Baby sleep: 2-12 months

Baby sleep: 2-12 months

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How baby sleep changes from 2 to 12 months

As they get older, babies:

  • sleep less in the daytime
  • are awake for longer between naps
  • have longer night-time sleeps and wake less at night
  • need less sleep overall.

2-3 months: what to expect from baby sleep

At this age, babies sleep on and off during the day and night. They sleep for around 16 hours in every 24 hours.

Babies sleep in cycles that last about 40 minutes. Each cycle is made up of active sleep and quiet sleep. Babies move around and grunt during active sleep, and sleep deeply during quiet sleep.

At the end of each cycle, babies wake up for a little while. They might grizzle, groan or cry. They might need help to settle for the next sleep cycle.

Around 2-3 months, babies start developing night and day sleep patterns. This means they tend to start sleeping more during the night.

Around 3 months: what to expect from baby sleep

Around three months, babies' sleep changes to longer cycles of light sleep, deep sleep and dream sleep. These changes might mean less waking and resettling during sleep.

At this age, babies might regularly be having longer sleeps at night - for example, around 4-5 hours.

Babies still need around 16 hours sleep in every 24 hours.

3-6 months: what to expect from baby sleep

At this age, babies need 15-16 hours of sleep every 24 hours.

Babies might start moving towards a pattern of 2-3 daytime sleeps of up to two hours each.

And night-time sleeps get longer at this age. For example, your baby might be having a long sleep of six hours at night by the time she's six months old.

But you can expect that your baby will still wake at least once each night.

6-12 months: what to expect from baby sleep

Babies sleep less as they get older. By the time your baby is one year old, he'll probably need 14-15 hours sleep every 24 hours.

Sleep during the night
From about six months, most babies have their longest sleeps at night.

Most babies are ready for bed between 6 pm and 8 pm. They usually take less than 30 minutes to get to sleep, but about 1 in 10 babies takes longer.

At this age, baby sleep cycles are closer to those of grown-up sleep - which means less waking at night. So your baby might not wake you during the night, or she might wake you less often.

By eight months, most babies can settle themselves back to sleep without a parent's help. Others keep waking if they need help to settle back to sleep, or if they're still having breastfeeds or bottles during the night.

Sleep during the day
At this age, most babies are still having 1-2 daytime naps. These naps usually last 1-2 hours. Some babies sleep longer, but up to a quarter of babies nap for less than an hour.

6-12 months: other developments that affect sleep

From around six months, babies develop lots of new abilities that can affect sleep or make babies more difficult to settle:

  • Babies learn to keep themselves awake, especially if something interesting is happening, or they're in a place with lots of light and noise.
  • Settling difficulties can happen at the same time as crawling. You might notice your baby's sleep habits changing when he starts moving around more.
  • Babies learn that things exist, even when they're out of sight. Now that your baby knows you exist when you leave the bedroom, she might call or cry out for you.
  • Separation anxiety is when your baby gets upset because you're not around. It might mean your baby doesn't want to go to sleep and wakes up more often in the night.

6-12 months: night-time feeding

From around six months of age, if your baby is developing well, it's OK to think about night weaning and phasing out night feeds. But if you're comfortable with feeding your baby during the night, there's no hurry to phase out night feeds.

You can choose what works best for you and your baby.

A rollover feed is a late feed somewhere between 10 pm and midnight. Some parents find that rollover feeds help babies sleep longer towards morning. If this works for you and your baby, it's fine to give your baby a rollover feed.

How baby sleep patterns affect grown-ups

Most parents of babies under six months of age are still getting up in the night to feed and settle their babies. For many this keeps going after six months.

Some parents find that this is OK as long as they have enough support and they can catch up on sleep at other times. For others, getting up in the night over the long term has a serious effect on them and their family life.

The quality of your sleep can affect your health and your mood. Being exhausted can make it hard to give your baby positive attention during the day. And your relationship with your baby and the time and attention you give him during the day can affect quality and quantity of his sleep.

It's a cycle that isn't good for you or your baby - so it's worth doing something about it.

If you're concerned about your baby's sleep, there are strategies you can use to change your baby's sleep patterns. If you've tried these strategies and things haven't improved, or the difficulties are starting to upset you, seek professional help for baby sleep problems. There are ways to make sure that everyone gets the sleep they need.

Baby sleep problems can affect the health of mums and dads. There's a strong link between baby sleep problems and symptoms of postnatal depression in women and also postnatal depression in men. But the link isn't there if parents of babies with sleep problems are getting enough sleep themselves.

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