit on the chart.  Then as your baby grows and develops and needs less sleep you’ll find they naturally progress through the stages.

The SPEED of progress may differ for different babies; my daughter has always needed less sleep than my son so was always a bit ahead (she dropped to just two naps by 4 months old, whereas my son dropped to two at around 6 months).

Once you have figured out where your baby currently fits on the sleep chart, use it to guide you through the stages as your baby grows.

Keeping track of naps, awake times between naps and total daily sleep times will mean your baby is less likely to become overtired, miss naps or not get enough sleep.  Using this baby sleep chart should ensure your baby is well rested.  Which means happier babies and toddlers less likely to tantrum.

Surely you don’t need more convincing than that!

Baby sleeping a LOT LESS than suggested in the sleep chart?

Check for signs of tiredness

If your baby or toddler is not showing any signs of tiredness, then you may just have a child that needs less sleep.

To clarify, tiredness cues for a newborn include:

  • Yawning
  • Stare vacantly
  • Avoid eye contact
  • Move jerkily
  • Frown
  • Clench fists
  • Fuss and cry
  • Become very still

While older babies may also:

  • Rub eyes and ears
  • Become clingy
  • Lose interest in toys
  • Suck fingers
  • Turn head away from stimulation

And toddlers may:

  • Quickly become upset
  • Lose patience quickly
  • Fuss over their food
  • Fuss over everyday chores/tasks like cleaning teeth
  • Become aggressive
  • Over-excited

The list goes on…

Beware that lots of signs of tiredness can be mistaken for high energy levels and the more tired a child gets, the more hyperactive they can also get.  This is particularly true of toddlers!

Tips to get your baby or toddler to sleep more

  • BRING BEDTIME FORWARD – a proper bedtime routine can help set the stage for sleep
  • ENSURE SLEEP ENVIRONMENT IS CONDUCIVE TO SLEEP – calm, quiet, dark environment and TV off for all day naps and nighttime sleep
  • AVOID OVERTIREDNESS – overtired babies can become increasing difficult to settle. Don’t mistake hyperactivity for not being tired!
  • START A SLEEP SCHEDULE OR ROUTINE – a baby sleep schedule can make naps and bedtimes easier as the body becomes accustomed to going to sleep at the same times every day
  • “PAUSE” BEFORE RUSHING TO YOUR BABY – newborn sleep is very restless, you may think your baby is waking up or needs comfort when in fact they are deeply asleep.  Rushing in may wake your baby when he or she would otherwise have gone back to sleep.  Check out this post on newborn sleep for more information
Baby sleep chart - getting your baby to sleep longer introducing a bedtime routine
A bedtime routine sets the stage for sleep encouraging an earlier bedtime. A bath is normally included

For an in-depth look at how to get your baby to sleep longer and eventually to sleep through, check out this post:

How to get your baby to sleep through the night: 10 steps for an awesome nights sleep

Baby sleeps a LOT MORE than suggested?

Can a baby sleep TOO much?

The only call for concern may be if your baby SUDDENLY sleeps a lot more from one day to the next.  This, combined with a change in feeding pattern/appetite could signal illness.  If you’re concerned, seek professional medical advice.

But otherwise, enjoy a little extra quiet time!  It seems you just have a baby that needs to sleep a little more than average.

Too much sleep in the day can be a problem

Baby can definitely sleep too much in the day – that can often be a key issue in why your baby wakes up at night.  Not only does too much day sleep mean baby won’t be tired enough to sleep the whole night, but also means he or she won’t take enough milk in the day and will need to catch up at night.

So waking your baby from day naps is key!

Sleeping all day long is also common in the early days, since babies are normally born with day night confusion.

Check out these related pots:

  1. Newborn Sleeps All day? 10 fail-safe tactics to fix day night confusion fast!
  2. How to get your baby to sleep through the night: 10 steps for an awesome nights sleep

Factors that may affect your child’s daily sleep needs

  • DEVELOPMENTAL PHASES – e.g. learning to walk or talk may increase sleep demands or by contrast, interrupt normal sleep patterns
  • ACTIVITY LEVELS – after a day with lots of physical activity (outing to soft play as a baby, or lots of running, swimming, climbing as a toddler etc) a child might need an extra nap, a longer nap or earlier bedtime
  • LATE NIGHT/MISSED NAPS DAY BEFORE – baby might need more sleep the following day (this one always catches me out since it’s so easy to forget from one day to the next!)
  • BIG CHANGES AT HOME OR IN DAY-TO-DAY ROUTINE – for example, house move, divorce, new nursery etc all of which are emotionally demanding and therefore tiring
  • ILLNESS – like adults, recovery from illness needs more sleep
Development phases, such as learning to crawl may disrupt tour baby's sleep patterns
Development phases, such as learning to crawl, may disrupt your baby’s sleep patterns

THE Baby Sleep Chart itself

So the chart should reflect that natural progression of your baby’s sleep patterns through the ages and stages.  Use it as a guideline to ensure your baby is getting enough sleep.

