The Cliffs Notes Sleep Guide (0-36 months):

How Much Sleep Does Your Child Need? (click on the chart)


  • Newborn babies typically sleep about 18 hours a day, but may sleep as little as 14 hours
  • A tight swaddle will help babies feel warm and secure, as if they are snoozing away in the womb.
  • Babies should sleep on their back.

One Month:

  • Most infants will still awaken every 2-4 hours during the night for feedings. To attempt to lengthen the sleep periods during the night, it is recommended that you feed your infant every 2-3 hours during the day.

Two Months:

  • Most infants are still awakening every 3-4 hours. Sleep patterns are highly variable, and the duration of sleep is not related to the amount or kind of feeding.
  • Fight the urge to talk or play during nighttime feedings or diaper changing.
  • If your baby is sleeping a lot when you want him or her awake — or vice versa — encourage wakefulness during the day while also allowing your baby to have distinct sleeping periods. You also can rouse your baby for the late-night feeding at a time that suits your sleep schedule. For instance, if your baby gets sleepy after the 7 p.m. feeding and sleeps until 2 a.m. before feeding again, wake the baby to feed at 11 p.m. and then put him or her down to sleep until an early morning feeding at 5 or 6 a.m. It may take a few nights to establish this routine, but it will happen if you’re consistent.

Four Months:

  • Typically, by age 3 months or so, babies have started to develop more of a regular sleep/wake pattern and have dropped most of their night feedings. And somewhere between 3 and 6 months, experts say, most babies are ready for sleep training and are capable of sleeping through the night (a stretch of five or six hours).
  • What is “Sleep Training”?  Where do I begin? Well, first…let me mention several very popular books on the topic.

T. Berry Brazelton’s “Touchpoints”

Gary Ezzo’s “On Becoming Babywise”

Richard Ferber’s “Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems”

Tracy Hogg’s “Secrets of the Baby Whisperer”

Harvey Karp’s “The Happiest Baby on the Block” (*The Five S’s, see below for details)

Jodi Mindell’s “Sleeping Through the Night”

Elizabeth Pantley’s “The No-Cry Sleep Solution”

The Sears family’s “The Baby Sleep Book”

Marc Weissbluth’s “Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child”

Okay, now that you have at least heard of these books, you can nod your head, or say “uh huh” on the phone, when your friends start talking about “BabyWise” or “The 5 S’s” (see below for details). However, I suspect that you probably do not have time to read entire books on infant sleeping, so I am going to give you the cliffs notes version. In a nutshell, here are 5 major methods of sleep training.

The full “Cry It Out Method”. You let your baby cry herself to sleep without comforting her (also known as the extinction method).

The modified “Cry It Out Method”. You let your baby cry but reassure her at regular intervals (also known as graduated extinction), without picking her up or removing her from the crib.

Soothing bedtime routines. You establish routines that help your baby wind down then turn out the lights and don’t respond to any crying. Example routines are: taking a warm bath, reading to your baby, singing to them softly, saying prayers, etc.

Parent education. Before your baby arrives or right after, you learn about infant sleep and how to help your baby establish healthy sleep habits, such as putting her to bed sleepy but awake.

Scheduled awakenings. This rarely used tactic involves waking your baby before she would normally get up on her own. The awakenings get fewer and further between as you progress, until finally they’re phased out altogether.  My opinion on this is method is that you “Never Wake a Sleeping Baby”, unless you have to go somewhere, or unless she is older and napping into the evening. My cut-off was always 6pm for a late nap wake-up to ensure a smoother put-down that night.

What method do I recommend?  A common sense combination of “all of the above”, adjusted for your individual child.

Six Months:

  • If your baby now sleeps for nine or ten hours at night, it means he’s figured out how to settle back to sleep — a sign that you’re raising a good sleeper.
  • If your baby isn’t yet sleeping at least five or six hours straight, you’re not alone. Many babies still wake up at night for feedings in the 6- to 9-month stage — though most are ready for night weaning if that’s what you choose. But babies this age don’t necessarily wake up because they’re hungry.
  • We all wake up several times every night for brief periods of time. And as adults, we put ourselves back to sleep each time — so quickly we don’t even remember it in the morning. If your baby hasn’t mastered this skill, he’ll wake up and cry during the night even if he’s not hungry.

