How much sleep does my baby need?

The perception of daytime and nighttime only develops gradually...

Every child has his/her own individual sleeping and eating pattern and demand. Newborn babies in particular have no concept of daytime or nighttime for the first few weeks. There is not a great deal parents can do to help develop this pattern.

You can support the child in his/her development, but the child will set the pace him/herself. Some infants have a strong natural rhythm. These children will usually sleep through the night very early on. Other babies always feel hungry or tired at different times for many months. They need the support of their parents to find some regularity or to get into a rhythm that is acceptable for the whole family.

Constant, calm daily routines with regular meals, bedtimes and other activities such as walks outdoors or certain rituals are important. A routine, such as bathing, eating, goodnight stories or lullabies, can have a calming effect. Please do not forget to recharge your own energy reserves with a well-balanced diet, sufficient fluids and more breaks than usual during the day.

During the first weeks of life

During the first weeks it seems that your baby sleeps almost all day long. In fact, babies sleep about 18 hours per day, usually in 4-hour units, interrupted by times spent awake for drinking, changing diapers and cuddling.

During the first 4 to 6 months

During the first 4 to 6 months your baby learns to distinguish between day and night. The sense for this rhythm is not innate. The biological clock is only set after birth, following the clues it gets from specific family routines. Over time, the frequent short naps turn into longer sleeping periods. The time awake is also gradually extended.

At 6 to 12 months

At 6 to 12 months most children sleep about 11 hours at night and twice a day for 1 to 1.5 hours. The short naps should not be longer because otherwise your child could have problems sleeping through the night.

Some parents feel uncomfortable waking up their babies because they think the body needs its sleep. However, in order not to jeopardise a healthy rhythm it is still better to wake up children gently if they tend to sleep unusually long during the daytime. Is it not better that the child is grumpy after they’ve been woken up during the daytime than for them to wake up in the night, feeling fresh and wanting to be entertained? Use the time your baby is awake during the day as intensive quality time to be with your child and support their development. The longest period of time awake with 4 to 5 hours should be the one before bedtime in the evening. This will also help your baby to fall asleep easily and sleep through the night.

During the 2nd year

During the 2nd year children need about 13 hours of sleep a day. If 11 hours of sleep are during the night, one hour still remains for an after-lunch nap. Some start to reduce daytime sleep to one hour at noon at the age of 10 months; others take their time until they are 18 months old.

During the 3rd year

The older children become, the less sleep they will need. During the 3rd year children only need about 12 hours of sleep. Many children give up the habit of an after-lunch nap entirely, while others keep up this habit until kindergarten.

Information for individual age groups

The following information for the individual age groups uses average values. The individual need for sleep will vary from one child to another. Deviations of between 1 and 2 hours are no cause for concern. Some children need even less sleep.

Age Find out how much sleep your child needs per day (24 hours)
Newborn 16 to 20 hours
3 weeks 16 to 18 hours
6 weeks 15 to 16 hours
4 months 9 to 12 hours at night & 2 naps (2 – 3 hours each)
6 months about 11 to 12 hours at night & 2 naps (1 – 1.5 hours each)