During your pregnancy or that of your partner, you envisioned your baby sleeping peacefully in his or her bassinet, swaddled contentedly. You prepared yourself for sleepless nights, exhausted but happy days and catching catnaps while you can during the day. Your friends and family advised you to expect to be challenged by frequent sleep interruptions. You were ready.
Now the baby is here, and you are surprised to note that the baby is sleeping well. "Too well?" you wonder. You might hear your friends say that you're lucky your baby sleeps so much; you should count your blessings. But you wonder if the baby's sleep patterns are normal or if something is wrong. Although sleep habits evolve rapidly during the first year of life, there is still a normal range of sleep patterns for infants, babies and toddlers. If your child's sleep falls outside of these norms, it's a good idea to call your doctor and have your baby examined for potential health problems.
To get an idea of your child's typical sleep amounts and to detect patterns in waking and sleep time, keep a sleep journal. Simply jot down the hours in which the baby was asleep for a full week. You can either note the start time and end time for sleep, or just note the number of hours your baby slept. You'll be able to add up the number of sleeping hours to get a total for each day, compare day-to-day totals, and detect patterns emerging in your baby's habits.
A lot of variation is common, particularly during the first few months of life. Infants and babies up to 6 months in age can be expected to sleep 11 to 12 hours during the night. They also take three or four naps during the day that add up to an additional three to four hours of sleep. This may be broken up, especially during the night, and babies often have their days and nights confused during the first few months. If your baby is in the range of 14 to 16 hours of sleep each day, that's normal, as long as it's not long, uninterrupted periods of sleep. Infants should wake for feedings every few hours.
From six to nine months, the total number of hours of sleep is reduced by just one hour, with two to three naps during the day. That adds up to 13 to 15 hours of sleep each day. Again, long periods of uninterrupted sleep could be a sign of a problem.
From 9 to 18 months, there will likely be 1 or 2 naps during the day totaling one to two hours each. By this age, most babies will sleep through the night, some for up to 14 hours. It's not uncommon for babies to sleep more at this stage, partly because they feed less frequently and partly because they're using their rapidly growing bodies to crawl and explore. A range of 13 to 16 hours of sleep is normal.
If these averages differ significantly from your baby's sleep patterns, you may decide to check with your baby's pediatrician. Remember that the doctor is there for any concerns that you have. Don't be afraid to call if something doesn't feel right to you, or if you just have a question.
The number of books and articles about how to help your baby sleep are legion. I know because I've read most of them. As soon as I would finish my latest stack of books I'd call my mom and ask her what she thought about it.
You want to sleep. You want your baby to sleep. What's the problem? For some reason, your child is fighting it. If only they could understand how sweet sleep can be. But how do you reason with an infant or the increasingly intelligent but stubborn toddler? Sometimes you just don't.