Sleep Needs of Infants

Father holding sleeping newborn daughter

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As your child gets older, you'll likely never again ask the question: Is my baby sleeping too much? In fact, by the time he becomes a toddler, you'll likely be begging your little one to hit the hay.

As a sleep-deprived new parent, however, it's common to be surprised about the amount of sleep an infant really needs. Or by the fact that you may have difficulty waking up your baby for a feeding

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, an infant typically sleeps between 16 to 18 hours a day—and sleep patterns are erratic since newborns do not yet have an internal biological clock or circadian rhythm.

Babies Are Different and Have Different Sleep Needs

Firstly, it's important to note that all babies are different. For example, a preemie may sleep more and a colicky one less.

Just because your infant's sleep pattern deviates from "the norm" doesn't mean that there's cause for alarm. If he's feeding well and filling his diaper (at least 8 per day for newborns and four for older babies who sleep through the night), there's likely no need to worry about whether your baby is sleeping too much.

On the other hand, if you are noticing that your infant often seems tired, over-stimulated or cranky, it may be an indicator that he is not getting enough sleep. Call your pediatrician if you become concerned. 

General Baby Sleep Guidelines

So, how much sleep does your baby need? Here are some general guidelines for how many hours the average baby sleeps at night and naps during the day.

The total time may fluctuate as much as two hours, and the number of naps may be flexible as well. Since newborns do not yet have an internal biological clock or circadian rhythm, their sleep patterns are not related to the daylight and nighttime cycles. In fact, they tend not to have much of a pattern at all.

While there's no need to rigidly follow a schedule, it can give you an idea of what to expect of your baby's sleep habits.

  • Newborns: 8 1/2 hours of sleep at night; 3 naps totaling 7 hours; 15-1/2 hours sleep total
  • 3 Months: 10 hours of sleep at night; 3 naps totaling 5 hours; 15 hours sleep total
  • 6 Months: 11 hours of sleep at night; 2 naps totaling 3 1/4 hours; 14-1/4 hours sleep total
  • 9 Months: 11 hours of sleep at night; 2 naps totaling 3 hours; 14 hours sleep total
  • 12 Months: 11-1/4 hours of sleep at night; 2 naps totaling 2 1/2 hours; 13-3/4 hours sleep total
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