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How much sleep does my baby need?

The perception of day and night only develops gradually…

Every child has his/her won individual sleeping and eating pattern and demand. Newborn babies in particular, have no concept of day or night for the first few weeks. There is not a great deal parents can do to influence this rhythm.

You can support the child in his/her development, but the child will set the pace him/herself. Some infants have a strong natural rhythm. These children will usually sleep through the night very early on. Other babies always feel hungry or tired at different times for many months. They need the support of their parents to find some regularity or to get into a rhythm that is acceptable for the whole family.

Constant, calm daily routines with regular meals, bedtimes and other activities (such as walks) or certain rituals are important. A routine, such as bathing, eating, bedtime stories or lullabies, can have a calming effect on your child. Please do not neglect your own well-being by having a well-balanced diet, sufficient fluids, and more breaks that usual in the day.

During the first weeks of life

During the first weeks, it may seem as though you baby sleeps almost all day long. In fact, babies sleep about 18 hours per day, usually in 4-hour units, interrupted by times spent awake for drinking, diaper change and cuddling.

During the first 4 to 6 months

During the first 4 to 6 months, you baby learns to distinguish between night and dat. The sense for this rhythm is not innate. The biological clock is only set after birth, following the clues it gets from specific family routines. Over time, frequent short naps turn into longer sleeping periods. The wakeful hours are also gradually extended.

At 6 to 12 months

At 6 to 12 months, most children sleep about 11 hours at night and twice a day for 1 to 1.5 hours. The short naps should not be longer, otherwise your child could have problems sleeping through the night.

Some parents feel uncomfortable waking up their babies because they think the body needs its sleep. However, in order to encourage a healthy rhythm, it is still better to wake your child up gently if they tend to sleep unusually long during the day. Is it not better that the child is grumpy after they’ve been woken up during the daytime than for them to wake up in the night, feeling fresh and wanting to be entertained? Use the time when your baby is awake during the day as intensive quality time to be with your child and support their development. The longest period of time awake (around 4 – 5 hours) should be the time before bedtime in the evening. This will also help your baby fall asleep easily, and sleep through the night.

During the 2nd year

During the 2nd year, children need about 13 hours of sleep a day. If 11 hours of sleep are during the night, there is still some time for an after-lunch nap. Some start to reduce nap times to one hour in the afternoon from 10 months; others take their time until they are 18 months old. 

During the 3rd year

The older children become, the less sleep they will need. During the 3rd year, children only need about 12 hours of sleep. Many children kick the habit of an after-lunch nap entirely, while others keep this up until kindergarten.

Information for individual age groups

The following information for the individual age groups uses average values. The individual need for sleep will vary from one child to another. Deviations between 1 to 2 hours are no cause for concern. Some children need less sleep than others.

Age Find out how much sleep your child needs per day (24 hours)
Newborn 16 to 20 hours
3 weeks 16 to 18 hours
6 weeks 15 to 16 hours
4 months 9 to 12 hours at night & 2 naps (2 - 3 hours each)
6 months about 11 hours at night & 2 naps (1 - 1.5 hours each)

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