Sleep patterns for a baby ages 4-12 months

What to Know

  • A healthy sleep pattern is essential for optimal growth and development
  • Expect sleep patterns and nap schedules to change with age
  • Sample sleep schedules by age

Sleep is essential for your baby’s optimal growth and development. Babies ages 4-12 months, on average, sleep 13.5-15 hours during a 24-hour period. While the amount of sleep your baby needs will not change much, the way their sleep is distributed throughout the day and night will change by age and developmental stage. These changing sleep patterns and nap schedules are not only completely normal, they are expected.

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Baby sleeping

Here are examples of typical sleep patterns and schedules for babies by age (it’s ok if your baby’s sleep needs and patterns vary from these examples!):

Ages 4-6 months

At this age, your baby’s circadian rhythm is fully developed, but still immature. Nighttime sleep is generally 10.5-12 hours (which may include 1-2 overnight feedings). Daytime sleep is generally 3-4 hours spanned through 3-4 naps. The morning nap is usually the most predictable, likely starting 1.5-2 hours after your baby’s morning wake-up time. Any other daytime naps will be less predictable in timing and duration, as a regular daytime nap pattern usually does not emerge until your baby is about 5.5 months old.

Ages 6-9 months

As of 9 months, nighttime feedings are typically no longer needed, but by watching your baby’s signals you’ll know what’s necessary for your little one. Encourage lots of daytime feedings to wean your baby gently off of nighttime feedings. Keeping your baby full during the day and reducing calories at night will help reduce your baby’s biological hunger cue to wake during the night. Nighttime sleep is generally 10.5-12 hours (which may include 1-2 overnight feedings). Daytime sleep becomes more predictable and likely looks something like this:

  • Morning nap 2 hours from wake-up
  • 2.5-3 hours of wakefulness until second nap
  • Short (15-30 minute) third nap in the late afternoon or early evening to reduce sleep pressure and avoid overtiredness

Ages 9-12 months

At this age, your baby can likely withstand longer periods of wakefulness and fall into a regular 2 nap- per-day pattern. Nighttime sleep is generally 10.5-12 hours (night feedings are no longer biologically necessary for almost all babies at this age, although some families choose to incorporate an overnight feed and some babies do still have a need to comfort nurse or “dream nurse”. If it works for your family, there is no harm in letting baby follow their instincts!). Daytime sleep is generally 2 naps totaling 3 hours with the schedule looking something like this:

  • Predictable first morning nap 2-2.5 hours from wake-up
  • Second nap begins about 3-3.5 hours from wake-up from first nap

Your baby should now be able to withstand at least 4 hours of wakefulness until bedtime (although you may need to shift bedtime slightly earlier since you’ve dropped the third late afternoon catnap from the schedule).

What to Do

Keep your baby well-rested!

Children should fall asleep quickly, sleep well at night, wake spontaneously (or at least easily) in the morning, and nap appropriately for their age. If they do all of these things and function well during the daytime, then they are probably getting enough sleep.

Keep a sleep log for your baby

If you are not sure whether your baby is getting the right amount of sleep or following a typical pattern for a child his age, keep a log of his sleep. Things to note in the log include: the time your child actually falls asleep, the time your child wakes up in the morning, and the number and length of each daytime nap.

Help foster your baby’s new sleep pattern as it changes

Make small changes in your baby’s sleep schedule as his biological pattern changes. For example, when your 9-month-old no longer needs a third nap, adjust his bedtime 15-30 minutes earlier so he does not become overtired in the evening. And always encourage healthy sleep in an optimal sleeping environment (for tips on achieving the optimum, see How can I help my newborn (0-12 weeks) sleep well at night?).

Use light and dark cues to help regulate your baby’s sleep

Light has a strong impact on the circadian rhythm. Expose your baby to light, especially natural daylight, at the times when you will want him to be awake. Keep your baby’s environment dark and offer very low stimulation activities at night during the time you want him to be sleeping (even if he is not sleeping).

Follow these sample sleep schedules by age

Ages 4-6 months

7:00am wake

First nap at 8:30am (75 minutes)

Second nap at 12:00noon (45 minutes)

Third nap at 2:30pm (45 minutes)

Fourth nap at 4:00pm (45 minutes)

7:00 bedtime

Total day sleep = 3.5 hours

Total night sleep = 12 hours

Total sleep in 24 hours = 15.5 hours

Ages 6-9 months

7:00am wake

First nap at 9:00am (90 minutes)

Second nap at 1:30pm (75 minutes)

Third nap at 5:30pm (15 minutes)

7:30pm bedtime

Total daytime sleep = 3 hours

Total nighttime sleep = 11.5 hours

Total sleep in 24 hours =14.5 hours

Ages 9-12 months

7:00am wake

First nap at 9:00am (60 minutes)

Second nap at 1:00pm (120 minutes)

7:30pm bedtime

Total daytime sleep = 3 hours

Total nighttime sleep = 11.5 hours

Total sleep in 24 hours = 14.5 hours

Sources

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