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How much day sleep does my baby need?

It's important to understand that our babies grow and mature and that their sleep needs change to suit.


You’ll often see babies asleep in the front carrier, in the capsule at the café or in the buggy as their caregiver gets a nice long walk in while catching some vitamin D. It seems that newborns sleep constantly, anywhere and everywhere without a care in the world.


As they mature, so too does their maternal melatonin, that is – their sleepy hormone. Around 8 weeks old babies start to produce their own melatonin. Ever noticed that around this 8 week mark your baby all of a sudden seems so alert? Their sleep patterns also start to change; they might be harder to settle or have shorter stretches of sleep.


It's important to understand that our babies grow and mature and that their sleep needs change to suit. We need to adjust their sleep schedules, nap routines and awake windows between sleeps to keep up with these changes. If we don’t change the amount of day sleep a baby has it will start to affect their night sleep, resulting in a baby who sleeps all day and wants to party all night! You might also find that if you are offering too much sleep, too often that they might protest naps and bedtime and only manage a short sleep period because there just isn’t enough sleep debt to encourage a long consolidated sleep – which is the most restorative for baby and us!


Each baby is slightly different, just like adults, and they may need slightly more or slightly less sleep than their same-aged peers. Below is a guide for how many hours of sleep in a 24 hour day your little love needs;


0-16wk old: 14-17hrs (3-4 naps)

4-11 month: 12-15hrs (2-3naps)

1-2 year old: 11-14hrs (1-2 naps)

3-5 year old: 10-13hrs (0-1 nap)


How often your child naps depend’s on their age and the length of their naps. They will likely do 1, 2, or 3 naps and some newborns may even do 4 naps between 7am-7pm if they aren’t consolidating sleep cycles.


How do you know if your child is getting enough sleep throughout the day?


A big indicator of this is how settled your baby is. Are they grizzly, irritable or content? Do they feed well or are they fussing during feeds and pulling off the breast or bottle? Are they waking within the first few hours of going to bed? (sign of being overtired) Or maybe they are trying to start the day prior to 6am before the sun comes up!



"It's important to understand that our babies grow and mature and that their sleep needs change to suit. We need to adjust their sleep schedules, nap routines and awake windows between sleeps to keep up with these changes".

What can you do to ensure your baby is getting the sleep onboard that they need?


Keep an eye on their awake windows. That is the time between waking from a sleep and being asleep at the next nap. You might notice that your little love is fighting sleep or waking after a short 20-30min nap and still appears tired. Overtired babies produce adrenalin and cortisol when they are too tired to fall asleep and/or stay asleep. This means that their little bodies are exhausted but they are essentially fighting themselves to sleep. This results in baby taking shorter naps, waking after one sleep cycle (45min) and they aren’t able to roll in to another sleep cycle. Fast forward to bedtime and the day of catnaps has snowballed into a very tired, irritable and unsettled baby come evening. Unfortunately it also results in additional night wakings and often early morning starts.


Sound familiar? I suggest breaking the cycle and getting off the hamster wheel by providing assisted naps for a few days. Get some sleep into baby (and you!) however you need to. You might take them for a walk in the buggy, offer a sleep in the front carrier, go for a drive or simply hold them to sleep and enjoy a skin on skin nap. After catching up on some zzzzzz you are then in a better position to support them to sleep in their bassinet/cot. Focus on one nap at a time in their bassinet/cot, starting with the lunchtime nap.


If you need any additional information or support please feel free to contact me at amy@littledreamers.co.nz to book in a FREE 15 minute phone consultation to talk about what is happening for your baby and how we help.

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