Sleep is an essential part of your baby’s happy, healthy, development. In fact, baby’s are born with twice the number of neurons as adults, in a brain that’s less than half the size. Your baby is born primed for learning and growing, a time ofrapid cognitive, linguistic, social, emotional and motor development – most of which happens when they sleep.
As a new parent, you may be wondering what to expect in terms of your baby's sleep patterns during this crucial time. Rest assured the disorganized sleep that accompanies a newborn baby starts to organize around 3-4 months and while schedules will shift, by their first birthday things will start to settle down.
In this article, we explore the typical sleep patterns and schedules of babies during their first year of life and provide tips and strategies to help you ensure that your baby gets the rest they need to thrive and provide tips on how you can promote healthy sleep habits as your baby grows.
Sleep Patterns in the First Year of Life
Know what to expect during the first year of your baby’s life with this simple breakdown by age. It is important to note that since sleep is bioligcial, you should use your baby’s adjusted age if they were born early.
Sleep Patterns for Babies Aged 0-2 Months
The sleep patterns of newborns can be unpredictable, and they can vary from one baby to another – it’s no wonder newborn sleep is often described as disorganized! Naps of 10-20mins to naps lasting a couple of hours – both are completely normal and expected. In fact, it’s sometimes easier to look at newborn sleep over a 24 hour cycle vs daytime naps and overnight sleep – since they need to wake to eat every 2-4 hours anyway.
Most newborns also don’t yet understand the difference between night and day, this is because their circadian rhythm (their internal body clock) hasn’t developed yet – hence they just aren’t biologically ready to be ‘scheduled’.
Day and night confusion tends to resolve after a few weeks, you can help your baby with this by offering lots of daylight during awake hours and ensuring naps and overnight sleep are in a pitch dark sleep space.
Tracking your newborn’s sleep using the Smart Sleep Coach byPampers™ helps you see patterns as they emerge and will sync sleeps with your baby’s biological rhythms – so you know when your baby’s sleep drive is the highest and it’s time for a nap. This is an absolute life saver during these first weeks an months!
Healthy sleep habits for your newborn:
- Follow their baby's sleep cues, such as yawning, rubbing their eyes, or becoming fussy.
- Offer lots of daylight during awake hours, to help with day / night confusion.
- Create a calm and quiet sleep environment, that is pitch dark and using white or brown noise.
- Swaddle, to promote a senses of security.
- Keep nighttime feedings quiet and calm, to avoid overstimulating your baby.
- Always ensure your newborn’s sleep space is safe, following the AAP safe sleep guidelines.
Sleep Patterns for Babies Aged 3-5 Months
Just about now your baby’s circadian rhythm is reaching maturity and they are producing enough melatonin to better regulate bedtime. Where as before a later bedtime may have been the norm, you want to consider bringing bedtime earlier now, around 7pm.
With this progression, sleep patterns are adjusting and if your baby seems to be waking more frequently during the night you may be going through the 4-month sleep regression – fear not, this too shall pass. Your baby is now fully waking between sleep cycles and this can cause some sleep disruption if they don’t yet know how to fall asleep independently.
Healthy sleep habits for babies aged 3-5 months:
- Establish a consistent bedtime routine that includes a bath, book, or lullaby and always ends with baby drowsy but awake.
- Use a white or brown noise machine to help drown out loud noises and promote sleep.
- Avoid feeding or rocking your baby to sleep, as much as possible you want to give your baby the space to practice falling asleep on their own.
- If you’re ready to start sleep training, it’s best to start around 4-months. Start your free sleep consultation now to get started!
Sleep Patterns for Babies Aged 6-8 Months
Your baby should be in a pretty solid 3-nap schedule just now and won’t transition to 2 naps (dropping that 3rd catnap) until around 8 months – this transition can benefit from an earlier bedtime to help bridge that last wake window between nap 2 and bedtime until your baby settles into their new rhythm.
It is also very possible your baby is still feeding overnight once or twice, many babies don’t night wean until closer to 9 months of age. The great news is that overall sleep should be much more predictable now, but if night wakings are a struggle outside of feeding, the Smart Sleep Coach app can help you establish ‘ok to feed’ times.
Healthy sleep habits for babies aged 6-8 months:
- If your baby still needs support to fall asleep, as much as possible try to give them the space to practice doing that themselves.
- Encourage plenty of daytime play and outside time to help burn off energy and fuel their sleep drive.
