New parents tend to spend a great deal of time focusing on their baby’s sleep (or lack of it).
If you’re a new parent, you might be wondering how many hours sleep your baby needs.
It’s a question which can be the source of great anxiety and concern in new parents.
How Many Hours of Sleep Does a Baby Need?
Is there a ‘golden number’ of sleep hours you can use as a guide?
The short answer is, no there isn’t.
Of course, whenever we talk about human beings, there are ‘averages’ and ‘ranges of normal’. They can be helpful to give you an idea of what your baby’s sleep might look like.
It’s important to remember, however, that if there are averages and ranges, there must be babies at both ends of the spectrum. But even at the extreme ends, it is still normal.
To give you a rough guide as to how many hours your baby might sleep at various ages, here are a few sleep charts.
You will notice the numbers on each are different; this isn’t an exact science and nobody knows exactly how many hours sleep each unique human being needs.
Here are some averages, listed on WebMD:
- Unborn baby: on average, 23 out of 24 hours
- 1-4 weeks old: 15 – 16 hours per day. Newborns don’t have sleep patterns related to day and night time cycles; nor any other pattern.
- 1-4 months old: 14 – 15 hours per day. On average, by 6 weeks of age, a baby might develop more regular sleep patterns, as confusion between day and night ends.
- 4-12 months old: 14 – 15 hours per day. Although up to 15 hours is ideal, most infants up to 11 months old get only about 12 hours sleep.
- 1-3 years old: 12 – 14 hours per day.
And from Sarah Ockwell- Smith’s The Gentle Sleep Book:
And this from Advanced Pediatrics Associates:
These sleep experts believe a set number of hours creates unnecessary stress and anxiety for parents.
They say the best way to ensure your baby gets the number of hours of sleep she needs is to follow her lead.
You should provide her with opportunities to sleep, and help her to sleep in the way that best suits her.
You can read more in Catnapping Could Be The Answer To Better Baby Sleep.
How Do I Know My Baby Is Getting Enough Sleep?
If you are concerned your baby isn’t getting the sleep she needs, first check your own expectations for normal infant sleep.
Society today has skewed expectations of what infant and child sleep should look like, as a result of generations of sleep training.
Infant and toddler sleep doesn’t look like adult sleep, because babies and toddlers are undergoing enormous changes as they grow both mentally and physically.
Waking to nurse frequently at night is the biologically normal way for our babies and toddlers to sleep.
Waking doesn’t mean babies become sleep deprived, and it doesn’t mean they are not getting ‘quality’ sleep. We all wake at night, even as adults. In babies it is a protective factor against SIDS; it is not only normal but also very valuable.
Read more about this in 5 Things No One Tells You About Toddler Night Waking and 8 Facts Parents Need To Know About Babies And Sleep.
If your baby or toddler is waking and spending hours awake, or is very hard to settle back to sleep, no matter what you try, it is well worth investigating whether other factors are involved.
You might like to read more in Baby Waking Extremely Frequently? Here Are 4 Things To Consider.