Answers About Your Baby’s Sleep

Get the answers to parents’ most common questions about their baby’s sleep.

When should my baby start sleeping through the night?

Most newborns need about 16 hours of sleep, but when they get that sleep varies from one baby to the next. Some have their days and nights backward at first, sleeping more in the day and less at night.

Between 3 and 6 months, many babies will start sleeping at night. Your baby won't be sleeping 10 to 12 hours at a time, but you will get a longer uninterrupted stretch after a night feeding.

Don’t worry if your baby is 4 months old and still isn’t sleeping that long. You can help her along by letting her sleep at night, not waking her to feed, and by keeping things dark and quiet. Save the exciting, fun things until daytime.

How can I get my baby to start sleeping through the night?

Keep it dark and quiet, and have a routine every evening that consists of quiet time -- maybe a bath, reading a book, or cleaning gums or teeth. Get her calm and drowsy before putting her in her crib. Be consistent: Put her down the same way each time. Make sure to place her on her back for safety.

The goal is to put your baby in her bed drowsy. If she’s falling asleep too soon, start your calming, quiet routine sooner. Try offering a pacifier. They have been known to help prevent SIDS although it is unclear why,

When your baby wakes in the night, wait a few minutes before checking in to see if she can fall back to sleep on her own. If she keeps crying, look in on her, but don't pick her up or turn on the light right away. If your baby continues to fuss and cry, she may be hungry or need a diaper change.

If your baby still isn't sleeping at night after 6 months, you can also practice a sleep-training method such as the Ferber Sleep Method.

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How much nap time does my baby need?

When babies are born, everything is eat, sleep, eat, sleep, so you don’t really count any of that sleeping as naps.

Somewhere between 1 and 6 months, babies tend to settle into a 3-naps-a-day pattern, with each nap lasting 1 to 2 hours.

After your baby’s first birthday, she will likely be in a 1-nap-a-day pattern.

By about age 5, most kids lose their need for naps.

Should I let my baby cry herself to sleep?

It depends on the baby and her age. "Crying-it-out" sleep training methods, including the Ferber Sleep Method, are the most studied and work for many babies but not all.

Talk with your pediatrician about whether it’s right for your little one. Some babies get tired and go to sleep after crying, but some just get angrier.

Could my baby be waking up during the night because she’s hungry?

After 4 months or so, you’ll find that your baby probably won’t need to eat as much during the night. If she’s waking up, crying, and falling asleep as soon as she gets your breast or a bottle, you’ll know she’s not hungry.

If she’s waking up, crying, and ravenously finishing eating, she still needs to be fed at night.

Some babies just need to wake up and feed, then they’ll go back to sleep. Instead of denying the feeding, and having the crying, it’s best to feed her.

Is bringing my baby to bed with me -- co-sleeping - safe?

No. Pediatricians don’t recommend co-sleeping because it raises the risk of smothering, SIDS, and falling off the bed.

If you’re breastfeeding often and you want the baby close, consider putting a bassinet, cradle, or crib nearby. Be sure it meets standards set by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

If you think you may fall asleep while breastfeeding, make sure you are in a bed without soft objects around and not in a chair or couch.  When you wake, make sure you put you baby on her own sleep surface.

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Is there anything I should do to keep my baby safe while she sleeps?

Yes. To reduce the risk of your baby suffocating, strangling,or having SIDS:

  1. Lay your baby on her back to sleep.
  2. Place her to sleep on a firm crib mattress with a tight-fitting sheet.
  3. Remove pillows, blankets, toys, and crib bumpers from the bed.
  4. Don’t smoke around her.
  5. Breastfeed her as long as you can.
  6. Offer her a pacifier at nap time and bedtime.
  7. Remove her from her stroller, swing, car seat or infant swing after she falls asleep.
  8. Do not rely on products which claim to prevent SIDS, specifically monitors, wedges and positioners.

Give your baby a lot of “tummy time” when she’s awake. That means let her play while lying on her stomach. Tummy time helps your baby develop a stronger head and neck so she can lift her face if it is covered. Also, make sure to give her the recommended vaccinations.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on March 23, 2019

Sources

SOURCES:

American Academy of Sleep Medicine: Behavioral Treatment of Bedtime Problems and Night Wakings in Infants and Young Children.

Childrenshospital.org: "Healthy Sleep Habits."

HealthyChildren.org: "Getting Your Baby to Sleep."

HealthyChildren.org: "Reversing Day-Night Reversal."

Childrenshospital.org: "Sweet Dreams."

HealthyChildren.org: "Reduce the Risk of SIDS."

Healthychildren.org: "Establishing a Breastfeeding Routine."

HealthyChildren.org: "Sleeping by the Book."

Kidshealth.org: "The Importance of Naps."

Rickert, V. Pediatrics, February 1988.

Kuhn B. Child & Family Behavior Therapy, 2000.

Pediatrics, November 1, 2011. 

Family Practice News: "AAP's New SIDS Stoppers: Cleared Cribs, No Cosleeping."

HealthyChildren.org: "Suitable Sleeping Sites."

HealthyChildren.org: "How Often and How Much Should Your Baby Eat?"

HealthyChildren.org: "Sleeping Through the Night."

MedLinePlus: "Infant Sleep Training Has No Long-Term Effects: Study."

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