How Much Sleep Does My Baby or Toddler Need?

One of the most common questions parents ask is, "How much sleep does my child need?" And there is a lot of variation in what you might read online about this. Many parents are terrified their child is getting too much sleep, or more commonly, not enough sleep! So, let’s get into it…

How Many Hours Do Children Sleep?

Sleep plays a vital role in children’s physical and cognitive development. But how much sleep is enough? The answer varies depending on your child’s age. According to the National Sleep Foundation, here is the breakdown of what is recommended:

  • Newborns (0-3 months): 14 to 17 hours of sleep per day, including naps.
  • Infants (4-11 months): 12 to 15 hours of sleep per day, including naps.
  • Toddlers (1-2 years): 11 to 14 hours of sleep per day.
  • Preschoolers (3-5 years): 10 to 13 hours of sleep per day.
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How to Determine Your Child's Sleep Needs

To understand your child's individual sleep needs, I recommend keeping a sleep diary and tracking their sleep patterns over a week or two. Then, you want to note down the following:

  • The time your child goes to sleep and wakes up each day.
  • The duration and timing of naps throughout the day (if still napping)
  • Any night wakes and how long they last.

This will allow you to start doing a little bit of sleep maths: adding their daytime sleep and nighttime sleep together – removing any long periods awake overnight. Remember that sleep needs can vary from day to day, so it's important to track sleep over a prolonged period to get an accurate picture.

Understanding Individual Sleep Needs

So now you know how much sleep your child is capable of – let’s compare that to the averages above. You’ll notice that the National Sleep Foundation gives a recommended range of sleep – this is because some children need more sleep, while others may thrive on less. 

Understanding your child’s individual sleep needs is crucial because, ultimately, we cannot make them sleep more than they are capable of. Children can be:

High Sleep Needs: Children with high sleep needs require more sleep than average. They may take longer naps, have earlier bedtimes, and sleep for more extended periods at night. These children may become fussy or irritable if they don't get enough sleep.

Mid Sleep Needs: Children with mid-range sleep needs fall somewhere in the middle of the sleep spectrum. They typically follow the average sleep recommendations for their age group and may have relatively predictable sleep patterns.

Low Sleep Needs: Children with low sleep needs require less sleep than average. They may take shorter naps, have later bedtimes, and wake up earlier in the morning. These children may appear alert and active even with less sleep.

Understanding your child’s sleep needs is a great way to promote healthy sleep habits and ensure their overall well-being. While we cannot make them sleep more than they are capable of, we can support them by recognising their individual sleep needs. 

By paying attention to your child’s cues, tracking their sleep patterns, and adapting their sleep routine accordingly, you can help them get the rest they need to thrive. And remember that every baby is unique, and what works for one may not work for another – so try not to compare it with your friend’s baby!

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