Getting your baby settled in and off to sleep can sometimes feel like a mountain you need to climb every evening (and afternoon, and middle of the night, and any time of the day, really). Babies also have different sleeping patterns and requirements at different ages – from being a newborn to a tottering toddler – which change as they grow and develop.
Here, we’ll offer some advice and information on baby sleep, how much sleep is needed at each age, as well as some tips and tricks to help alleviate some common baby sleep problems. Alongside all this helpful info, we’ll also break down our AVEENO® Baby 3-step routine and how it can help you build a quality sleep routine for your baby.
In this guide:
- Baby sleep patterns by age
- Where should a baby sleep?
- How to get started with baby sleep training
- What to do when your baby won’t sleep
- AVEENO® Baby 3-step routine to encourage sleep
- Baby sleep FAQs
Baby sleep patterns by age
Here’s some guidance on your baby’s expected sleep cycle length by age:
Newborn babies sleep a lot. In fact, they’ll usually spend more hours asleep than they will do awake. Typically, newborn babies will sleep for around eight to 18 hours a day, which is often broken up as they wake up and need feeding.
As their lives are made up of eating and sleeping (and repeat), the sleep they get during the first few months or so isn’t really classed as ‘napping’.
By 3 months
After three months, babies will sleep for around 13 to 15 hours a day. It’s important to realise though, that every baby is different, and some will need more sleep, while others need less.
Keep in mind too that, after one-and-a-half to three hours of being awake, your baby might start to get over-tired and may need to nap.
6 to 12 months
As your baby grows, you may find that they need fewer night-time feeds and, after around six months, they may not need to be fed during the night at all. They’ll gradually start sleeping for longer during the night than during the day and may start sleeping for up to 12 hours nightly. This will depend on when and how often they get hungry or if they’re woken up by teething pain.
By this time, it’ll usually take around two to three hours before your baby gets tired and needs a nap.
Changes to baby sleep cycles
Your baby’s physical advances can alter sleep patterns. Many developmental milestones – like rolling over and pulling up to stand – can upset your baby’s sleep temporarily.
Don’t be discouraged if your baby temporarily starts to wake up in the middle of the night again, even if they’ve been recently sleeping through. Stick to your routine to help your baby get back to a regular sleep pattern, and you should be over it in no time.
If your baby’s sleep cycle length changes, it might be due to some of the following:
- Growth spurts
- Common baby illnesses
- The excitement of reaching new development milestones, such as rolling over
- Changes to their sleep environment
- Daylight savings changes
- Nightmares and night terrors
Where should a baby sleep?
A cosy, comfortable environment is key to a successful night’s sleep. Here are some top tips for where your baby should be sleeping:
Where should newborns sleep?
When your baby is very young – for example, in their first few weeks – it’s unlikely they’ll sleep if you’re not physically with them. It may be that they only fall asleep while being held or if you stay next to their cot. For at least the first six months of their life, you should never let them sleep unattended, whatever the time of day. Keep them in the same room as you when they sleep.
Eventually, as they start to become more active, you’ll be able to create a routine where your baby doesn’t need you to soothe them to sleep. Try putting them to bed before they’re asleep, or make a habit of doing so after they’ve been fed.
Co-sleeping with your baby
Co-sleeping, or sharing a bed with your baby, is another method some parents prefer. However, if you choose to do this, it’s important that you follow some precautions to ensure the safety of your baby. These include:
Keep in mind that it’s not safe for premature babies, or those who weigh less than around 5.5 lbs, to sleep in the same bed as you. Additionally, you should never co-sleep with your baby if you or your partner smokes, has drunk alcohol, or taken drugs. You should always avoid sleeping on an armchair or sofa with your baby, due to the increased risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) this poses.
- Making sure your baby’s sleep space is clear and safe. You want to ensure they won’t fall out of bed or be trapped between the mattress and the wall.
- Ensuring that pets and other children aren’t also in the bed with you.
- Keeping the space clear of anything that could endanger your baby by obstructing their breathing or making them too hot – such as pillows and any blankets.
How to get started with baby sleep training
All babies are different, which means they’ll all have different sleeping patterns. While some may sleep right through the night, others will sleep in shorter bursts, so it’s important you don’t compare your baby to others.
