Understanding Baby Sleep Cycles & Patterns

Bubs Australia

We know sleep can be a tricky thing to navigate when it comes to babies. Many new parents know that baby sleep patterns can be unpredictable and ever-changing, particularly in the first year. Not to mention, every baby will have a different sleep pattern. Some babies will wake up very frequently throughout the night, while others might only wake more occasionally. Some babies take longer naps during the day, while others may have shorter, more frequent nap breaks. Despite the fact that all babies have different sleep cycles, it can be beneficial to learn about how baby sleeping routines might change throughout the course of their first year. Discover our guide on baby sleep patterns by age and how you can adapt as they grow.

Newborn Sleep Cycle & Patterns

A common question many new parents ask is: how many hours should a newborn sleep? The first step to answering this is understanding that there is not necessarily one right answer. Every baby is different. However, most newborns usually need around 4 sleeps a day and can sleep anywhere between 8-18 hours daily. In the late afternoons, it is quite common for newborns to sleep less than an hour at a time. Newborn sleep patterns are unpredictable, but for the most part, newborns don’t sleep well through the night, given they need to be fed regularly. At this stage in a baby’s life, they have yet to learn the rhythm of the day and what it means when it gets dark. As they get older, they will start to develop a sense of day and night and adjust their sleeping patterns accordingly.

2 - 5 Month Baby Sleep Cycle & Patterns

At this point in their development, babies aged 2-5 months may need 3 naps a day of up to 2 hours each. Just past the newborn stage, babies tend to be able to stay asleep for slightly longer periods. So how much awake time for a 6-month-old is required? The 5-month baby sleep cycle usually consists of 14-15 hours of sleep a day and up to 8 hours at night. If you don’t find this to be the case for your baby, worry not, it is still very common for babies at this age to wake up regularly during the night. Discover more tips on how to feed your 3-month old and how often during the night.

9 - 12 Month Baby Sleep Cycle & Patterns

The 9 month old sleep schedule starts to become a little more like an adult sleep routine. Babies at this age tend to sleep around 13 hours a day and are more likely to sleep through the night than previously. While this is the case for some, it may not be the experience for all. Many babies between 6-12 months still wake up frequently during the night and need to settle back into sleep. The daytime naps should start to decrease to about 2 per day, and they will usually last from 1-2 hours each. When your baby approaches the 1-year mark, it can be common for them to crave being close to their parent or carer. This may also impact their ability to fall back asleep once awoken during the night.

Tips to Get Your Baby to Sleep

There are various tips that can help your baby sleep. Create a flexible baby sleep routine to help support your baby settling independently. When you start to pick up on those tired signs, try settling your baby before they get overtired. This way, they will start to develop natural and regular sleep behaviours.

During the day, another great tip to get your baby to sleep is to give them supervised tummy time. The act of playing and interacting will help the baby settle. Once they start to tire, you can put them straight to sleep. Another great tip is to massage your baby with lotion or oil. This practice can be relaxing and a nice way to help your baby wind down.

When do Babies Sleep Through the Night?

Most parents have asked themselves and others how to get their babies to sleep through the night. The sleepless nights are undoubtedly difficult for everyone. While there is a range of techniques you can try to help your baby settle and stay asleep for longer periods, at the end of the day, it's inevitable that babies will wake up during the night. It’s important to remember that most babies will wake up frequently. And that is perfectly normal. As they get older and adjust to regular sleeping habits, babies tend to sleep longer and longer periods of time.

Baby sleep cycles are hard to navigate. Every baby is so different and will experience unique sleep patterns. Take comfort in knowing that every parent is going through it in their own way, and it will take time to find a routine that works for you and your child. Remember to consult your child's healthcare professional for support and guidance to help curate a routine specific to your baby’s sleep cycles and behaviours. If you’re a new parent looking for all tips baby-related, check out our guide on how to transition from breastfeeding to formula.

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