First-time mamas are always so surprised when they congregate to discuss their littles. I remember when my eldest was just a baby how I felt utterly clueless to get her to sleep without nursing her. Granted, that nighttime feeding is one of the most important, and one of the last ones to be eliminated when you eventually wean, but other moms didn’t seem to have these kinds of troubles.
This is interesting…
In my group of expats, there was one mom who had that holier-than-thou attitude. There’s always one! And she would brag that at 3 months, her son slept through the night. “He’s such a good baby. He never wakes me up. It’s sooooo nice to get such great sleep,” she told us.
As much as I couldn’t stand her, I had to pull her aside and give her some important news: that’s NOT normal for a baby. They need to wake to feed. It’s most important when babies are newborns as you MUST wake them up to eat (I write about that here, so please check it out). But most babies will not sleep through the night until after 6 months of age, and that term is misleading. It’s more like 4 to 5-hour stretches, not 8 to 10 hours.
Her son was sleeping 8 to 10 hours at 3 months old. I know she didn’t like me but she did listen to my advice and took her son to be evaluated. The doctor discovered that her son had learning disabilities. She eventually called me to thank me because if not for that, they wouldn’t have a head start on giving her little boy the best start.
So now, of course, this begs the question…what kind of sleep schedule SHOULD my baby be on in the first year?
You also might be wondering, will I ever sleep again?!?
Hang in there, mama, for I’ve got the baby first year sleep schedule broken down for you.
I’ve said it and countless other experts have too, but you can NOT come home from the hospital with that sweet baby and be like, “Ok, Junior, dinner is at 6 pm, and bedtime is at 8 pm.” Babies need time to adjust to life outside of the womb.
Plus, when they’re in their first 2 weeks of life, you have to wake them up to feed them several times a night. Usually, they will wake up and scream for you, but you really want to avoid that since crying is a late cue of hunger.
One thing you CAN do, though, is making set points in the day to serve as little anchors. Everything else might be flexible, but these points add predictability and serve as the foundation as a proper schedule grows.
At around the same time every day, you should work in a couple of these. Namely, the wake-up time for your baby and bedtime. Everything else in the day can be more flexible, but with these set points, it will help get baby on cue with what’s happening.
Routine makes children feel safe and happy. As your newborn realizes that the cozy womb space is gone, it’s up to you to make her new space in your home feel safe and comfortable too. It’s going to take her some time to adjust to that, but you’ll notice right away when she does.
Eventually, you can create setpoints for naps (one in the morning and one in the afternoon), but if you create morning and evening anchors, it will go a long way to creating your baby’s first year sleep schedule.
0 Through 2 Months
Once you arrive home with your baby, the fun begins. In these early months, you can count on your baby sleeping at least 16 hours per day. Not all at once, of course! They will basically go in a cycle like this:
Eat, poop, sleep, repeat.
As newborns must eat every 2 to 3 hours when breastfeeding (I talk about that in this article) or 3 to 4 hours with formula, you’ll need to be ready to be a boob slave. You won’t have to do this forever, but in the first 2 weeks of baby’s life, that growth weight is super important. Plus, it establishes your milk supply.
So tough it out and make sure you’re waking the baby up for those feedings no matter how sweet she looks sleeping. Don’t just let her sleep. When she’s bigger, you can let sleeping babies sleep. During the day, she should take around 3 to 5 naps and hopefully, you can sleep as she does until it’s time to bust out a boob again. Here are some more about newborn sleep schedule.
For MOST babies, they will wake up on their own, so there’s usually not a need to set a timer on your phone. You will likely hear that “waaaaaaaaaa” and have to spring into action.
This will change as time goes on. Your baby will sleep for slightly longer stretches and she won’t need to eat quite as frequently. As you move through these months and approach the end of 2 months, you should make sure to help your baby understand day and night. Dimming lights at night time and having a bedtime routine that involves a bath and a story can really help. That’s the consistency and routine I was talking about, and it will make a difference soon enough, I promise.
3 Through 5 Months
Now you’ll start finding that your baby is a bit more active than the pooping little potato she was when you brought her home. It’s common for one of those naps to vanish away in her day and she’ll sleep just a little less than she did in the earlier months.
