Answers About Your Baby’s Sleep

Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on May 02, 2023
Sleeping newborn

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 them along by letting them sleep at night, not waking them 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 them calm and drowsy before putting them in their crib. Be consistent: Put them down the same way each time. Make sure to place them on their back for safety.

The goal is to put your baby in their bed drowsy. If they are 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 they can fall back to sleep on their own. If they keep crying, look in on them, but don't pick them up or turn on the light right away. If your baby continues to fuss and cry, they 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.

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, they 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 themselves to sleep?

It depends on the baby and their 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 they are hungry?

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

If they are waking up, crying, and ravenously finishing eating, they still need 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 them.

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 their own sleep surface.

Is there anything I should do to keep my baby safe while they sleep?

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

  1. Lay your baby on their back to sleep.
  2. Place them 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 them.
  5. Breastfeed them as long as you can.
  6. Offer them a pacifier at nap time and bedtime.
  7. Remove them from their stroller, swing, car seat or infant swing after they fall 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 they are awake. That means let them play while lying on their stomach. Tummy time helps your baby develop a stronger head and neck so they can lift their face if it is covered. Also, make sure to give them the recommended vaccinations.

Show Sources


American Academy of Sleep Medicine: Behavioral Treatment of Bedtime Problems and Night Wakings in Infants and Young Children. "Healthy Sleep Habits." "Getting Your Baby to Sleep." "Reversing Day-Night Reversal." "Sweet Dreams." "Reduce the Risk of SIDS." "Establishing a Breastfeeding Routine." "Sleeping by the Book." "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." "Suitable Sleeping Sites." "How Often and How Much Should Your Baby Eat?" "Sleeping Through the Night."

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

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