- Be mindful of overtiredness. As they get ready to transition from 3 to 2 naps at around 8 months , move bedtime earlier to avoid them becoming overtired.
Sleep Patterns for Babies Aged 9-12 Months
By now your baby should have settled nicely into a 2-nap sleep schedule and sleep should be somewhat more predictable. That said, their increased mobility could be causing some disruption at night, many babies like to practice their new found skills at bedtime, pulling up on the crib and cruising.
It’s also likely that your baby no longer feeds to feed overnight YAY! (it goes without say that you should always check with your pediatrician before night weaning).
That said, the 8-month sleep regression can linger and sleep may not be where you want it to be. Start your free sleep consultation now to get sleep back on track fast.
Healthy sleep habits for babies aged 9-12 months:
- Avoid over-stimulation which can make it difficult for your baby to fall asleep, such as playing with electronic toys or watching television before bed.
- Encouraging self-soothing, if your baby isn’t already an independent sleeper, give them the space to learn to fall asleep on their own and learn to put themselves back to sleep if they wake up during the night.
- Regular exercise can help your baby expend energy and sleep better at night. Engage in age-appropriate activities that encourage your baby to move and explore.
Sleep Schedules from 0-12 months
The schedules shared below are a simply a representation using baby sleep averages. Every baby has a slightly different sleep drive, so your baby’s schedule may be different from what is shown. Use these as a guide and if you have concerns about your baby’s sleep, you can always reach out to your pediatrician.
Newborn Sleep Schedules 0-2 months old
Newborns need a lot of sleep, typically around 14-17 hours a day, and wake up frequently to feed. Newborns aren’t biologically ready to be scheduled, but if you use the Smart Sleep Coach by Pampers app to track sleeps, the app will help you understand your baby’s natural biological rhythms as sleep starts to organize. As babies get closer to the 2-month mark, they may start to sleep for longer periods at night, but it is still really important to wake your newborn to feed every few hours!
Sample 2-month old baby sleep schedule
2-month olds follow approximately 75-90 minute wake windows
Note: Your baby’s schedule doesn’t change after 8 months until they transition to 1-nap which won’t happen until somewhere between 15-18 months.
Common Sleep Challenges in the First Year of Life
Despite the typical sleep patterns of babies during their first year of life, many parents find that their babies do not sleep as much or as well as they would like. There are several reasons why babies may have difficulty sleeping, and some of the most common challenges include:
Sleep regressions are periods when a baby's sleep patterns suddenly change, and they may begin to wake up more frequently at night or have difficulty settling down to sleep. These regressions can occur at around four months, eight months, and they are closely related to changes in your baby's physical or cognitive development.
Sleep associations are habits or behaviors that a baby associates with falling asleep. For example, a baby may need to be rocked or nursed to sleep, and they may have difficulty falling asleep without these associations. Over time, these associations can become a source of sleep problems, as baby may wake up during the night and need the same associations to fall back asleep.
Falling asleep is a learned skill and your baby needs the space and time to practice this skill. You can wean them off any sleep support / association using a consistent sleep training approach and the Smart Sleep Coach by Pampers will guide you step by step through that process.
Teething can be a painful process for babies, and it can cause discomfort and disrupted sleep. Teething typically begins around six months of age, and it can last for several months, during which time the baby may experience disrupted sleep.
Colic can also cause disrupted sleep patterns for babies. Colic is a condition that causes a baby to cry excessively and inconsolably, often for several hours per day. This condition can be challenging for parents to manage, and it can make it difficult for baby to sleep.
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Baby Sleep: 7-9 Months." National Sleep Foundation, 2020. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/baby-sleep/baby-sleep-7-9-months
Baby Sleep: 10-12 Months." National Sleep Foundation, 2020. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/baby-sleep/baby-sleep-10-12-months
Infant Sleep." Stanford Children's Health, 2021. https://www.stanfordchildrens.org/en/topic/default?id=infant-sleep-90-P02629
Newborn Sleep Patterns: What to Expect." Mayo Clinic, 2021. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/infant-and-toddler-health/in-depth/newborn-sleep/art-20046556
Sleep Training for Babies: Techniques and Guidelines." Cleveland Clinic, 2020. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/9618-sleep-training-for-babies-techniques-and-guidelines
How We Wrote This Article
The information in this article is based on the expert advice found in trusted medical and government sources, such as the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. You can find a full list of sources used for this article below. The content on this page should not replace professional medical advice. Always consult medical professionals for full diagnosis and treatment.