Start here if you know absolutely NOTHING about baby sleep


There are only a few feelings in life that come even close to the joy of bringing a new life into this world.

But a lot of times, when you step into the role of parent for the first time, you may have so many expectations of doing it perfectly, especially in regard to your baby’s sleep, that it’s impossible not to feel overwhelmed. It can feel as if you’re trying to measure yourself against an imaginary yardstick of good parenting.

And most of the time, new parents don’t often know what’s “normal” for babies and what’s not.

But don’t you worry, we’ve got you! While baby sleep can feel like a puzzle with no solution, with a little help, you can navigate through the first year of your baby’s sleep. 

Rest easy. This guide will walk you through the basics when you’re struggling with helping your baby sleep.

Baby sleep basics

As a new parent, you’re about to embark on a rollercoaster ride filled with adorable snuggles, tiny yawns, and yes, some sleepless nights.

But fear not! We’re here to guide you through this exciting journey and share some reassuring insights to help you navigate the unpredictable realm of baby sleep. 

Before diving into the details, here are the 12 things that you should know about baby sleep:

  1. Baby sleep is unpredictable. It changes and evolves throughout the first year of life.
  2. Babies sleep a LOT. Around 16 to 17 hours per day, on average.
  3. Babies’ sleep cycles are shorter than adult sleep cycles.
  4. Babies don’t sleep in solid blocks of time but for a couple of hours spread throughout the day.
  5. Newborn babies have a stomach the size of a toy marble that can take only 1 – 2 tablespoons of milk in one feeding.
  6. There’s no one-stop solution for baby sleep.
  7. Babies don’t know the difference between daytime and nighttime. It takes around 4 to 5 months for their circadian rhythm to build.
  8. You won’t sleep a solid, consistent 8-hour-sleep for a while into new parenthood.
  9. It gets better. While you may not sleep for the first few months, your baby’s sleep patterns will start solidifying as they grow.
  10. A baby’s sleep schedule can drastically change because of growth spurts, the dreaded sleep regressions, teething, and so on.
  11. It’s never too early to introduce a sleep routine. That said, if you haven’t done it already, it’s never late to start healthy sleep habits either.
  12. Babies thrive on routines. A predictable routine signals to your little one that it’s time to wind down and catch those zzz’s.

You’ll get a LOT of well-meaning advice and tips on dealing with new parenthood and your baby’s sleep changes.

Remember, being a parent comes with the superpower of knowing what’s best for your baby. So if your parental “Spidey senses” are tingling, go with your gut.

Now let’s dive into some of the most essential details of baby sleep.

Importance of sleep in babies

Babies grow the most in the first year of life, especially in the first few months. Two pillars of this growth are food (breastmilk or formula) and sleep. Babies sleep a lot because they have loads of growth and development to do. 

For 9 months, all your baby knew was life in the womb. After birth, everything — the new faces, the sounds and shapes, the light, the colors…they are bombarded with new and stimulating information every moment. Babies need to take in all this information, process it, and draw connections between it.

It’s when babies are in deep REM sleep that their neural connections are formed and all this information is consolidated and processed in their brains.

During sleep, your little one’s body and brain also undergo significant changes and processes that contribute to their overall well-being. A well-rested baby is more likely to have healthy physical and cognitive development, improved mood, and better learning abilities.

Additionally, proper sleep in babies positively impacts parents and caregivers, allowing them to recharge and engage in nurturing activities more effectively.

Go in-depth about the importance of sleep on baby’s health—How sleep can boost a baby’s immune system.

Baby sleep safety basics

Baby sleep safety is a whole different game. Babies are delicate and don’t have the body strength to move around when they feel discomfort. You’ll have to take extra steps to ensure that your little one is sleeping safely.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has set in place some safe sleep guidelines to ensure your little one is safe when sleeping. Here are some absolute basics:

  • Babies should sleep on their back on a firm, flat sleep surface. 
  • Keep your baby’s sleeping space clear of any loose bedding, soft toys, crib bumpers, and pillows, which can increase the risk of suffocation.
  • Ensure that the baby is not overdressed, as overheating can be dangerous.
  • Avoid letting your baby fall asleep in a car seat for prolonged periods of time.
  • Consider sleeping in the same room as your baby (but not bed-sharing), ideally for six months to one year.

Go in-depth about baby sleep safety here—AAP sleep guidelines: Everything parents need to know in 2023

Baby sleep patterns

Babies have unique sleep patterns that differ from those of adults. One of the things that surprise new parents the most is how much babies sleep. On average, newborns sleep for 14 to 16 hours a day, often in short stretches of 2 to 4 hours. 

Babies sleep so much because sleep is crucial for their rapid growth and development, especially for their brain and central nervous system.

Sleep also plays a vital role in consolidating memories, promoting healthy physical development, and supporting the immune system. Additionally, babies have small stomachs and high metabolic rates, so they need to wake up frequently for nourishment.


Did you know?

Your baby’s body increases its manufacture of the building blocks of the brain (certain nerve proteins), during REM sleep.

Understanding these patterns can help you establish a healthy sleep routine for your little one.

As babies grow, their sleep patterns begin to consolidate, with longer periods of sleep at night and more regular naptimes during the day. However, it’s important to note that every baby is different, and individual sleep needs may vary.

