Baby’s sleep needs at 3 to 6 months

Some more sleep tips from

By 3 to 4 months of age, babies begin to settle into a sleep and wake routine.

How much sleep your baby needs

Between 3 to 6 months, your baby needs between 12 to 14 hours sleep across the day and night. They will usually nap for around 3 to 4 hours. There should be 2 to 2.5 hours between naps – see below for more information.


Your baby may still go straight to sleep after a feed. They’ll then wake for a while before the next feed is due. By about 6 months your baby will stay awake for longer and be more alert between feeds.

Waking during the night

It is normal for your baby to wake briefly during the night. Avoid stimulating your baby if this happens. For example, by talking loudly or playing with them.

They may drift back to sleep or cry. Settle and soothe them if they are crying by talking softly and holding them. Feed them if hungry.

Difference between day and night

At this stage they are starting to identify the difference between day and night. A bedtime routine can help show your baby that sleep time is approaching.

Bedtime routine

You can build a sleep routine by:

  • having your baby out in the daylight early in the day and being active in the evenings. This helps them to make the hormone melatonin that helps them to go sleep
  • not exposing your baby to bright screens like a mobile phone, tablet or TV. This can make it harder for them to get to sleep.
  • having ‘wind down’ or quiet time in the hour before bed – use dim lights and a low voice in the evening along with relaxing activities like a bath
  • feeding your baby after a bath or after you change them into sleeping clothes – have 30 minutes between feeding and putting them to bed
  • putting your baby to sleep in the same place when at home
  • putting them into the cot while awake so that they fall asleep where they will be waking up.
  • avoiding feeding or rocking to sleep – otherwise they’ll always need this to sleep and if they wake up during the night

During the night

  • Use a yellow or red dim light when you feed your baby at night as a bright one may over-stimulate them – avoid blue lights and bright screens in the bedroom.
  • Speak to your baby in a quiet calm voice when you are feeding them at night – talking loudly may encourage them to stay awake.
  • Put your baby back into the cot drowsy but awake so that they wake up where they fall asleep.
  • Don’t change your baby’s nappy during sleep time unless it is dirty.


Naps for babies and young children

It is important for your baby or toddler to take naps during the day. Children who are well rested find it easier to get to sleep at night. Children will usually continue to take naps until around age 3.

Naps can help their:

  • growth
  • development
  • health

When your baby or toddler should nap

Babies nap for between 3 to 4 hours per day. At 2 months of age, your baby will take around 4 naps a day. They will reduce this to 1 in the middle of the day at around 12 to 15 months of age.

You should space out the length of time between your baby or toddler’s naps.

A baby or toddler who naps frequently will not get the same benefit as one who has solid naps. Look at how long they have been awake and judge when they’re due to sleep.

Spacing out naps

  • Up to 3 months: there should be 1 to 2 hours between naps
  • 3 to 6 months: there should be 2 to 2.5 hours between naps
  • 6 to 9 months: there should be 2.5 to 3 hours between naps
  • 1 year or over: 1 nap a day
  • 3 years or over: phase out naps

Babies over 9 months of age should not sleep after 3.30 pm in the day. This is because it will cause difficulties with bedtime and may also cause early morning waking.

Older children should not have naps in the late afternoon. This is because it may also make it hard for them to go to sleep at bedtime.

Help your baby or toddler nap

Your child will find it easier to nap during the day if you:

  • have a consistent daily routine so that your baby or toddler knows when it is time to nap
  • do not let your child play or relax in bed. Your child’s bed should be for sleeping only
  • keep their room dark during nap time
  • take off your baby or toddler’s shoes and outer clothes so they do not become too warm
  • give them a special blanket or toy as a comforter
  • read them a story in a calming voice

It is better to let your child wake up on their own, as they will be in a better mood.

For more information on all aspects of your child’s health, well being and development see

If you need some support on sleep issues with your child please contact your Public Health Nurse who has been specially trained. You can find contact details for your PHN on the Parent Hub Donegal Services page by clicking this link      Put in the region of Donegal you are in ( will help you) and click update.

Baby’s sleep needs 0 – 3 months

The website is a great source of information about all aspects of your child’s well being and development. Here is what they say about sleep in those early months.

Newborn baby’s sleep needs at 0 to 3 months

Newborn babies spend most of their time asleep. They haven’t yet developed a set sleep pattern.

Your newborn baby will wake up regularly to be fed. It doesn’t matter if it’s day time or night time.

