The Baby and Toddler Sleep Schedule Guide

7 Min Read | By Lottie Salako

Last Modified 5 March 2024   First Added 13 June 2023

This article was written and reviewed in line with our editorial policy.

As you prepare to bring your baby into the world, you may worry about how to get your little one to sleep… and, of course, get enough yourself. Even once they’ve arrived, you’ll probably have questions about when they should sleep, how long, and how to get them to rest.

Here we explore the key questions around your baby’s and toddler’s snooze and discuss establishing a sleep schedule that keeps everyone well-rested.

Can you get a baby on a sleep schedule?

Firstly, yes – you can get a baby on a sleep schedule. It may seem impossible initially when they’re tiny and new to the world; at this stage, everything can seem overwhelming. One thing to remember is that newborns need constant vigilance and feeding often – the NHS recommends 8-12 times in 24 hours, every 2-3 hours. So unfortunately, they cannot be on a sleep schedule that resembles anything like our own sleep pattern.

However, over their first few months, they will begin to settle and can be left on their own for extended periods, so you can start implementing a routine that will encourage good sleep habits.

Typical sleep patterns for babies by age

To know the best schedule for your baby or toddler, let’s explore how much sleep they should get, both as daytime naps and nighttime rest…

Age Hours of sleep needed Average hours of daytime naps Average hours during the night Longest sleep stretch
0-2 months 15-17+ 7-8 8-9 Up to 5 after the newborn stage
2-4 months 14-16+ 4-6 9-11 6-8 (sometimes)
4-6 months 12-16 3-5 10+ 8-11 (sometimes)
6-8 months 12-16 3-4 10+ 8-12 (sometimes)
8-10 months 12-16 2-3 10+ 9-12 (regularly)
10-12 months 12-16 2-3 10+ 9-12 (often)
1-2 years 11-14 1-2 10+ 10-12 (usually)

These are just rough guidelines to help you understand the average amount of sleep that babies and toddlers need. It’s important to pay attention to your child’s unique pattern and what works best for them, but this is a good starting point to help you schedule naps and bedtime.

Why is a sleep schedule important for babies and toddlers?

Just like adults, babies and toddlers benefit from a rigid sleep routine – it helps to set their body clock, which makes them sleepy and wake up around the same time every day. This encourages them to get regular, good-quality slumber, vital for their development and health. Have you ever wondered what happens while we sleep? Let’s find out…

  • We process memories
  • We grow and repair our bodies
  • We consolidate new skills and information
  • We improve our creativity and problem-solving skills
  • We regulate our emotions

Without a consistent routine, we can find ourselves not getting enough sleep and becoming cranky or feeling run-down – we’ve all had one of those days. While there are always unexpected events that can interrupt our regular schedule, try to stick to it as best as possible, no matter what age you are.

Baby yawning Baby yawning

What is day/night confusion and how do you fix it?

After growing in the womb’s darkness, babies aren’t born with a naturally calibrated circadian rhythm, as they can’t tell the difference between night and day. The phenomenon is called “day/night confusion”, and babies will often grow out of it within 1-8 weeks.

There are some things you can do to help them along the way, such as creating the right sleep environment. Think about using blackout blinds or a sunrise lamp; these can help them quickly associate darkness with sleep.

Can babies sleep too much?

Just like adults, some babies are just sleepier than others. It takes about 6 months for them to establish their circadian rhythm, so up until then, their sleep schedule may be all over the place. Generally, a baby cannot sleep too much. However, if your tot’s need for snooze makes you anxious, there are a few things to look out for…

  • Check their diaper – if they show signs of dehydration, they may sleep too long without feeding.
  • Take their temperature to check for infections or illness.
  • Is it hard to wake them, or are they lethargic during awake periods? This can indicate an underlying medical condition rather than a love of sleep.
  • A lack of interest in food or inability to gain weight could be signs of a deeper problem.
If your baby displays any symptoms that worry you, you should schedule an appointment with your GP or post-natal team.
Mum holding babies finger Mum holding babies finger

8 top tips for implementing a sleep routine

Ready to get your sleep back on track? Here are some of our best tips to help you and your family get in the habit of good sleep…

1. Have a consistent wind-down routine

Start by signalling it’s time for bed. For very young babies, this may include feeding, bathing, changing their sleep clothes, and dimming the lights. As they get older, you can start tasking them with things like tidying up and getting their bed ready. This will turn their mind to sleep.

2. Build good sleep associations

Putting your baby into their cot or toddler bed is highly recommended when they are drowsy but not yet asleep. This will help them connect their bed with falling asleep, encouraging them to close their eyes once they’re tucked in and helping them to learn how to fall asleep by themselves. If your toddler is used to nodding off in your arms or bed, they may be reluctant to stay on their own at first.

3. Create a peaceful sleep environment

Your bedroom really does influence your sleep quality. Make sure that it is lovely and dark, be mindful of the temperature, and try reading bedtime stories to soothe your little one into sweet dreams. When they are tiny, it’s essential to ensure their sleep space is safe – keep all bedding tightly tucked in, remove any choking hazards, and ensure the mattress is firm and supportive.

Find out more about creating a restful space for your little one.

4. Follow age-appropriate sleep patterns

We’re sure we would all love it if our babies naturally slept and woke when we did – unfortunately, it doesn’t work this way. However, we can live harmoniously with different sleep patterns. Be aware of how much sleep your little one needs at their developmental stage and their “wake windows”. This refers to how much time they spend awake before they start to get sleepy; if you can track this, you can anticipate when to schedule naps.

5. Learn their sleep cues

The best way to figure out a proper schedule for your baby is to learn from them. Babies give us so much information; try to learn to understand their communication. Look for common signs of sleepiness, such as yawning, rubbing their eyes, fussing, and becoming restless.

6. Avoid overtiredness

This is easier said than done sometimes. An overtired baby will be harder to put down, and an overtired toddler may not want to go to sleep or throw a tantrum, but it’s important to stick to a routine. Try not to keep them awake longer than they want, and be vigilant around their sleepy cues.

7. Adjust as they grow

As we’ve mentioned, babies develop very quickly during their first few years of life. It’s time to embrace their growth and adapt to them. As your little one progresses from infancy to toddlerhood, you can expect fewer daytime naps and less sleep time overall, so adjusting your sleep and wake time accordingly will help everyone feel better.

8. Let them figure it out

As new parents, reacting to every noise and fuss can be instinctual. But when they get older, you can give them more opportunities to self-soothe, which will help them sleep through the night. Researchers found by 3 months, babies are pretty good at resettling themselves.

For more advice to help your little one get the precious rest they need, explore our children & parents hub. And, if you’re looking to update their bedroom into a cosy space of relaxation, take a look at our kids’ beds, mattresses, cots, and more.

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