Go in-depth about baby sleep patterns here—Newborn sleep patterns: What to expect once baby arrives

How to identify the sleep cues of your overtired baby

Sleep cues are signals that your baby gives when they are tired and ready to sleep. As a parent, being aware of your baby’s cues can help you know when your little one needs to be put in their bassinet.

Although different babies can have different sleep cues, and they also change with the baby’s age, here are some generic cues that indicate that your baby might need to close their eyes:

  • Watch for eye rubs and yawns
  • Observe changes in behavior like becoming quieter, less active, or exhibiting a more calm and relaxed demeanor.
  • Pay attention to body language and cues such as pulling at their ears, rubbing their head, or tugging at their hair. 
  • Monitor excessive fussiness or crying as it can indicate fatigue.
  • Look for repetitive movements such as leg kicking, arm flailing, or body rocking, as they often indicate that your baby is trying to self-soothe and settle down for sleep.

Go in-depth about baby’s sleep cues here—How to know when your baby’s ready for sleep

How your baby’s sleep changes throughout the first year

Your baby’s sleep is an ever-evolving and continuously changing enigma. All the developmental milestones, like growth spurts, teething, learning to crawl and walk, often end up changing your baby’s sleep dramatically. Add to that the dreaded sleep regressions that keep popping up every few months.

The key is to expect these changes, be aware of why they’re happening, and stay consistent with your baby’s sleep routines. And even though they will sometimes lead to sleepless nights, the good news is that these changes often indicate that your baby’s development is on track.

Here are some of the common reasons why baby’s sleep schedule changes:

  • Sleep regressions
  • Teething
  • Growth spurts
  • Illness 
  • Change in the environment
  • Separation anxiety

Go in-depth about baby sleep regressions—Sleep regression ages: Causes + signs + coping tips

How to troubleshoot common sleep challenges

Once you’re on that parenting rollercoaster, there’s a good chance that you’ll want to stop the ride somewhere along the way. Remember that the best way to help your baby sleep is to understand their constantly changing sleep needs.

Now that you know your basics of baby sleep, we’ve put together a list of common sleep challenges that you might face in the first year of your baby’s life, along with their solutions:

Frequent night waking

  • Establish a consistent bedtime routine to signal that it’s time for sleep.
  • Ensure your baby’s sleep environment is comfortable, quiet, and dark.
  • Try using white noise or a gentle lullaby to create a soothing atmosphere.
  • Respond promptly to your baby’s needs during the night, offering comfort and reassurance.

Difficulty falling asleep

  • Establish a calming pre-sleep routine with activities like a warm bath or gentle massage.
  • Create a sleep-friendly environment by dimming the lights and reducing stimulation.
  • Consider using a swaddle or sleep sack to provide a sense of security.
  • Try gentle rocking, patting, or singing to help your baby relax and fall asleep.

Short naps

  • Encourage longer naps by creating a peaceful sleep environment similar to nighttime.
  • Establish a consistent nap schedule to help your baby anticipate and prepare for sleep.
  • Help your baby wind down before naptime by engaging in quiet, calming activities.

Sleep regression

  • Remember that sleep regressions are common during periods of rapid development.
  • Offer extra comfort and reassurance during regressions, as your baby may need it.
  • Stick to your usual sleep routines as much as possible to provide a sense of stability.
  • Be patient, as most sleep regressions resolve on their own within a few weeks.

Separation anxiety

  • Gradually introduce separation during the day by leaving your baby with a trusted caregiver.
  • Create a predictable goodbye routine to help your baby feel secure when you leave.
  • Consider using a transitional object like a special blanket or toy to provide comfort.
  • Offer extra cuddles, love, and attention during waking hours to reinforce feelings of security.

Teething discomfort

  • Offer a teething toy or chilled washcloth for your baby to chew on for relief.
  • Use gentle, soothing techniques like massaging your baby’s gums with a clean finger.
  • Try giving your baby a teething ring that has been cooled in the refrigerator (not frozen).
  • Consult with your pediatrician about using over-the-counter pain relief options if necessary.

Reflux or colic

  • Keep your baby upright for at least 30 minutes after feeding to minimize reflux symptoms.
  • Consider smaller, more frequent feedings to reduce discomfort from reflux or colic.
  • Use gentle, soothing techniques like holding, swaying, or gentle motion to comfort your baby.
  • Consult with your pediatrician for advice on managing reflux or colic symptoms.

Developmental milestones

  • Understand that developmental milestones can disrupt sleep temporarily.
  • Adjust your expectations and be patient during these periods of change.
  • Offer extra comfort and reassurance during challenging milestones.
  • Stick to consistent sleep routines to provide a sense of security and stability.

Every baby is unique. So what works for one baby might not work for another. Similarly, your baby’s sleep and milestones are not a competition. All babies grow and develop at their own pace. 

Also, remember to take care of yourself. Amidst all the focus on your baby’s sleep, don’t forget about your own well-being. Take short naps when you can, indulge in some self-care, and remember that you’re doing an amazing job as a parent. 

Your baby’s sleep patterns will gradually improve over time. Give yourself a pat on the back and know that this sleep-deprived phase won’t last forever. We promise. 


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