Sleep medicine

Sleep in infants (2 to 12 months old)

Infants sleep an average of 9 to 10 hours during the night and nap for about 3-4 hours during the day. At 2 months, infants usually take between two to four naps each day. By 12 months, they take one or two naps per day.

By 6 months of age, most healthy full-term babies are capable of sleeping through the night and no longer require middle of the night feedings. Short nightwakings are part of a normal sleep pattern. On average, all babies wake briefly between 2 to 6 times a night. Babies who are able to soothe themselves back to sleep awaken for a few minutes and go right back to sleep on their own.

In contrast, other babies cry or fuss, awaken their parents and need their help to get back to sleep. Many of these babies have not developed the ability to fall asleep on their own and have difficulty self-soothing. This is often the result of parents developing the habit of helping their baby to fall asleep at bedtime by rocking, feeding, holding or bringing their child into their own bed. Over time, babies may rely on this kind of help from their parents in order to fall asleep.

How to help your infant sleep well

  • Learn your baby's signs of being sleepy: Some babies fuss or cry when they are tired. Others rub their eyes, stare off into space or pull on their ears. Your baby will fall asleep more easily and more quickly if you put him or her down the minute your baby lets you know that he or she is sleepy.

  • Decide where your baby is going to sleep: Try to decide by 3 months of age where your baby is going to sleep over the long run. For example, if your baby is sleeping in a bassinet, move them over to a crib by 3 months of age.

  • Develop a daily sleep schedule: Babies sleep best when they have consistent sleep times and wake times.

  • Encourage use of a security object: Once your baby is old enough, introduce a transitional or love object, such as a stuffed animal or a blanket. Include it as part of your bedtime routine, at naptime and whenever you are cuddling or comforting your baby. Don’t force your baby to accept the object and realize that some babies never develop an attachment to a single item.

  • Develop a bedtime routine: Establish a consistent bedtime routine that includes calm and enjoyable activities you can stick with as your baby gets older.

  • Set up a consistent bedroom environment: Make sure your child’s bedroom environment is the same at bedtime as it is throughout the night. Babies sleep best in a room that is dark, cool and quiet.

  • Put your baby to bed drowsy but awake: Starting at about 3 months of age, put your baby to bed drowsy but awake after your bedtime routine. This practice will encourage him or her to self-soothe and fall asleep independently, without needing to be held, fed or rocked. Babies who learn to fall asleep on their own at bedtime are able to fall back to sleep without parents’ help when they naturally awaken during the night.

  • Sleep when your baby sleeps: Try to nap when your baby naps, and be sure to ask others for help so you can get some rest.