This means she’ll be awake for longer stretches. But she will also show sleep patterns, and you may find she will sleep 4 to 6 hours at a time at night. Again, if she’s gained weight and the pediatrician says she’s healthy, you don’t have to wake her up to feed her. It’s highly likely she’s going to do that all on her own.
And even if she sleeps say 4 hours, which is what my eldest did, and then cries for boobies, this is normal! I remember calling my breastfeeding coach, who assured me I was doing everything right. Again, if you feel like anything is off for any reason, call your pediatrician and ask. You shouldn’t feel silly for doing so either. It will put your mind at ease, and even if something IS wrong, your doctor will help you find a solution.
During this stage, your baby will sleep about 4 to 6 hours during the day and about 14 to 16 hours total overall. If you can, try to put her down when she’s drowsy. This worked for everyone I know except for both of my daughters, but most of you will have success with that.
What did work were our nighttime routines, especially when sleep regression came into play. This tends to happen around 4 months, but if you keep to your routine, it should help ease things back to your new normal again. You’ll know when it’s happening when she wakes more often at night, wants to eat more, and doesn’t nap so much. She may also be much fussier.
I breastfed mine on demand, though and I used that time to deal with my extra milk. I’d pump out extra and freeze it so that I could have a break here and there. My husband and his parents would take over feedings, and I could get a nice rest. Brilliant!
These growth spurts are especially important. You’ll find these cycles through and again, my breastfeeding coach and the pediatrician both said the same thing – it’s normal.
Does sleep regression continue in a 5-month-old baby? Here is the answer.
6 Through 8 Months
For quite a few of you, you will NOW get to sleep because most babies will go for about 8 hours without that nightly feed. MOST.
Of course, if you’re like me, then nope. Both of my girls did not sleep that long. I got about 6 hours out of them each night, but they still woke to nurse, and I was too tired from teaching to monkey around. It was just easier to give them boobies and then go back to sleep.
What I did notice though, was they were less inclined to nap. That’s a normal change too, where you may find your baby takes 2 to 3 naps each day and sleeps 3 to 4 hours during daylight hours.
Now your baby is getting more active too. At 6 months, as long as she can sit up on her own, she’s ready to try solids. You’ll still need to give breastmilk too (the AAP advises you do so for at least one year at minimum). And she’s likely trying to crawl and explore everything.
So it’s easy to see why she’ll be awake more by day and sleeping more by night. But even if she doesn’t, like mine, there’s nothing to worry about unless she just won’t sleep ever. That’s when you call the pediatrician.
Don’t be alarmed when another spurt occurs either. Or when separation anxiety takes hold. At this point, you may have been trying to get her to fall asleep on her own. It took me longer with my eldest to stop the insanity as I kept picking her up. It’s much easier on you (and them!) if you simply linger and sing softly or pat them gently. Just don’t be a dolt and trip over something on your way out, or you’ll have to start all over again! 😐
9 Through 12 Months
Ah, the home stretch! It’s here that you will finally feel like you know what you’re doing, mostly anyway. My girls were finally sleeping about 8 hours at this point, though they still woke up once per night. Eventually, I remember that fading, though.
How long the baby sleeps now?
Generally, your baby should be sleeping anywhere from 9 to 12 hours at night. During these months, you will find one solid morning nap and one solid afternoon nap. When you see that pattern emerge, create a set point, and try to stick to it.
My eldest was great with naps. My youngest stopped morning naps VERY early on. I’d say she was about 18 months when she would no longer do a morning nap. Babies in the 9 months to one year range will still sleep 3 to 4 hours per day, so even if yours won’t go down in the morning, you’ll likely get a solid nap from her in the afternoon.
More milestones come into play, which means another bout of sleep regression and growth spurts. By this point, you’ll be fully prepared to tackle them, though.
Well, almost. 😀
Teething is one of the biggest challenges. As those first teeth come in, it’s so painful for our littles. After a few of them come in, it hurts less and less so this won’t be the case for every tooth. Keep at it with the routines though, and you’ll see your baby will get back on track once again.
After that precious 1st birthday, you’ll find sleep schedules with your baby get both easier and harder in varying cycles. By this point though, you will know your child’s personality and what works (and what doesn’t). What worked for my best friend did NOT work for me and often, we have to try multiple approaches until we find something that works.
Other times, something that worked like a charm just stops working and you have to find a new way of handling it. But you will. Do what makes you feel comfortable and make sense for your family, and you’ll be doing the right thing.