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How to Troubleshoot the Biggest Baby Sleep Issues

In this video, learn how much your baby should be sleeping, plus tips to help them sleep better.

Mera Goodman, MD
Written by Brittany Doohan | Reviewed by Mera Goodman, MD
Updated on January 9, 2021

When you’re a brand-new parent, it may seem like you’ll never get a good night’s rest again. And while it may take months or years (or many years) of being able to conk out and wake up 8 uninterrupted hours later, the truth is your baby will learn to sleep through the night (and you will too). Here, pediatricians share how to raise your baby to sleep like a pro—and how you can get some Zzzs in too.

Understanding a Baby’s Sleep Timeline

They call it “sleeping like a baby” for good reason: Babies need a lot of sleep throughout a 24-hour period. But unfortunately for new moms and dads, it’s not always at night. Here’s how much a baby usually sleeps in the first year of life:

  • Newborn to 3 months: Newbies tend to wake up every couple hours to feed, since their little stomachs don’t hold enough milk to stay satisfied for long. They’ll cat nap throughout the day, and sometimes get longer four to five-hour stretches of sleep.

  • 3 to 6 months: The start of a sleep schedule may develop, where you may see three to four naps throughout the day, and five to six-hour stretches at night.

  • 6 to 9 months: You’ll likely still see three to four naps per day, but longer nighttime stretches of eight to nine hours.

  • 9 to 12 months: Naptimes go down to two naps per day, and at bedtime they may sleep for 10 to 12 hours (hallelujah!).

Tricks to Help Baby Sleep

  • Get them accustomed to the crib. When your baby is showing signs of sleepiness (crying, yawning, or rubbing the eyes are the main ones) put him or her down in the crib so they get used to sleeping alone. Try not to rock them to sleep on your lap or shoulder. “When your baby learns to only fall asleep on you and then they wake up and they’re not on a parent any longer, that wasn’t the deal that baby made,” says Dyan Hes, MD, a pediatrician in New York City.

  • Put baby to sleep on their back, not on their stomach or side—until they roll over. “Once baby rolls over it’s very hard to stop [them] from rolling over,” says Dr. Hes.

  • Keep the crib or bassinet clear of plush toys, blankets or pillows, and be sure the sheets are taught so there’s no loose fabric that can put baby in danger.

  • Make sure the room isn’t too hot or cold for baby. Be sure to dress your infant for the room temperature. Don’t over-bundle.

  • Put baby bed with a pacifier. The latest research shows this may actually help reduce the risk of SIDS, or sudden infant death syndrome. But if they reject the paci, don’t force it.

Sleep Tips for Moms and Dads

  • Sleep when baby sleeps. Turn off the tech and leave the chores for later. Getting as much sleep as possible is just as important for you as it is for baby.

  • Don’t be afraid to ask your friends, family, and partner to help. Split baby care duties with your partner, and ask family and friends to watch the baby from time to time so you can fit in some shut-eye.

  • Don’t share the bed with baby. It’s OK to have baby with you in bed while you’re nursing or comforting, but when it’s time to sleep, put them down in their own crib or bassinet. Experts now recommend letting your baby sleep in your room with you, but in their own crib or bassinet and NOT in your bed.

  • Make sure your environment is fit for sleep, too. If you’re having trouble sleeping, make sure you nix these sleep-sabotaging habits.

Every baby and family is different. If it seems like you’ve tried everything and you’re still having trouble getting baby (or you) to sleep well, talk to your pediatrician.

Additional Medical Contributors (2)
  • Preeti Parikh, MDPreeti Parikh, MD serves as the Chief Medical Officer of HealthiNation. She is a board-certified pediatrician practicing at Westside Pediatrics, is an Assistant Clinical Professor at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, and is an American Academy of Pediatrics spokesperson. She holds degrees from Columbia University and Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and has completed post-graduate training at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine.
    • Dyan Hes, MDDr. Hes is a pediatrician and medical director of Gramercy Pediatrics in New York City. She is double board certified in pediatrics and obesity medicine.

      References

      How much sleep do babies and kids need? National Sleep Foundation. (Accessed on January 8, 2021 at https://sleepfoundation.org/excessivesleepiness/content/how-much-sleep-do-babies-and-kids-need)

      Sleep and Newborns. Nemours, KidsHealth. (Accessed on January 8, 2021 at http://kidshealth.org/en/parents/sleepnewborn.html)

      View All References (4)

      Sleep and 1- to 3-Month-Olds. Nemours, KidsHealth. (Accessed on January 8, 2021 at https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/sleep13m.html?WT.ac=p-ra)

      Sleep and 4- to 7-Month-Olds. Nemours, KidsHealth. (Accessed on January 8, 2021 at https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/sleep47m.html?WT.ac=p-ra)

      Sleep and 8- to 12-Month-Olds. Nemours, KidsHealth. (Accessed on January 8, 2021 at https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/sleep812m.html?WT.ac=p-ra)

      What Does a Safe Sleep Environment Look Like? National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. (Accessed on January 8, 2021 at https://www.nichd.nih.gov/sts/about/environment/Pages/look.aspx)

      GoodRx Health has strict sourcing policies and relies on primary sources such as medical organizations, governmental agencies, academic institutions, and peer-reviewed scientific journals. Learn more about how we ensure our content is accurate, thorough, and unbiased by reading our editorial guidelines.

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