There is no single normal sleep pattern in babies and young children. Sleep patterns change rapidly over the first 3 years of life, with lots of variation between individual children. The amount of sleep crying will also change over time.
Babies have shorter sleep cycles than adults and spend more time in light sleep, meaning that there are more chances for them to cry, grunt, or make other noises in their sleep.
Cultural and family norms can also affect sleep expectations. With the advice of a healthcare professional, caregivers can choose sleep strategies that work for them, their culture, and the needs and personality of their baby.
This article discusses average sleep patterns for babies of different ages. However, there is a lot of variation, and if a baby has a different sleep pattern from those given below, there is often no cause for concern.
Newborns (0–1 month)
Sleep is unpredictable in the first month, often punctuated by brief waking periods followed by naps and longer stretches of sleep. Some babies seem to have confused night and day. Sleep crying is common.
Babies typically wake every 2–3 hours, and sometimes even more often, to eat.
Exposing a baby to natural daylight and establishing a routine may help regulate their sleep patterns. For most babies of this age, however, a regular sleep schedule or long periods of sleep at night are unlikely.
Older newborns (1–3 months)
Newborns aged 1–3 months are still adjusting to life outside the womb. Some begin to develop a regular sleep schedule, though sleeping through the night is unlikely.
At this age, babies often cry out in their sleep or wake up crying if they are hungry. Sleep sessions typically last 3.5 hours or under.
Infants (3–7 months)
Between 3 and 7 months, some babies begin sleeping longer stretches or sleeping through the night. There is still considerable variation between babies.
Some babies also experience a sleep regression around 4 months that changes their sleep pattern.
Later in this period, many babies develop a sleep schedule of two daily naps and a longer period of sleep at night. Establishing a daily routine and a nighttime sleep routine can help.
Infants (7–12 months)
Most babies will sleep through the night by the time they are 9 months old. At around a year old, some babies drop down to just one nap per day. Others may need two naps per day well into their second year of life.
Toddlers (12 months and older)
Toddlers need 12–14 hours of sleep per day, divided between their nap and nighttime sleep. Most drop down to a single daily nap by 18 months of age.
Toddlers may experience occasional shifts in their sleep habits when something disrupts their routine, they are sick, or they go through a major developmental shift. This may include more crying than usual.
A child who routinely sleeps through the night, for example, may wake at 3 a.m. ready to play for a few nights.
Sleep can be a health indicator
Sleep problems in babies can be an indicator of some health problems, and for pediatricians, sleep patterns are an important parameter for the development and health of the child. Using a health & development tracker to track your child’s health and development is one of the best things you can do to keep track of your child’s health and development.
Download Momly free at Apple App Store
Momly is a free health and development diary app that allows you to monitor many different parameters, especially your child’s health, development, skills and mood. By tracking your child’s development and health with Momly, you can create a comprehensive health report using the records you create whenever you need it, and share it with your doctor.
Read more about health diaries: 5 Benefits of Maintaining a Regular Health Diary and Why You Should Use One
Sleep can be challenging, especially in the early months and years. Every baby is unique and has their own set of needs and tendencies.
Caregivers can find ways to work with a baby’s temperament to maximize sleep, soothe crying, and ensure that the baby feels safe and comfortable at night.
In most cases, crying out in sleep is not dangerous or a sign of a serious problem. Sooner or later, almost all babies do it, and eventually, all babies sleep.