Nine Months:

  • Infants may resist going to sleep due to separation anxiety. If this occurs, a favorite toy or possession may prove helpful. It is also not unusual for a child this age to awaken at night. This is usually related to teething or rapid achievement of developmental milestones.
  • It is helpful to develop a consistent bedtime routine. Experiment to see what works best. A warm bath, a massage, rocking, a story or lullaby, soft music, and a breast or bottle feeding will all help your child to relax and put them in a bedtime routine.
  • At this age, most babies sleep pattern are fairly typical. After the first 1-2 hours of deep sleep, your baby will move into a stage of lighter snoozing. This pattern of deep and light may occur up to four to six times per night. During the lighter phases of sleep your child may open his eyes, look around, or cry for you. Go to your baby, touch them and make sure they are okay, reassure them that you are still around; however it is suggested that you don’t pick them up. It is also suggested that you don’t turn on the light, rock the baby, or walk with her. Handled properly, this period of exasperating nighttime awakenings should last no more than a few weeks.

12 Months:

  • Nap time may be more of a struggle, due to separation anxiety and excitement from play. If this occurs, a favorite toy or possession may prove helpful. It is also not unusual for a child this age to awaken at night. This is usually related to teething or rapid achievement of developmental milestones.
  • Some time between 12 months and 18 months, you may want to consider consolidating day time sleep to one nap. This can often result in more quality sleep for the 1.5 year old and can be easier to work into busy adult schedules.

18 Months-42 months (1.5 – 3.5 years):

  • Your child is ready to move from a crib to a toddler bed between 18-42 months, depending on your circumstances (your toddler’s size, a second child, etc.). Of course, you’ll need to move your toddler to a bed when he’s simply too big or too active to sleep in a crib anymore. And once he’s potty-trained, she will need to be able to get out of bed to use the toilet.
  • However, don’t be too quick to push aside the crib either. Toddlers often do not have the self-control and maturity to remain within the boundaries of a toddler bed. So test out your “big boy” or “big girl” bed, however just as a potty training gone awry can revert back to diapers, you can always put your child back into his or her crib.

Is your Child Still Not Sleeping Through the Night?

  • Try your best to maintain a consistent bedtime and routine.
  • Be aware of limiting “Sleep Onset Associations”. Basically, this means that your child has learned to fall asleep by being rocked, held, or nursed …and now requires these same conditions (and Mom or Dad!) to fall asleep again.  Of course, with a new baby, cuddling and rocking can help them move past their light sleep phase into a deeper one. However, for toddlers and older children, these associations lie at the root of most sleeping issues for the first several years. Think about separating feeding and cuddling time from “lights out” bed time.
  • Provide “transitional objects” like blankies, lovies, or stuffed animals to ease the pain of separation from you at bedtime.
  • The strategy of putting your child to sleep later with the hope that he will sleep longer generally backfires. When children are cranky, tired, and overstimulated at night (by lights, TV, sound, etc.), it can be even more difficult for them to settle down for the onset of sleep.


End Note (by request)…*What are the 5 S’s?

In a nutshell, Dr. Harvey Karp developed the “five S’s system” to help weary parents calm crying babies. Some babies will need all five, others just a few to help induce what he calls the “calming reflex.”

Swaddling – Tight swaddling provides the continuous touching and support the fetus experienced while still in Mom’s womb.

Side/stomach position – You place your baby, while holding her, either on her left side to assist in digestion, or on her stomach to provide reassuring support. Once your baby is happily asleep, you can safely put her in her crib, on her back.

Shushing Sounds – These sounds imitate the continual whooshing sound made by the blood flowing through arteries near the womb. This white noise can be in the form of a vacuum cleaner, a hair dryer, a fan and so on. The good news is that you can easily save the motors on your household appliances and get a white noise CD which can be played over and over again with no worries.

Swinging – Newborns are used to the swinging motions that were present when they were still in Mom’s womb. Every step mom took, every movement caused a swinging motion for your baby. After your baby is born, this calming motion, which was so comforting and familiar, is abruptly taken away. Your baby misses the motion and has a difficult time getting used to it not being there. “It’s disorienting and unnatural,” says Karp. Rocking, car rides, and other swinging movements all can help.

Sucking – “Sucking has its effects deep within the nervous system,” notes Karp, “and triggers the calming reflex and releases natural chemicals within the brain.” This “S” can be accomplished with breast, bottle, pacifier or even a finger.


One response to “The Cliffs Notes Sleep Guide (0-36 months):

  1. Laura Tillinghast Hine

    Kim, you are seriously awesome. My son is one month old now and I just cannot imagine how you manage to have such an AWESOME website and blog while being a full-time momma. I just bought a few things for travel off of your recommended list and the links, too. We’re minimalists, though I realize the baby does need some kind of toy for development and to enhance our interaction (though I am happy as can be with our current staring into each others’ eyes as we do tracking and sing). So, just a note of thanks for your great site. I have been power-reading “Healthy Sleep Habits”, too as I realize Stuart really does not sleep enough, so I am grateful for your Cliff’s Notes versions of these other books all combined!! The chart is super useful as well. I hope you keep these blogs posted for many years as I intent to refer back…
    much Joy

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