Baby Sleep 101 for Mombies

My babies all sleep through the night now, but it wasn’t long ago that I was a sleep-deprived “mombie”. I can’t promise that these tips will work for everyone, but they worked for me 5 times. There are a lot of resources available for baby sleep, so this is more of a concise guide than a novel. Teaching babies to sleep isn’t hard, but it does require consistency.

Birth – 6 Weeks

Don’t judge your baby’s sleep habits by the first few days at home. They can be really rough! That said, things are usually a lot better after a week when you’re not quite so sore and weepy.

I’ve never had a newborn mix up night and day, but I still follow the principles of helping them know the difference. Daytime sleep happens in the living room and nighttime sleep in the crib.

My babies started off waking twice a night until about 6 weeks old. Then, they usually dropped to just once.

In the early days, there’s not much of a difference between naps and nighttime sleep. Basically, newborns are almost always asleep!

baby sleep newborn
my #5 at 2 weeks old

Sleep Goals for Birth – 6 Weeks

Heal from the worst of childbirth and take it easy as much as possible. Also, do whatever you need to get your baby to sleep if it doesn’t seem to come naturally. I didn’t have a lot of luck with pacifiers, but I used swaddling, the swing, and nursing to sleep. Try not to stress about the lack of a schedule. It’s not anyone’s fault, and it won’t last forever.

# of naps: 4 – 8

Length of naps: 15 minutes – 4 hours

Time between naps: 45 minutes – 1 hour

Bedtime: way too late for comfort 🙁

Nighttime sleep: 8 – 14 hours

Hours of sleep per day: 14 – 18 hours

(Borrowed from this chart.) For more information, see this sleep guide.

6 weeks – 3 months

In this stage, my babies starting teasing me by sleeping through the night sometimes. Those nights were blessedly restful once I got over the initial panic of, “Where’s my baby? Is he/she still alive?”

If you make it past the 6 week mark, you are doing great. 6 weeks is supposedly the fussiest time in a baby’s life, and I believe it. Even the calmest baby has fussy days. That also means the newborn coma-like sleep is over. If you didn’t need “cheats” to get your baby to sleep before, you will need them now. As I mentioned before, I relied heavily on swaddling, nursing, and the swing. When I reached my limit of fussy baby, I’d hand him/her over to James for some karaoke before taking over again. Taking a break for 20 minutes can make a huge difference.

baby sleep 0 - 3 months
my #2 at 3 months old

Sleep Goals for 6 Weeks – 3 Months

Use whatever you need to get your baby to sleep and don’t feel guilty about it! You won’t need these “cheats” forever.

# of naps: 3 – 4

Length of naps: 30 minutes – 2 hours

Time between naps: 1 – 2 hours

Bedtime: way too late for comfort but starting to get earlier

Nighttime sleep: 8 – 13 hours

Hours of sleep per day: 11 – 15 hours

(Borrowed from this chart.) For more information, see this sleep guide.

3 – 6 Months

Around 4 months (when I was on the ball), I started officially “sleep training” my babies. I started off by getting rid of the swing because it wasn’t as useful of a tool as swaddling and nursing to sleep. Sometimes I decided to quit using it just because the batteries ran out and I didn’t feel like buying more. True story.

For my two babies that took it, I weaned them from the pacifier around 6 months. It was starting to interfere with their sleep, so I figured it was time to nip that problem in the bud.

During this age range, I also moved my babies to their own rooms.

An awesome part about this age is nap consolidation! Once my babies dropped from 4 naps down to 3, life got a lot more predictable. It also got a lot easier to get things done because the 3 naps were longer than the 4 – 5 tiny ones.

A frustration I experienced during this stage was sleep regression. My babies would sometimes sleep all night from 6 weeks and on, but once 4 months hit, they started waking up again. It’s frustrating, but normal.

Another frustration: the 5 A.M. feeding. During the winter, I could maybe fall back asleep, but in the summer, no way. That means I’d lie in bed till 6:30 and get really tired around midday. It’s just a frustrating part of having a baby this age. Again, it’s temporary.

baby sleep 3 - 6 months
my #3 at 4 months old

Sleep Goals for 3 – 6 Months

Start taking away sleep aids you don’t need anymore (swing, pacifier, swaddle, etc.) Work toward putting your baby down for naps awake, but drowsy. Move your baby to his/her own room if you haven’t yet!