Here, we’ll go through some sleep training basics, including guidance on soothing methods and general tips and tricks:
Tips for baby sleep training
Teach your baby the difference between night and day
Although they might not understand the passing of time, you can teach your little one the difference between when they should be awake and when they should be asleep by doing the following:
During the day:
- Don’t hesitate to go about your business making everyday noises
- Open the curtains so they can see that it’s daylight
- Play games with your baby and keep them active.
During the night:
- Keep a little quieter and don’t engage with them as much – this includes playing with them
- Close the curtains and turn the lights down or off completely
- Unless they really need it, avoid changing your baby throughout the night.
Create a baby bedtime routine
Creating a bedtime routine for your baby is another way they can be taught that it’s nighttime. Your routine could include:
- Getting them clean and cosy: give your baby a bath, change their nappy, and put them into some new clothes. It’s also a good idea to put them to bed as soon as they’ve been changed and fed.
- Creating a soothing environment: this could include reading them a bedtime story, giving them a goodnight kiss and a cuddle, and singing to them.
Things to avoid whilst sleep training your baby
Make sure your chosen nighttime routine is not too long or too impractical to stick to. Remember, put your baby to bed when they’re drowsy but still awake, and take turns with your partner.
Some key things to keep in mind at bedtime include:
- Avoid rocking or feeding your baby to sleep. You may end up doing the same when your baby naturally wakes up during the night!
- Make sure your baby is at the right temperature. If they’re too hot or too cold, this can affect their sleep.
- Overfeeding before bed to try and get baby to sleep through is never a good thing. Don’t force formula or milk on them if they’re not hungry, as this might make them uncomfortable and unable to settle.
What to do when your baby won't sleep
It can be a challenge to get a fussy baby to settle to sleep. Here are some things you can try to help send your little one into the Land of Nod:
Give them a bath
A nice, warm bath can help your baby calm down a lot before bedtime. Your baby may especially enjoy this after a long day of eating, sleeping, and just generally being awake. A bath can also become part of your baby’s nighttime routine, which will help them learn when it’s time for bed.
Save their favourite activities for before bed
By saving your baby’s favourite thing to do until last, this helps them look forward to going to bed. Make sure you do it in their bedroom too, as it means they’ll start to associate the place where they sleep with this particular happy activity.
However, make sure that this last activity isn’t too active. It’s a good idea to play only quiet, calm games as you gear up for bedtime – you don’t want them to get too excited before it’s time to sleep!
Use lights and sounds to help them self-soothe
Your baby’s bedroom should be a safe, consistent space that they associate with being relaxed. Make sure that nothing changes while they’re asleep, including lighting and sound. This way, if they wake during the night, the conditions are the same as when they went to bed.
Put them to sleep when they’re drowsy
Remember, put your baby to bed when they’re drowsy, but not fully asleep. Tweak the timings of your bedtime routine if you see they’re getting tired a little sooner than usual, to make sure they’re calm and ready for bed before they get overtired.
AVEENO® Baby 3-step routine to encourage baby sleep
Our AVEENO® Baby 3-step routine* includes a warm bath and massage: two rituals that are key to your baby’s happy and healthy development. When done regularly, combined with cuddles and quiet time, they also help your baby know that it’s time for sleep.
*Clinically proven routine helps baby fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer. Clinical study, tested on babies 7 months +, 1 week + use.
Let’s take a look at the routine in more detail and see how you can create a healthy environment for baby sleep.
Step 1. A warm bath
Bath time is the first important step in your bedtime routine. Start by gently cleansing their skin with a bath product that’s been specially formulated for your baby’s delicate skin.
Our AVEENO Baby Calming Comfort™ Bedtime® Bath & Wash is blended with soothing natural oat extract and combines the soft aroma of vanilla and the calming scent of lavender. It’s perfect for gently cleansing your baby’s skin before bedtime.
Step 2. Massage
A gentle and relaxing massage helps your baby to wind down, feel safe, and settle for bedtime. It can also help you recognise and respond to their body language. For the perfect, soothing massage, AVEENO Baby Calming Comfort™ Bedtime® Lotion is specially formulated with prebiotic colloidal oatmeal and the calming scent of lavender
Gently massage all over to protect your baby’s delicate skin and help them to relax, ready for sleep.
Step 3. Quiet time
Shhhh…It’s time to finish your bedtime routine with some quiet time together. Help your baby drift off to the Land of Nod by reading a bedtime story, softly singing a lullaby, or feeding them.