There is bound to come a time in your little one’s life where you wonder if your baby is getting the right amount of sleep. This can be such a point of contention and can cause such unnecessary stress. I know I struggled with this! The constant self-doubt as to whether my baby was getting enough or too much sleep in the day. I want to put your mind at ease: there is no scientific backing behind wake windows or daily sleep needs. They are based on parents’ and professionals’ personal and professional accounts and experience. It would then make sense as to why some babies just don’t fit into what is “prescribed”.
One thing I will tell you though is that a baby will only sleep a certain number of hours in a 24 hour period. And this is different for every baby! Here is a good starting point…
See below a table taken from The Sleep Foundation for an average baby’s daily sleep needs (in a 24 hour period) per age:
(Scroll down for a better illustration of how sleep needs can vary)
Every baby is unique
It is important to note that every baby has unique sleep needs. Some babies might need more and some babies might need less to settle easily, sleep well and wake up at an appropriate time in the morning. A good way to tell if your little one is not getting enough sleep is to look at the provided average hours of sleep needed as a starting point. If your baby is getting an amount of sleep on the lower end of the average or less AND is displaying behaviour that might point to a lack of sleep (grumpy and grizzly in the day, falls asleep easily outside of nap times, fragmented night sleep etc.) then it might be that your little one needs more sleep. If you’re following my free 3-12 month or 1-3 year old schedules, you would then adjust the wake window so that the nap starts slightly earlier but still ending at the same time in the schedule to keep on track with the day’s feeds and naps.
Conversely if you think your little one is getting too much day sleep, use the average sleep totals in the above table as a reference point and judge your baby’s behaviour when settling and waking from naps and in the early morning. Waking happy and ready to go after short naps or early mornings could point to your little one needing less sleep (or bigger wake windows) than you think. You would then need to increase wake windows but then wake at the scheduled wake up time to keep on track for an appropriate bedtime.
Below is a table to account for lower and higher sleep needs babies which will give you a better idea of the variation that exists:
If you are unsure as to whether you have a higher or lower sleep needs baby, check out the below break down:
Low Sleep Needs Baby
- Seems content with less sleep
- Wakes happy from short naps
- Drops naps earlier than the average baby
- Needs more awake time than the average baby to settle well
- Rarely becomes dysregulated if a nap or bedtime starts later than normal
- Easy to wake from naps or in the morning
- Doesn’t seem tired when you try to settle for sleep after the “recommended” amount of awake time.
- Has split nights even if only getting the recommended amount of day sleep
High Sleep Needs
- Has never been able to tolerate wake windows recommended for age
- Becomes highly dysregulated if wake window is too long
- Often has to be woken from long naps
- Sleeps 11-12 hours overnight with above average day sleep
- Displays very obvious sleep cues
If you are struggling to get your little one into a good routine that works with their unique sleep needs (I get it, it’s such a puzzle), or if your little one is struggling with excessive night wake ups, I would love to help! It literally gives me such joy to work with parents to get the sleep that they and their little ones so desperately need in order to thrive.
Here’s how I can help:
>>Check out my DIY online guides:
The Happy Self-Settler Guide (3 months – 3 years)
Newborn Feeding and Sleep Guide (0-3 months)