Baby Sleep Needs by Age

blankI am working on a sleep training series where I will outline the various methods, from no-cry to cry, but I don’t think it makes sense to write that until I have written out how much sleep we can expect our babies and toddlers to get. If our expectations are too high, we could be trying to sleep our children too often (yes I’m using “sleep” as a verb!) and it will become frustrating for everyone. If our expectations are too low, we might not sleep our children often enough, they may become overtired and irritable, making sleep training more difficult and it will become frustrating for everyone.

How much sleep does your child get now?

The first step you should take is to log your child’s sleep for a week to get an average number of sleep hours in 24 hours and take note how much of it is during the day and how much at night. Only write down times they are actually asleep (or quiet if you’re not sure), not when you tried to get them to sleep.

Some children are very consistent and you can almost set a clock by them, while others are very inconsistent taking different length naps at different times and waking up at a different time each morning. We’ll talk about how to regulate that a bit in a different post, but one thing is for certain and that’s the average amount of sleep in 24 hours stays relatively constant. However, children can and will move sleep from day to night, and vice versa, fairly easily.

How much sleep can you expect from your baby or toddler?

Below is an outline of the average sleeper. By definition, this means some will be on the lower end of sleep needs and some on the higher end. However, it is generally accepted that most babies and toddlers under 2 years old will not need less than 10 hours of sleep at night to be the optimum restoration for their little bodies.

  • 6 months and younger: 11-12 hours night, 3-4 hours day in 3-4 naps.
  • 6 to 9 months: 11-12 hours night, 2-3 hours day in 2-3 naps
  • 9 to 18 months: 11-12 hours night, 2-3 hours day in 1-2 naps
  • 18 months to 3 years: 10-12 hours, 1 nap
  • 3 to 5 years: 10-11 hours, sometimes 1 nap (most lose between 3 & 4)
  • 5 years+: 9-10 hours, no nap

These are just general guidelines. My toddler was still napping at just past two, but then started going to sleep too late at night (9 or 10pm), so we dropped his nap for him, early, to get more night sleep and he started sleeping 12-13 hours at night. Note: I do not recommend dropping the last nap unless absolutely necessary. This was just an example. Combining the averages with your sleep log gives you a starting point in establishing healthy sleep habits. If your child is getting far less than the averages, you will need to take a long, hard look at the reason and determine if it’s healthy or not.

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