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From around 3.5 to 6 months of age babies should start to develop the ability to sleep longer at night. Sleeping through the night depends on a range of factors such as baby temperament, digestive system development and sleep routines.

How much sleep does your baby needs

At night babies between 2 and 12 months need 10-12 hours sleep.

During the day most babies sleep from 2 to 4.5 hours, split between morning and afternoon naps. As babies get older daytime sleep decreases and time awake between sleeps increase. Young babies could have 3-4 short naps a day, while older babies would have 1 to 2 longer naps.

How your baby sleeps

From 0 to 12 months the way your baby sleeps changes.

From 0 to 2 months a baby will spend 50% of the time in active sleep (believed to be responsible for brain development) and 50% of the time in quiet sleep (believed to be responsible for growth and healing). Babies often wake after phases of active sleep.

At around 3 months, the amount of active sleep decreases and babies begin to enter quiet sleep at the beginning of their sleep cycles. A sleep cycle would last around 20 to 50 minutes.

As your baby gets older the sleep patterns get closer to those of grown-ups, meaning that they wake less at night. If the baby is able to develop a healthy sleep pattern and a consistent routine by 6 months they should have the ability to settle themselves back to sleep without the parent’s help.

How your baby’s development can interfere with sleep

As your baby grows he will develop new cognitive skills and physical abilities that can interfere with his sleep.

Moving around

When your baby starts crawling and again when he starts walking you may notice that he has difficulty settling. These newly acquired skills are very exciting for your baby. To avoid sleep disturbances make sure your baby has plenty of opportunities to practice during the day.

Object permanence

At around 6 months, your baby will develop the ability to remember that things exist, even if they are out of sight. This can affect his sleep because when he wakes he might remember that you exist and call or cry to make you reappear. Make sure you are responsive to your baby during the day. Playing games that demonstrate you can disappear and reappear is a good way to help him understand that you will be there if he needs you.

Separation anxiety

Between 6 and 12 months it is common for babies to develop separation anxiety. This is a temporary stage and may increase resistance to going to sleep and lead to a temporary increase in night waking. If that is the case respond to your baby’s call to reassure him that you are still there. However, make the visits to the room quiet, quick and boring.


From 6 months, babies don’t need to be fed during the night. If your baby is a healthy weight you can start teaching your baby to go back to sleep without a feed.

It is easier to transition if you never use feeding as a prop to settle the baby. Some babies that are not used to be fed to sleep can drop the night feeds themselves without needing your interference.



Sleeping Through the Night

AUTHOR: Danielle Clarke

Firstly, let’s make it clear what sleeping through the night means for different people. Some specialists consider sleeping through the night to be anything from 6 hours of uninterrupted sleep. As a parent that doesn’t mean much sleep at all. For that purpose for CBC, sleeping through the night consists of 9+ hours of uninterrupted sleep.

Uninterrupted means that your child is able to smoothly move from one sleep cycle to the next independently with no help required from you.

One of the most challenging aspects of parenthood is getting up several times through the night to attend to a crying baby. Especially if you have to wake up in the morning and go to work – you may wonder if it will ever end and if your baby will ever sleep through the night. It is normal for newborns to need your assistance 3-4 times during the night to go back to sleep. After 6 months (sometimes earlier), when the digestive system and body clock are better developed they may go back to sleep on their own.

How newborn sleeps

All babies are unique, and sleep patterns vary greatly from infant to infant. Young infants tend to sleep for around 2-4 hours at a time, and then wake for short time, usually to be fed. In the first weeks of life a baby doesn’t understand the concept that we sleep when it is dark and wake when it is light. Babies gradually begin to organise sleep and waking according to daily cycles of darkness and light at around three months.

To encourage your newborn to learn the difference between day and night make sure you expose the baby to sun light safely during his awake hours and keep light and noise to a minimum during night waking. Make sure your behaviour during day awake times can be differentiated. During the day play, talk, sing to your baby and at night lower your voice, keep lights dim and stimulation low.

