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Parents tend to have more questions about their child’s sleep habits during infancy than at any other age. This chapter will discuss everything you need to know about your babies sleep patterns, as well as provide helpful tips that will keep you and your baby sleeping as peacefully as possible.

Baby Sleep Needs: How Much Should a Baby Sleep?

Newborns (0-2 months) should get anywhere from 12 to 18 hours of sleep per day, whereas babies 3 months to a year should get around 14 or 15 hours, according to recommendations from the National Sleep Foundation.

Infant Naps

Newborns will tend to sleep as much during the day as they do at night, taking several naps that last between two and four hours throughout the day.  Babies will start sleeping more through the night as they get older, but between the ages of 4 and 7 months will still require two maps daily, each lasting from one to three hours.  This will continue for eight to twelve months old, though the amount of time spent in each nap may be reduced somewhat.

Many parents have questions about how long they should let their baby nap.  The American Academy of Pediatrics states that, “In general it’s best to let your baby sleep as long as she wants, unless she has trouble falling asleep at the normal nightly bedtime.  If this becomes a problem, wake her up early from her afternoon nap.”  (Shelov, 1998, p260)

As children transition into toddlerhood, most will loose their AM nap and just need on PM nap each day.

Baby Sleep Positioning

It is now recommended that all babies be placed on their back when sleeping.  This is to avoid the risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome), which appears to be much higher when babies are placed on their stomachs to sleep.  It’s believed that an infant positioned on their stomach is getting less oxygen and/or eliminating less carbon dioxide when sleeping because they end up re-breathing air from a small pocket of space where bedding often gets bunched up around the nose.

At one time the recommendation was just the opposite.  Parents were told to place babies on their stomach in order to avoid aspiration (sucking food into the trachea or windpipe) should a baby vomit or spit up.  Yet accumulating evidence has shown stomach sleeping to be more dangerous, causing the American Academy of Pediatrics to reverse this recommendation.

This guideline applies to infants through their first year of life, though the greatest danger exists in the first six months.  There are, however, a few exceptions to this rule, which your pediatrician can discuss with you.

The Danger of Using Infant Sleep Petitioners

Many parents use infant sleep petitioners (those soft cushions which look like a horseshoe) when putting their little one to sleep.  However, you should know that since they are a soft stuffed item that babies can turn and bury their face in, sleep petitioners are dangerous.  These devices have been linked to dozens of infant deaths over recent years.

If you utilize this item, do so ONLY if your baby is sleeping next to you in a place where you are able to constantly monitor their head position.  Never use them in a crib for extended periods of unmonitored sleep.


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