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How much sleep babies and young children need

Newborns (0 to 3 months)

Newborn babies spend most of their time asleep. They haven't yet developed a set sleep pattern.

Your newborn baby will wake up at different times to be fed during the day and night.

This can be hard to cope with. It will get easier over time. You will get there. Try to sleep when your baby is asleep.

Newborn babies are too young to follow strict routines. You can start to introduce a bedtime routine at around 3 months of age. For example, changing into pyjamas, bath time, stories or singing time.

It often takes several months for a baby's day to night pattern of waking and sleeping to become settled.

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Read advice on adjusting to life with a newborn baby

Get tips on bedtime routines for older babies and young children

How much sleep a newborn baby needs

Your baby will need about 9 to 18 hours of sleep until they are 3 months old. The average they will sleep is about 14.5 hours.

Your baby is unique and may sleep differently to other babies. Some babies sleep for long periods, others for short bursts. They will sleep during the day and night. They might sleep for anything between a few minutes to a few hours at a time.

Newborn babies don’t know the difference between day and night.

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Find out how many naps your newborn baby needs

Waking up for feeds

Your baby may sleep for 1 to 3 hours between feeds. Newborn babies will wake up to be fed. Their sleep time gets longer as they get older.

Putting your baby to sleep

Most babies will sleep after a feed. Place your baby into their own bed when you have fed and winded them. This is an opportunity for you to rest when your baby is sleeping.

Your baby may be awake for 1 to 2 hours between sleeps.

Make sure your baby is in a safe sleep position to help prevent cot death. Never put them to sleep on their tummy

Signs your newborn baby is tired

A newborn baby will probably be tired if they have been awake for 1 to 1.5 hours.

There are signs that will tell you when they're ready to sleep.

Some of the signs are:

  • staring into space
  • fussing or grizzling
  • crying
  • frowning
  • arching back
  • can't be distracted
  • jerky arm or legs movements

Avoid stimulating your baby, such as talking loudly or playing with them.

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Read about other reasons why your baby might be crying

Keeping your baby awake

Keeping your baby awake during the day will not help them sleep better at night.

If your baby is overtired it is much harder for them to get to sleep.

Coping with disturbed newborn sleep

Your baby's sleep pattern is probably not going to fit in with your sleep pattern. Try to sleep when your baby sleeps.

Be gentle and kind to yourself.

Some things that may help:

  • if you have a partner, ask for help
  • ask family and friends for help with chores so you can take a nap
  • talk to family and friends about how you are feeling
  • contact your GP or public health nurse if you are worried about how lack of sleep is effecting you

If you are worried that your baby is not getting the right amount of sleep, talk to your GP or public health nurse

page last reviewed: 04/05/2021
next review due: 04/05/2024