We have all been there, wishing our upset baby or toddler would definitively tell us what they need! Of course, that’s not really possible, so instead, we go through our mama mental checklist, you know the one—are they hungry, teething, sick, bored, sleepy or in need of a diaper change? Well, I’d like to help you shorten that list by giving you a rundown of baby and toddler sleep needs, so you know they are getting adequate rest! In this article we will talk about why the amount of sleep our babies and toddlers are getting is important and how much sleep babies and toddlers need. Plus, we have a handy dandy baby sleep chart that will help you easily understand the sleep needs of your little one.
Baby Sleep Chart – A guide to Everything about Your Baby’s Sleep Needs
The importance and impact of adequate sleep
It’s no secret that adequate sleep is vitally important for the growth, health and cognitive development of babies and toddlers. According to a 2016 article published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine and endorsed by the AAP, “Sleeping the number of recommended hours on a regular basis is associated with better health outcomes including improved attention, behavior, learning, memory, emotional regulation, quality of life, and mental and physical health. Regularly sleeping fewer than the number of recommended hours is associated with attention, behavior, and learning problems. Insufficient sleep also increases the risk of accidents, injuries, hypertension, obesity, diabetes, and depression.”
You can observe the impact of good or poor sleep hygiene in daily life with your own child. Take note of your baby’s behaviors after their sleep needs have been met vice when they are sleep deprived. A baby that isn’t well rested tends to disengage from the world around them. They aren’t interested in playing, they are often cranky, and they can be especially fussy in the late afternoon. They also have a proclivity to falling asleep during short car rides. A toddler that isn’t well rested can be hyperactive, especially around bedtime. They can often act restless, can have trouble with their behavior during social activities and can be more accident prone.
Well Rested Babies
While nuances in behavior are going to depend on your little one’s unique personality, it is very common to see well-rested babies more curious in exploring the world around them, able to move past small frustrations without large reactions, able to eat more efficiently because they can stay awake to take a full feed and able to handle those late afternoon “witching hours” with ease. You will notice your well-rested toddler is energetic but not hyper, more emotionally balanced (which doesn’t mean they aren’t going to have the occasional meltdown, but it won’t be so easily triggered or occur as frequently) and is ready and willing to explore the world around them.
Meeting your baby or toddler’s sleep needs doesn’t guarantee you a happy child all the time. It does take one huge item off of your checklist and allows you to spend less time playing Sherlock Holmes to figure out the root cause of upset in any given situation. With younger babies, hungry and tired signals often look the same. In older babies and toddlers fussiness can be related to so many things including being tired, teething, separation anxiety etc. If you can immediately cross tired off your list that narrows down the possibilities faster which ultimately makes mom life a bit easier and who doesn’t want that?
Baby Sleep Needs – Broken down by Age Groups (Baby Sleep Chart)
So now that you know why the right amount of sleep is important, let’s talk numbers. All of the information on recommended hours of sleep shared here is compiled from the above article. As well as some recommendations provided by the National Sleep Foundation. I personally follow these recommendations with my own child and share them with my clients in my private consultations. I can personally attest to their validity. Also, please keep in mind that every child needs a slightly different amount of total sleep to feel rested. This is the reason why I provide a range for recommended hours of sleep. As for how many naps are recommended for each age group, these recommendations are based on the sleep abilities of healthy babies with good sleep habits.
Baby Sleep Needs – Newborns (0-3 months)
On average babies in this age range need between 14 to 17 hours of sleep in a 24 hour period. Newborns around one month of age need between 6 to 8 hours of daytime sleep. They also need 10 to 12 hours of nighttime sleep. Their sleep patterns are unorganized. For the most part, they are taking a nap every 45 to 60 minutes until bedtime. As they get closer to 3 months, they need between 4 to 5 hours of sleep during the day. They get this sleep by taking 3 to 4 naps and also need 10 to 12 hours of nighttime sleep.
Baby Sleep Needs – Infants (4-11 months)
On average babies in this age range need between 12 to 15 hours of sleep in a 24 hour period. This includes naps and nighttime sleep. Around 6 months babies need 3 to 4 hours daytime sleep which they usually get by taking 2 or 3 naps a day and they also need 10 to 12 hours of sleep at night. Around nine months most babies need between 2 to 3 hours of daytime sleep which they usually achieve by taking 2 naps 10 to 12 hours of nighttime sleep.
Baby Sleep Needs – Toddlers (1-2 years)
You’ll find on the baby sleep chart that on average, toddlers in this age range need between 11 to 14 hours of sleep in a 24 hour period. Most toddlers drop to one nap shortly after their first birthday, but some hold onto two naps till 18 months. These naps should average between 2 to 2.5 hours and they are still needing to sleep between 10 to 12 hours at night. Most toddlers hang on to their one nap until 3 years of age. But, some toddlers hang on to their nap until about 5.
There are three things I always want parents to know when it comes to baby and toddler sleep needs. The first is that they need more sleep than you might expect! The second is that better daytime sleep absolutely correlates to better nighttime sleep. For babies and toddlers, it is a common misconception that if you limit sleep during the day they will sleep better at night. Lastly, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs puts sleeping and eating at the same level as breathing. Soak that in for a second! Adequate sleep is a physiological imperative for human existence but it is something that our little ones cannot do without us. We need to provide the appropriate opportunities as well as timing and environment to achieve.
These sleep opportunities are best provided when they are not random, but consistent. It means that naps and bedtime occur at just about the same time each day. Almost every parent would agree that their child does best with consistency and if you were to ever work with a sleep consultant they would tell you that is the glue that holds the plan together. So now that you know how much sleep your baby or toddler needs and why it’s important, I encourage you to create a routine for them using that knowledge and ensure your little one is able to get sufficient sleep and thrive!
Have any more sleep questions? Ask in the Comments
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