Sleeping baby

Still learning ... It takes years for children to adjust their patterns so most of their sleep occurs at night.

As your child gets older, you’ll find their sleep needs change. From their time as a newborn, when it can seem that all they seem to do is doze and feed, through to toddlerhood and beyond, when naps take less time and they snooze for longer at night, your child needs good sleep to help her develop and grow. Studies have shown that children who get enough sleep – including daytime naps – have longer attention spans, are more adaptable, and are less fussy than those who don’t. 

Children differ in their sleep needs, but what follows is a general guide that applies to most of them. Even if your child’s sleep hours add up to the right amount, her behavior can tell you more than any chart possibly could. When in doubt, always try for a nap, since even a period of quiet time can help a child feel more refreshed.

Children’s sleep needs change over time, so remember to be adaptable 

Average hours of day and night sleep

Age

Number of naps

Nap hours (total)

Night sleep hours**

Total of nighttime and naptime sleep

Newborn*

 

 

 

 

3 months

3

5 – 6

10 – 11

15

6 months

2

3 – 4

10 - 11

14 – 15

9 months

2

2 ½ - 4

11 - 12

14

12 months

1–2

2 – 3

11 ½ –12

13 ½ –14

18 months

1–2

2 – 3

11 ¼ -12

13 – 14

2 years

1

1–2 ½

11–12

13 – 13 ½

2 ½ years

1

1 ½ -2

11–11 ½

13 – 13 ½

3 years

1

1–1 ½

11 –11 ½

12 – 13

4 years

0 -1

0 -1

11–11 ½

11 – 12  ½

5-6 years

0 -1

0 -1

11

11 – 12

*Newborns sleep 16-18 hours daily, spread over 6-7 sleep periods. **These averages don’t signify unbroken stretches of sleep.  

Children’s sleep needs change over time, so remember that the routine that you set up today won’t be the same one you’re using a year from now. Be adaptable!

Nighttime sleeps
It takes years for your child to adjust their patterns so most of their sleep occurs at night.

By the time your baby is 12 months old she may be sleeping for at least six hours at night. By this age, about 60 per cent of babies will wake up and need you to settle them back to sleep.

The good news is that by the age of two, less than 5 per cent of children are waking three or four times during the night. This is also around the age when they change from two naps to one nap a day.

Tiredness signs
As time goes on, you’ll get better at noticing your child’s tired signs. When your child is a newborn, you might notice that when she’s tired she pulls her ears, has jerky arm and leg movements, sucks on her fingers or has fluttery eyelids. By the time she’s 6-12 months, the signs could include clumsiness, crying, boredom or clinginess.

Signs of tiredness in older children include:

  • losing interest in playtime
  • rubbing her eyes
  • looking glazed or unfocussed
  • becoming whiny, cranky or fussy
  • losing patience with toys, activities or playmates
  • having tantrums
  • yawning
  • lying down or slumping in her seat
  • caressing a favourite blanket or toy
  • asking for a dummy, bottle or to nurse.

Excerpted with permission from The No-Cry Sleep Solution by Elizabeth Pantley.