How babies 6-12 months sleep

By six months of age, many babies are able to organise their sleep time according to darkness and light. Some might sleep six hours or more at a time and most of these longer sleeps take place at night. Some babies at this age are able to transition from one sleep cycle to the next without needing your assistance.

Researchers using video recording systems in babies’ homes observed that babies vary a lot when it comes to waking and crying – or not crying – at night. They found the biggest changes in infants’ sleeping and waking patterns happen between three and six months. Six-month-olds sleep longer at a stretch than three-month-olds. They’re also more likely to go back to sleep on their own when they wake. But this rarely happens naturally if your baby is used to props to help her to go back to sleep – such as using pacifier; is breast or bottle fed back to sleep; is rocked; bounced or walked to sleep; sleeps in a car or stroller ride.

As they get closer to their first birthday, infants tend to sleep longer, wake up less often, and sleep more at night. And they may take a nap once or twice during the day.

If taught the skills of independent sleep, your baby should be able to sleep 9-12 hours a night.


  • Young babies don’t know the difference between day and night.
  • Don’t expect your baby to sleep through the night before 3-6 months.
  • Even after your baby has started sleeping through the night consistently she might need your help every now and then.
  • Every baby is different. Try not to compare older and younger sibling or your child and the neighbour’s child.
  • Make sure your baby’s needs (food, clean nappy, appropriate clothing and cuddles) are met before placing her in bed.
  • Most babies are noisy sleepers. If your baby wakes give her some time before responding. She might just be transitioning form one cycle to the next. Give her the chance to learn how to do it on her own. If crying or calling persists, respond to your baby.
  • If problems persist – seek help.


A good night’s sleep is imperative for children. Sleep is the main building block of their cognitive and behavioural development. It ensures they have the energy to wake each morning happy, refreshed and ready to learn. So if you’re concerned that your child might not be getting enough sleep, chances are that you are not getting enough sleep either.

Here are some tip to improve sleep in your family:

Establish routines

  1. Keep regular sleep and wake times. You can start encouraging your child to sleep and wake at the same time since birth. This task will become easier after 6 months when the body clock is better developed.
  2. Avoid daytime naps for older kids. It can make it harder for them to settle at night if they have a nap. If you feel they really need a nap on certain days ensure they are not longer than 20 minutes.
  3. Create the mood before bed. When time for the bedtime routine is approaching warn your child. Move on to more quite play and tell them how much time they have left giving them a count down. The last thing you want is your child feeling that you interrupted the best part of a game.

Create the appropriate sleep environment

  1. Make sure the room temperature if pleasant for your child.
  2. Dress your child accordingly. If the room is too hot or too cold your child will not sleep well. If you have young children that move around a lot, a sleeping bag is a good idea.
  3. Make sure noise and light is kept to a minimum. Avoid loud music, TV or electronic devices close to sleep time.
  4. Make sure the bed or cot is safe. Put away anything that can be a chocking or suffocation hazard such as blinds and curtains cords, large pillows, stuffed toys, thick blankets. If your child just transitioned to a bed make sure you have safety bars or cushions on the floor in case they fall. Keep the floor clear of toys or other objects they can trip over.

Encourage good nutrition

  1. Eat the right amount of food. Make sure you and your child are satisfied after meals. Feeling hungry or too full might cause discomfort and disturb sleep.
  2. Avoid sugary foods and drinks. We should all avoid sugary foods and drinks at any time, but especially late in the afternoon and evening.
  3. Avoid caffeine. Coffee, tea, cola, energy drinks and chocolate should not be consumed later in the day.

Keep active

  1. Make sure you and your child enjoy regular physical activity during the day, avoid late exercise. The stimulation and increase in body temperature can make it difficult to settle for a good night’s sleep.

Other issues

  1. Discuss issues during the day. If your child is going through problems in her life such as anxieties, worries, school problems or any other problem that could be affecting your child sleep. Try discussing them earlier in the day. Talk about the issue, write a journal or see a specialist if needed.


  1. Recognise your child’s effort. If your child has been having sleeping issues, but you noticed that she is really trying to improve, praise her efforts and encourage further improvements.