Sleep in Infants (2-12 Months)
What can I expect from my infant?
- On average, infants sleep between 9 and 10 hours at night and nap between 3 and 4 hours each day. (As your infant gets older, she will probably take fewer naps during the day.)
- It is not unusual for milestones like crawling to disrupt your infant’s sleep for a short time.
- If your infant is sick or her routine changes, her sleep may be disrupted for a short time.
- By 6 months of age, most healthy term infants are able to sleep through the night without waking up for feedings.
- All babies wake for a short while between 2 and 6 times per night. Babies who have learned to “self soothe” will wake up for a few minutes and go back to sleep on their own.
- Some babies need help learning to self soothe. See the next section for tips on helping your baby learn this skill.
How can I keep my infant safe when she is sleeping?
- The American Academy of Pediatrics does not recommend sharing a bed with your infant. Please discuss any questions you have about your infant's sleeping situation with your baby’s doctor.
- Place your baby to sleep on her back.
- Place your baby on a firm mattress with a well-fitting sheet and in a safety-approved crib. (Slats should be no more than 2 3/8 inches apart.)
- Take all pillows, stuffed toys and bumper pads out of her crib. Think about using a sleeper rather than a blanket. (If you use a blanket, keep your baby’s face and head clear. Make sure you place your baby with her feet at the bottom of the crib, blanket no higher than chest-level and blanket tucked in around the mattress. )
- Create a smoke-free zone around your baby.
- Keep your baby’s bedroom at a temperature that is comfortable for an average adult.
- By the time your baby is 5 months old, remove all mobiles and hanging crib toys so she will be safe when she begins to pull herself up in the crib.
- Your baby should never sleep on any furniture that was not designed for sleeping.
How can I help my infant learn good sleep habits?
- Learn your baby’s signs of being sleepy, which may include fussing, crying, rubbing her eyes, or staring off into space. Put her down to sleep when she shows you her tired signals.
- By the time your baby is 3 months old, try to decide where she will be sleeping long term. Changing her sleeping arrangement (for example from a bassinet to a crib) will be harder on her as she gets older.
- Set up a sleep schedule for your baby. Be cautious about cutting back on daytime naps. This may lead to an overtired baby and a worse night’s sleep.
- When your baby is old enough, (about 12 months) introduce a security object like a blanket or stuffed animal. Include it in your comforting routines but don’t force it. Not all babies attach to a security object.
- Set up a bedtime routine that you can stick with. You may want to include a bath or stories. As you get closer to “lights out” time, move into your baby’s room. If you feed your baby before bedtime, make that the first step in the routine so your baby learns to fall asleep without needing to nurse or drink a bottle.
- Babies sleep best in a room that is dark, cool and quiet. Set the lighting so it is the same at bedtime as it is during the night.
- Put your baby to bed sleepy, but awake. This will help her to learn to self soothe.
- Sleep when your baby sleeps: Parents need sleep too! Try to nap when your baby naps. Ask family or friends to help out so you can rest.
- Call your baby’s doctor if you are worried. Babies who are very fussy or hard to settle may have a medical problem like colic or reflux. Be sure to call if your baby ever seems to have problems breathing while asleep.
If you would like to learn more, these books may be helpful:
• Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child by Marc Weissbluth, MD: This book gives a summary of sleep habits for children of all ages. It also covers some common sleep problems.
• Take Charge of Your Child’s Sleep by Judy Owens, MD and Jodi Mindell, PhD: This book is focused on solving sleep problems across childhood. There is also some general sleep information.
• Sleeping Through the Night – How infants, toddlers, and their parents can get a good night’s sleep by Jodi Mindell, PhD
• The no-cry sleep solution – Gentle Ways to Help your Baby sleep through the night by Elizabeth Pantley – This book is written by a mother rather than a doctor. It is for parents of babies and does not cover other age groups. It covers setting up sleep routines and solving issues that cause babies to wake up at night.
• Solve your Child’s Sleep Problems by Richard Ferber, MD: This is another book that gives a summary about sleep habits for children of all ages. It also covers some sleep problems.
The information provided should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
Last Updated: 05/02/2012
Copyright © 05/02/2012 University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#7314
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