This can be very hard to cope with. It will get easier. Try to sleep when your baby is asleep.

From birth, some babies need more or less sleep than other babies.

Newborn babies are too young to follow strict routines. You can start to introduce changes to bedtime at around 3 months of age. For example, changing into pyjamas, bath time, stories or singing time.

It often takes several months for a baby’s day to night pattern of waking and sleeping to become settled.

How much sleep a newborn baby needs

Your baby will need about 9 to 18 hours of sleep until they are 3 months old. The average they will sleep is about 14.5 hours.

Your baby is unique and may sleep differently to other babies. Some babies sleep for long periods, others for short bursts. They will sleep during the day and night. They might sleep for anything between a few minutes to a few hours at a time.

Newborn babies don’t know the difference between day and night. Their sleep is more likely controlled by their tummies.

Waking up for feeds

Newborn babies will wake up to be fed. Your baby will sleep for 1 to 3 hours until their next feed. Their sleep time gets longer as they get older. Their tummy influences their body clock.

If their tummy is full, they will sleep. If they are hungry, they will wake.

If you are worried that your baby is not getting the right amount of sleep, talk to your GP or public health nurse

Putting your baby to sleep

Your baby may go straight to sleep after a feed.

When possible, put your baby down to sleep drowsy but awake. This might help them fall asleep where they will be waking up.

Your baby will be awake for 1 to 2 hours between sleeps.

Signs your newborn baby is tired

A newborn baby will probably be tired if they have been awake for 1 to 1.5 hours.

There are signs that will tell you when they’re ready to sleep. Avoid stimulating your baby, such as talking loudly or playing with them.

Some of the signs are:

  • staring into space
  • fussing or grizzling
  • crying
  • frowning
  • arching back
  • can’t be distracted
  • jerky arm or legs movements

Keeping your baby awake

Keeping your baby awake during the day will not help them sleep better at night.

If your baby is overtired it is much harder for them to get to sleep.

Where your baby should sleep

Cot death or sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) is the sudden and unexpected death of a baby who seems healthy during sleep.

It can happen in a cot, pram, bed, car seat, baby seat or anywhere a baby is sleeping.

The safest place for your baby to sleep is in a cot in the same room as you.

Background noises

Background noises such as music or children playing may not wake them but a sudden loud noise might.

Your baby’s sleeping position

Always put your baby to sleep on their back with their feet touching the end of the cot.

Do not let your baby sleep while lying on their tummy. Babies who sleep on their tummies have a higher risk of cot death. You can give your baby some tummy time’ when they are awake.

If your baby always lies with their head in the same position they might develop a ‘flat head’. This is called plagiocephaly.

You can help prevent this when putting your baby down to sleep on their back. When they are lying flat, you can alternate their head position so that sometimes they face left and sometimes they face right.

Related topic

Safe sleep practices for your newborn

Coping with disturbed newborn sleep

Your baby’s sleep pattern is probably not going to fit in with your sleep pattern. Try to sleep when your baby sleeps.

Some things that may help:

  • if you have a partner, ask for help
  • ask family and friends for help with chores so you can take a nap

Breastfeeding and caffeine

If you are breastfeeding, caffeine may affect your baby’s sleep. The recommended limit for breastfeeding mothers is 6 cups of tea or 2 cups of coffee a day. For filtered coffee, you should only have one cup a day.

For lots more information on all aspects of your child’s health, well being and development see

If you need some support on sleep issues with your child please contact your Public Health Nurse who has been specially trained. You can find contact details for your PHN on the Parent Hub Donegal Services page by clicking this link      Put in the region of Donegal you are in ( will help you) and click update.

Sleep in children – what to expect

  • Newborns sleep between 9-18 hours per day with an average of 14.5 hours sleep.
  • Infants (2-12 months) sleep 12-13 hours including about 3 hours of naps during the day.
  • Toddlers (1-3 years) sleep 11-13 hours per day including naps but by 18 months most toddlers have one nap of 1-3 hours per day.
  • Pre-school children (3-5 years) sleep 11-12 hours per day. Most stop taking naps between 3-5 years.

A recent large study looking at sleep in Irish children found that substantial proportions of mothers report children’s sleep patterns are at least a small problem for them (30% in infancy; 22% at 3 years and 12% at five years). This study highlights the need for parents to have information on how to develop positive sleep patterns.