# of naps: 3

Length of naps: 1 – 2 hours

Time between naps: 2 hours

Bedtime: 8 – 10 P.M. (depending on when the last nap ends)

Nighttime sleep: 9 – 12 hours

Hours of sleep per day: 12 – 14 hours

(Borrowed from this chart.) For more information, see this sleep guide.

6 – 9 Months

This age range is the one where I completed sleep training and started living my life again. No, seriously. The only part I really put off was putting the baby to bed at night fully awake. For some reason, doing that really scared me even though I’d been doing it for naps for a couple of months already. I had always heard horror stories of babies screaming for hours on end, but that was never the case here. I think one child fussed (not screamed) for 20 minutes once.

By 7 – 8 months, my babies did all of the following:

  1. Went down for naps and bedtime awake.
  2. Stopped using all sleep aids (pacifier, swing, swaddle, nursing).
  3. Slept in a crib, not in my room. (3 of 5 got to share with a sibling right off the bat, so they weren’t alone.)
  4. Stopped waking up during the night for food.
  5. Kept a consistent nap schedule of 2 naps.
  6. Went to bed and got up at the same time each day (7:30 P.M. to 6:30 A.M.)

The transition to 2 naps was my cue to complete sleep training. With 3 naps, bedtime is still pretty late. Once the transition to 2 naps happens, bedtime gets a lot earlier. In our house, it’s 7:30.

baby sleep 6 - 9 months
my #4 at 7 months

Sleep Goals for 6 – 9 Months

Complete sleep training and rejoice!

# of naps: 2 – 3

Length of naps: 1 – 2 hours

Time between naps: 2 – 3 hours

Bedtime: late for 3 naps (9:00 P.M.), early for 2 (7:30 P.M.)

Nighttime sleep: 9 – 12 hours

Hours of sleep per day: 12 – 14 hours

(Borrowed from this chart.) For more information, see this sleep guide.

9 – 12 Months

At this point, nothing really changes. My babies were blessedly consistent in their sleep.

baby sleep 9 - 12 months
my #1 at 11 months

Sleep Goals for 9 – 12 Months

Pick up a new hobby with your new spare time.

# of naps: 2

Length of naps: 1 – 2 hours

Time between naps: 3 hours

Bedtime: 7:30 P.M.

Nighttime sleep: 10 – 12 hours

Hours of sleep per day: 12 – 14 hours

(Borrowed from this chart.) For more information, see this sleep guide.

12 – 18 Months

The big change during this age range is the transition from 2 naps to 1. My first baby did not make the transition until 18 months, but the others were all around 15 months. You will probably get a few funny videos of your child falling asleep at lunch. Once my babies transitioned to 1 nap, I set the cutoff time for 4 P.M. to make sure they’d be tired enough to go down for the night at 7:30 P.M. I still stand by that time because it works!

toddler sleeping
my #3 at 2 years

Sleep Goals for 12 – 18 Months

Transition to 1 nap. Sleep needs are about the same as a 9 – 12 month old.

More info here.

18 Months and Older

Transitioning to a Bed

At some point, your child has to sleep in a bed. The general principle is to make the transition when they can climb out of the crib. Funnily enough, only one of mine ever met that milestone at all, so he got transferred to a bed at 18 months. Everybody else was 2. It’s annoying for a few days, but if you are firm, they will stop getting out of bed when the novelty wears off.

When do naps stop?

For my older 3 kids, it was at 3 1/2 years. Every child tested me at 2 1/2 years to see if they could stop naps (including #4, who is currently 2 1/2). It lasted for a few weeks. When they realized I wasn’t going to budge, they started sleeping again. Here’s to hoping the last 2 make it to 3 1/2 years as well.

Sharing Your Bed

If you don’t want your kids to sleep in your bed, don’t let them, not even once. I have a strict rule of no kids in my bed, and it has worked. All 5 sleep soundly in their own rooms.

toddler sleeping
my #4 at 2 1/2 years. It was one of those days were he refused a nap, so this happened.

Sleep Goals for 18 Months and Older

# of naps: 1

Length of naps: 2 – 3 hours

Bedtime: 7:30 P.M.

Nighttime sleep: 10 – 12 hours

Hours of sleep per day: 12 – 14 hours

(Borrowed from this chart.) More info here.

Conclusion

Teaching my babies to sleep was (and is) a huge blessing in my life. I know this is a lot all at once, but the general principles are pretty simple. With a consistent routine, it’s really wasn’t much trouble for me to train good sleepers. The small amount of stress up front is well worth it if you consider all the hours of uninterrupted sleep you’ll get in return. The best time to start teaching good sleep habits is today! 🙂

a much-needed nap with my #1

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