Baby Sleep Schedules and Problems

Childhood Sleep Basics

A Sleeping Baby
Make sure your baby is sleeping safely as you work to get her to sleep through the night. Photo by Cecile Lavabre / Getty Images

Does your child sleep like a baby?

If so, that may be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on your idea of what a baby's sleep schedule should be like.

Expectations About Sleeping Babies

When you think about a sleeping baby, do you picture a baby sleeping through the night, or a baby that sleeps for just four or five hours and is up crying and wanting to eat?

A baby's sleep schedule depends on their age, so either sleep schedule is normal.

A one- or two-month-old is still going to wake in the middle of the night to eat, while a five- or six-month-old may be able to sleep all night. Waking up isn't really considered a problem unless your older infant is still waking up several times a night.

This scenario highlights the importance of understanding how baby sleep schedules change as babies get older. Parents, especially first-time parents, will be much less frustrated if they know what to expect from their baby and when their baby's sleep patterns might indicate a problem.

Baby Sleep Schedules

After worrying that their newborn baby may be sleeping too much, parents often begin to wonder when their baby will begin sleeping through the night.

Surprisingly, a newborn baby can sleep up to 18 hours a day, although on average, they sleep about 16 hours. This is mostly broken up into two or three-hour stretches, after which they eat, are up briefly, and then go back to sleep.

By a month, they are only sleeping for 14 hours a day and will likely have one long stretch in the first part of the night of at least four or five hours, after which they continue to wake up and eat every two or three hours.

For the rest of your baby's first year, you can expect her to sleep:

  • 13 hours by three months, including about eight hours at night; some infants of this age are beginning to sleep through the night, and three or four naps during the day
  • 12 1/2 hours by six months, including about nine hours at night; infants of this age should be able to sleep through the night, and two or three naps during the day
  • 12 hours by nine months, including about nine hours at night and two naps during the day
  • 12 hours by 12 months, including about nine to 10 hours at night and one or two naps during the day

Keep in mind that when we say eight or nine hours at night, that typically means eight or nine hours without waking up. While some kids are not sleeping that long, by the time they are three or four months old, you can usually expect your baby to be sleeping for at least one long stretch of at least five to six hours, and ideally longer.

Get some help from your pediatrician if your baby isn't sleeping that long.

Baby Sleep Problems

While older toddlers and preschoolers may resist going to bed and may also wake up in the middle of the night, sleep problems for infants usually involve waking up multiple times during the night.

Like the timing of sitting up and rolling over, sleeping through the night is a developmental milestone that your baby has to meet.

So the fact that a four-month-old still wakes up once to eat can be normal. On the other hand, if your baby is still waking up two or three times a night when he is six months old, then he may have a sleep problem that you can work to improve.

The best way to fix your baby's sleep problems is usually to work on your bedtime routine and teach your baby to fall asleep on his own. This usually means falling asleep without rocking, nursing, or drinking a bottle. You can still do all of those things, just move them to a little earlier in your bedtime routine and put your baby down in his crib while he is drowsy, but still awake.

Next, be consistent and try to do all of the same things, in the same way, at the same time each evening.

If your baby doesn't settle down after a few minutes, try to comfort him quickly and put him back down before he falls asleep. He should eventually learn to fall asleep on his own and comfort himself back to sleep if he wakes up at night.

Best Sleep Books

For extra help getting your baby to sleep through the night, consider reading one or more of these parenting sleep books, such as:

A visit to your pediatrician can also be a good idea if your baby is having sleep problems, both to offer advice on your baby's sleep habits and to make sure your baby doesn't have a medical problem, such as reflux or an ear infection.


Richard Ferber, MD. Solve Your Child's Sleep Problems.

St James-Roberts. Infant Crying and Sleeping: Helping Parents to Prevent and Manage Problems. Sleep Medicine Clin - September 2007; 2(3), 363-375

Continue Reading