By this age, your baby should be well on the way toward an established sleep pattern. Some infants, particularly those who are breastfed, may still wake at night. But most no longer need a middle-of-the-night feeding.
How Long Will My Baby Sleep?
Most babies this age sleep about 14 hours a day, which includes nighttime sleeping and at least two naps. The average amount of daytime sleep is now 3-4 hours.
Your baby would rather be with you than anywhere else. Your tot may wake up after a 20-minute nap because he or she would rather play with you than sleep. But naps, usually one in the morning and one in the afternoon, are still important and prevent your baby from being too cranky to sleep at night.
If you feel that naps are interfering with your baby's bedtime, you can wake the baby from an afternoon nap a little earlier. But if your baby is overly tired, he or she will not sleep well at night.
Most babies "sleep through the night" with a stretch of 5 or 6 hours of sleep.
Follow these safety precautions with your little one:
Place your baby on his or her back to sleep, not on the stomach or side. The rate of SIDS has gone way down since the The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) introduced this recommendation in 1992. Sleeping on the stomach with little-to-no ability to change head positions can block babies' tiny airways and cause them to "rebreathe" their own carbon dioxide. In this position, babies also can get overheated (another risk factor for SIDS) and might have their mouths or noses blocked by bedding.
Once babies can roll over on their own, usually around 5 to 6 months of age, they may choose not to stay on their backs all night long. Place your baby on his or her back to sleep, but don't worry if your little one picks another sleep position. If you have any questions about your baby's sleep position, talk to your doctor.
Make sure your crib meets current safety standards. Use a firm crib mattress with a sheet that fits snugly.
Do not put anything else in the crib or bassinet. Items that can touch a baby's face — such as plush toys, pillows, blankets, and bumper pads — also can block breathing.
Watch out for other hazards. Avoid items with cords, ties, or ribbons that can wrap around a baby's neck, and objects with any kind of sharp edge or corner. Look around for things that your baby can touch from a seated or standing position in the crib. Hanging mobiles, wall hangings, pictures, draperies, and window blind cords could be harmful if they are within a baby's reach.
Although many cultures endorse bed-sharing, there is a risk that the baby can suffocate or strangle, and multiple studies show that there's a higher incidence of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome) in households where the baby slept in the parents' bed. This is especially true for babies of mothers who smoke. A safer option is to room-share and have a separate crib or bassinet in the room with you. You can enjoy many of the benefits of bed-sharing (making feeding easier, getting back to sleep faster, etc.) without the risks.
You probably have a bedtime routine that you're sticking to. If you haven't established one, start now. Soothing activities that lead up to "night-night" time can help relax your baby. A warm bath followed by stories or singing will signal a transition to sleep, and these same activities can be used at bedtime for years.
You'll probably want your baby to start falling asleep on his or her own. This may mean performing your nighttime routine and putting the baby into the crib while he or she is still awake. If the baby cries, stay away for a few minutes. Your baby may settle down and go to sleep.
If the crying continues, go back in and soothe your baby for a moment without picking him or her up. This may go on a few times until your baby figures out that the crying is not getting results. This can be tough for parents, since it's upsetting to hear your baby cry. Try to remember that if you know your baby is safe, a little crying now so that you can all sleep better later is the healthier choice.
This is just one method of encouraging sleep; others can also be effective. Talk to your child's doctor to discuss different options.
Why Does My Baby Wake at Night?
Even a baby who has been sleeping through the night (anywhere from 6-12 hours) will sometimes wake in the wee hours. After you've ruled out teething pain, illness, or an extremely dirty diaper, it's best to let your baby get back to sleep on his or her own. Give your baby a few fussy minutes before you respond, then after seeing that everything is OK, leave your baby alone to fall back to sleep. Remember: Any cuddling, feeding, or talking you do may prompt your baby to wake each night for this attention.
If your baby is waking up many times each night, perhaps there is another reason. Is your baby too big for the bassinet? Move him or her to a full-size crib. Do you still have the baby in your bedroom? Your little one may be sensitive to your presence and might need to be put in his or her own room to get a good night's sleep. Is the baby's room too warm? Too cold? Too dark? Explore these possibilities.
Another common sleep "problem" at this age is the early riser — the baby who begins to babble or cry for you before dawn. There is probably nothing you can do to prevent your baby from waking when ready, but a few safe toys placed in the crib after baby wakes up may soothe your baby for a little while longer, and a window shade to keep out the first light of day may let you get another few minutes of sleep.
When to Call the Doctor
If you have ruled out external reasons for nighttime waking and you still think your baby's not sleeping enough (or is even sleeping too much), don't hesitate to call your doctor.