There is no single rule about how much daytime sleep babies need. It is dependent on their age, the child themselves and the total sleep they are having in a 24 hour period.
For example: one toddler may sleep 13h at night with only some short daytime naps, while another gets 9 hours sleep at night but has a 2h nap in the day.
What is most important is good quality sleep, so make sure that some of the naps your child has are in their own bed, and not always when on the go, in the car or buggy.
Is it normal for babies to wake at night?
Yes. It is normal for babies to wake during the night. Some babies sleep much more than others. Some sleep for long periods, others in short bursts. Some soon sleep through the night, some don't for a long time. Your baby will have their own pattern of waking and sleeping, and it's unlikely to be the same as other babies you know.
It may help to remember that all babies over 5 months of age wake 4-6 times during the night, as they come to the end of each sleep cycle. This is normal, and also occurs with older children and adults. It's the falling back to sleep that can be difficult.
Do babies and young children automatically fall into a good sleeping pattern?
No. All babies and children need to be supported to develop a good sleep routine and good sleeping habits. It is a process that will take time and can’t be achieved in a few days. This can be a struggle, especially when you are sleep deprived and feel constantly tired yourself. All babies are different and will start sleeping through at different times. There also needs to be a degree of flexibility around sleep routines.
What routines and habits promote good sleep?
Fortunately, there are many practical ways to develop and improve your child’s sleeping routine and habits.
Daytime Nap Advice:
Daytime naps provide much needed downtime that aids the important physical and mental development that happens in early childhood
They help keep babies and young children from becoming overtired, which can affect their moods and make it harder for them to fall asleep at night.
They also give parents a break during the day and time to tackle household chores or just unwind.
Example of a good bedtime routine:
Every baby and child is different and you can adapt the following bedtime routine to meet your baby’s/child’s needs. Babies may require a shorter bedtime routine. You will wish to offer your baby a 'top-up' feed as part of the routine.
Start the 'journey to bed' an hour before bedtime using signals such as end of a favourite game.
- 6.00pm: Bath time – bathing and brushing teeth
- 6.15pm: Change into bedtime clothes
- 6.30pm: Story time. If they are not interested in stories to begin with you could try gentle songs/nursery rhymes. Story time can be extended as a child gets older.
- 6.45pm: Settle into bed, cuddle time, and goodnight. Some parents find it helpful to sing the same nursery rhyme/song every night as a signal that it’s time to go to sleep.
Avoid return to daytime activities (e.g. not returning downstairs after their bath).
Transitional objects (soft toys) are helpful to many young children as part of positive sleep association.
Example of a 'sleep friendly' environment:
The safest place to sleep is in a cot or cot bed with all sides up.
Babies should sleep on a firm and flat mattress, and the sleeping area should be clear of toys, cot bumpers and duvets; at home and when staying with family and friends.
Place baby to sleep on their back for every sleep, with face and head clear of blankets and other soft items.
Babies need to be a comfortable temperature. A room temperature of 16-20°C – with light bedding or a lightweight, well-fitting baby sleep bag– is comfortable and safe for sleeping babies.
Ideally lights off, or at least dimmed. LEDs emit much more blue light than white bulbs and therefore have a greater impact on quality sleep, so ensure these are switched off.
There does not need to be silence, and it can be helpful for your baby to get used to some noise, though noise needs to be at a level that it does not disrupt sleep.
A smoke free environment is safest for babies and children.
My child is tired, so why won’t they sleep?
If a child is happy, comfortable, and tired, problems falling asleep are likely to be behavioural (such as bedtime resistance) or environmental (such as noise).
I’ve tried all of the above and my baby is still waking frequently!
Some babies take longer than others to respond to a routine and settle into good sleep habits. Look after yourself. Almost all adults find interrupted sleep makes them feel tired and irritable, and relationships can suffer. For further advice see the useful resources section below