Bedtime habits for infants and children

Definition

Sleep patterns are often learned as children. When these patterns are repeated, they become habits. Helping your child learn good bedtime habits may help make going to bed a pleasant routine for you and your child.

Information

YOUR NEW BABY (LESS THAN 2 MONTHS) AND SLEEP

At first, your new baby is on a 24-hour feeding and sleep-wake cycle. Newborns may sleep between 10 and 18 hours a day. They stay awake only 1 to 3 hours at a time.

Signs that your baby is becoming sleepy include:

Try putting your baby to bed sleepy, but not yet asleep.

To encourage your newborn to sleep more at night rather than during the day:

Sleeping with a baby younger than 12 months may increase the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

YOUR INFANT (3 TO 12 MONTHS) AND SLEEP

By age 4 months, your child might sleep for up to 6 to 8 hours at a time. Between ages 6 and 9 months, most children will sleep for 10 to 12 hours. During the first year of life, it is common for babies to take 1 to 4 naps a day, each lasting 30 minutes to 2 hours.

When putting an infant to bed, make the bedtime routine consistent and pleasant.

Your baby may cry when you lay him in his bed, because he fears being away from you. This is called separation anxiety. Simply go in, speak in a calm voice, and rub the baby's back or head. DO NOT take the baby out of the bed. Once he has calmed down, leave the room. Your child will soon learn that you are simply in another room.

If your baby awakens in the night for feeding, DO NOT turn on the lights.

By age 9 months, if not sooner, most infants are able to sleep for at least 8 to 10 hours without needing a nighttime feeding. Infants will still wake up during the night. However, over time, your infant will learn to self-soothe and fall back asleep.

Sleeping with a baby younger than 12 months of age may increase the risk of SIDS.

YOUR TODDLER (1 TO 3 YEARS) AND SLEEP:

A toddler will most often sleep for 12 to 14 hours a day. By around 18 months, children only need one nap each day. The nap should not be close to bedtime.

Make the bedtime routine pleasant and predictable.

Some other tips are:

Praise your child for learning to self-soothe and fall asleep alone.

Remember that bedtime habits can be disrupted by changes or stresses, such as moving to a new home or gaining a new brother or sister. It may take time to reestablish previous bedtime practices.


Review Date: 10/11/2018
Reviewed By: Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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