Most sleep problems involve children having difficulty getting to sleep or difficulty staying asleep. The most common type of sleep problem is a sleep association which requires physical contact from a parent or feeding during the night.

Sleep Hygiene:

This is the phrase used to provide an environment conducive to sleep. This will make it easier for the child to fall asleep and stay asleep.

Babies by 3-4 months of age begin to settle in to a bedtime routine. You can help this by:

  • Making a clear difference between day and night.
  • When at home always put the baby to sleep in the same place
  • Put the baby in to the cot drowsy but awake
  • Avoid feeding or rocking the baby to sleep
  • Ensure that your baby is not hungry going to bed

The following are ways to promote satisfactory sleep in all ages (Stores 2009; p.27)

Principle Routine
Sleeping Environment conducive to sleep
  • Familiar Setting
  • Comfortable bed
  • Correct Temperature (ideally between16-20 C)
  • Darkened quiet room (the sleepy hormone melatonin is produced in the dark. Children with sensory issues can be sensitive to noise.)
  • Non-stimulating (not too many toys or gadgets. The bedroom should be restful)
  • No negative associations (punishment)
  • Bedtime routines
  • Consistent bedtime & wakening time (even on weekends)
  • Going to bed only when tired
  • Falling asleep without parents
  • Regular daily exercise & exposure to daylight
  • Too much time awake in bed
  • Overexcitement before bed or using the bedroom as a place for entertainment
  • Excessive late napping during the day (no naps after 3.30pm after 9 months of age)
  • Late evening exercise.
  • Caffeine containing drinks

Setting limits at bedtime

It is natural for children to test boundaries and many children do this at bedtime. Some children resist going to bed whilst others go to bed but get up repeatedly. Children are most likely to test limits between 3-6 years.

As a parent you need to set clear limits and boundaries at bedtime, even if your child objects. Here’s how you can make this easier.

  • Have consistent limits at bedtime. If you say two stories then stick to this! Ensure that your child has had supper, a drink and been to the toilet to avoid requests for this after you have settled them.
  • Don’t put your child to bed too early! If they are taking a long time to fall asleep then they may be in bed too early. A child should fall asleep within 30 minutes of going to bed. You may need to make bedtime later for a while until they can do this then gradually bring bedtime back by 15 minutes a night to the bedtime you want.
  • Have a consistent bedtime routine, done in the same way each night, they learn to know what to expect.
  • If your child gets out of bed or comes in to your room then return them to their own bed. Reward your child for staying in their own bed. Use a reward chart and have a “bigger” reward if they get 3 stickers on their chart. The “bigger” reward could be an activity like a trip to the park.
  • The key to success is consistency! Keep going even if you meet resistance initially, it will get better!

Night wakenings

Night wakenings are one of the most common problems parents report and are mostly seen in babies and toddlers.

To understand night wakenings it is important to realize that we all waken briefly during the night. There are two different types of sleep. Deep sleep (called non rapid eye movement sleep) and the lighter stages of sleep (called rapid eye movement sleep). We all have sleep cycles during the night were we transition between deep and light sleep.

For small children they typically fall in to a deep sleep within 5 minutes of going to sleep. This first sleep cycle lasts about 3-4 hours and is mostly deep sleep. As the child transitions to lighter sleep they stir and move around and may open their eyes. If everything is the same as when they first went to sleep they will fall asleep again quickly. However if there is something missing then the child will try to recreate the conditions they had to initially fall asleep.

In order to avoid night wakenings the child needs to learn to fall asleep in his own bed without props or a parent present. Common props or sleep associations are physical contact from a parent; rocking or feeding.

You can help your child sleep well by:

  • Establishing a good bedtime routine done in the same way each night at around the same time.
  • Encourage the use of blankets/teddies which can help the child feel secure when the parent is not present. (Avoid toys with music or lights).
  • Ensure the bedroom is dark and quiet.
  • Put the child to bed drowsy but awake (they should wake up where they went to sleep).
  • If you usually hold your child or rub their back then sit beside the cot/bed to let them know you are there without the physical contact (if they have contact falling asleep they usually need it to get back to sleep during the night).

Your local Public health Nurse can provide more information and support relating to behavioural sleep difficulties if you need it.


Mindell JA & Owens JA (2015) A Clinical Guide to Pediatric Sleep: Diagnosis and Management of Sleep Problems, 3nd edition.

Hanafin S. Sleep patterns and problems in infants and young children in Ireland. Child Care Health Dev. 2017: 1-6.