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Baby Sleep Facts

A baby’s ability to sleep continuously for eight to ten hours through the night and to establish healthy and predictable daytime naps comes about as a result of parental training and not chance. The millions of parents who achieve these results do so because they understand how to create healthy sleep environments for their babies. This means parents do influence sleep outcomes by what they know and what they do. As outlined in greater detail in the book, On Becoming Babywise, the key to training a baby to sleep continuously through the night and to help him form healthy nap habits, lies in the order of the three basic activities of a baby’s day: feeding time, waketime and naptime.

Not only are these three activities important, but so is the sequence of these activities. With a few exceptions during the first weeks of life, the sequence is feeding time, waketime, naptime. The more consistent parents are with the repetition of a feed-wake-sleep routine, the more quickly a baby learns to adapt and organize his day and nighttime sleep.

During the first ten days to two weeks of a baby’s life, naps are a natural part of the feed-sleep cycle because waketime, as a separate activity, is almost non-existent. In the truest sense, naps happen because babies tire quickly from their feedings. However, around four weeks of age, waketimes begin to clearly emerge as separate activities from feeding times. Good naps influence the quality of feedings and good feedings influence the quality of waketimes, which in turn impact the quality of the baby’s naps (not to mention the quality of Mom and Dad’s life). Once naps begin to come under the influence of waketime, naptime management becomes a greater priority for Mom and Dad. Where do naps fit into your baby’s day?

During the first two to three weeks of life, naps follow immediately after a feeding. Additional waketimes for newborns, beyond their feeding times, is nearly nonexistent. However, starting around three or four weeks of age, a mother will notice waketimes begin to separate as distinct activities and may last up to 30 minutes. Now, naps are the result of the energy exerted during feeding and a short period of waketime, and they will range between 1 ½ to 2 hours in length. By week six, waketime for most babies becomes very distinct. While the duration of naptimes may not change very much, (1½ to 2-hour naps), the factors influencing naps will change when the various "waketime" activities become the priority influence.

Naptime Summary

While there are plenty of nap facts offered in the On Becoming Babywise and Babywise II books, the following summary highlights what Babywise mothers and fathers have come to expect when it comes to sleep behavior and naps.

Newborns

Newborns can sleep 17 to 19 hours per day, including the periods of sleep which are between each feeding. Under Parent-Directed Feeding (PDF), this sleep will come in the form of five or six naps, (depending on the number of daily feedings). After feeding, when your baby has been up for an appropriate duration of time and begins to shows signs of sleepiness--rubbing his eyes, yawning or tugging on his hair--it is time for him to go back down for a nap.

Two Weeks to Two Months

By eight weeks of age, waketimes become very distinct. The average nap for the two-month-old will be  hours long, with some naps a little longer and some a little shorter. At the end of this period of time, 75-80 percent of "Babywise Babies" drop their nighttime feeding and begin sleeping seven to eight hours continuously through the night. For the remaining  20 percent, continuous nighttime sleep will follow in a few weeks.

Three to Fve Months

At three months of age, the length of the baby’s naps begin to fluctuate a bit. Most naps will fall between  to 2 hours. It is during this phase of growth when Mom might begin to face the first "sleep challenges" in the form of baby waking early from his nap (or in some cases suddenly waking early in the morning). (The reasons why this may happen, and some practical solutions are provided in On Becoming Babywise or in the Nap APP.) By five months of age, the average Babywise Baby is taking two, 1½ to 2 hour naps and an additional late afternoon "catnap" everyday. (Catnaps are transition naps that occur when a baby does not need the additional sleep of another full nap, but he is not quite ready to go without a short rest. The catnap helps babies transition to the next wake/nap phase.)

Six to Eight Months

Between six and eight months of age, parents will find their baby’s daytime sleep needs decreasing as his waketime increases. By this age, the late evening feeding has been dropped, leaving four to six feeding periods during the day. Nighttime sleep will average 10-12 hours. The baby will have two daytime naps between  to 2 hours in length and possibly a catnap. Once the catnap is dropped, both waketime and often the naptimes will increase in duration.