It’s a handy pinnable image – pin away!

Baby Sleep Chart - Guide to baby sleep needs
Baby Sleep Chart – Guide to baby sleep needs

Notes and tips for using

Most of the chart should be self-explanatory, but some won’t be.  So let’s go through column by column so there can be no misunderstanding.

AGE OF CHILD

The age of your child, in weeks, months, years etc

TOTAL DAILY SLEEP

This is the total sleep your baby should have in any 24 hour period. Since we’re talking about a 7 am wake-up time, let’s think of this as from 7 am one morning to 7 am the next morning

TOTAL NIGHT SLEEP

This is the total sleep at night time. Obviously, your baby will need to wake multiple times in the night when small to feed.

Or you may choose to wake your baby for a Dream Feed.

But these awake periods should be ONLY to feed, nothing else. Your baby should quickly settle back to sleep during these ‘night’ feeds. (You may also want to dream feed your baby between 9 pm and 11 pm, or just before you want to go to sleep.)

BEDTIME & WAKE-UP TIMES

I’ve used 7 pm and 7 am but you could move this forward or back to suit your family and lifestyle. As long as you keep the total night sleep hours to the suggested level.

TOTAL DAY SLEEP

This is the total sleep in the day time. So using 7 pm as bedtime and 7 am as a wake-up time, day sleep is any sleep between the hours of 7 am and 7 pm.

So

NUMBER OF NAPS

This is the number of naps taken during the daytime hours of 7 am and 7 pm

IDEAL NAP SCHEDULE

This is ‘ideal’ because it encourages fewer and therefore longer naps. This can benefit a baby who gets a longer rest and also you!

Let’s just be clear:

  • SHORT NAPS – one sleep cycle or shorter.  So 45 minutes max
  • LONG NAPS – naps longer than one sleep cycle. So 60 minutes to 2.5/3 hours, depending on your baby’s age

There are a few tricks to encourage a baby to take longer naps, you can read about this here.

If only 1 longer nap is suggested (so when baby hits 4-6 weeks) then this will be most beneficial to baby if it’s in the early afternoon, right in the middle of the day.

MAXIMUM AWAKE TIME

This is the time between naps INCLUDING the time it takes to feed. So if your 1-2 week old baby wakes at 10 am, takes 25 mins to feed then he or she may be ready to go back to sleep almost immediately after feeding (max awake time is 30 to 90 mins at this age)[/hoot_box]

Starting a sleep schedule or routine

A sleep schedule or routine is a natural progression from following a baby sleep chart.  In the chart, you will see a column marked: ‘ideal nap schedule’.  If you follow this and organize your long and shorter naps at the same time every day, then that’s a sleep schedule right there.

So how do you start to organize long and short naps according to schedule?

There are two main ways:

  1. Wake baby after 45 minutes – that’s a ‘short nap’
  2. Encourage baby to sleep for 60 minutes or longer

If you keep an eye on awake times, wake your baby to ensure short naps (in the morning and late afternoon) and encourage longer ones at other times (in the early afternoon) you will have a sleep schedule.

I’m a lover of all things routine (had you guessed?) so a post, or several, on sleep schedules and how to start one, will be coming soon!

Closing thoughts

Find where your baby currently fits on the sleep chart, and use it to guide you through the ages and stages.  So your baby always gets enough sleep!

Don’t panic if your baby is wildly off in the early days and weeks, your baby’s sleep patterns will become more consistent and fit onto the sleep chart in time.

Enjoy more predictability with your baby’s sleep and a happy, well-rested baby!

Please let me know how you get on – is the ‘ideal nap schedule’ helpful?  Did it fit with your baby?

I’d love to know!

 

If you liked this post, you may also like:

  1. Confused by your newborn’s sleep? The ULTIMATE guide to get you in the know
  2. Newborn Sleeps All day? 10 fail-safe tactics to fix day night confusion fast!
  3. The Dream Feed: An insanely simple solution to dramatically more sleep
  4. How to get your baby to sleep through the night: 10 steps for an awesome nights sleep, no cry-it-out

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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