Develop healthy sleep habits.

Sleep is a topic all new parents have questions about. Getting enough sleep is a common challenge for many parents.

Sleep patterns

Age 

Patterns 

Six months

  • May sleep 11 to 12 hours at night

  • Two naps; one in the morning, one if the afternoon (lasting one to two hours each)

  • May have longer stretches of sleep at night even “sleeping through”

  • There is no set age when babies should “sleep through the night”

12-18 months 

  • May sleep 14 hours per day including naps.

  • If your baby wakes at night and cries, check if there is anything wrong such as being too cold or too warm, but don’t take her out of the crib. Comfort her by stroking her forehead or talking softly to let her know you’re there. This helps your baby learn how to self-soothe, important steps toward falling back to sleep on her own.

18-24 months

  • May sleep 11-12 hours per day. Morning nap may disappear and be replaced with one longer afternoon nap.

Healthy sleep habits

  • Develop daily routines:
    • Set up a routine with regular meal, snack and nap schedules (even on weekends).
    • Have a consistent bedtime routine: bath, brush teeth, book and bed.
    • Remember that a child's needs are always changing so no routine should be rigid.
  • Recognize sleep cues - signs when your child is tired.
  • Keep naps in a consistent place rather than napping on the go in the car or stroller.
  • Wind down the action at bedtime and avoid TV watching.
  • Put your child to bed when he/she is drowsy but still awake. They are more likely to self-soothe to sleep.
  • Put your child into his/her own room if possible after six months of age.

Sleep cues

Learn sleep cues and put them down while they are still awake.

  • Decreased activity
  • Slower motions
  • Less vocal
  • Sucking is slower or weaker
  • Quieter, calmer
  • Eyes are less focused
  • Eyelids droop
  • Yawning

Fatigue and overtired signs

  • Fussing
  • Rubbing eyes
  • Irritable, cranky

Common myths

Sometimes parents will receive advice from well-meaning friends and family on how to help their child sleep through the night. Not all of this advice is supported by research and may actually have some negative effects. Here are some common pieces of advice that are not supported in research.

Myth: Keep your child awake in the day
Fact: Overtired babies will have more difficulty falling and staying asleep.

Myth: Introduce solids early or add cereal to the bottle
Fact: Adding cereal to a bottle is a choking hazard and solids before six months are not recommended.

Myth: Discontinue breastfeeding and/or introduce infant formula at night
Fact: breastfeeding is one of the best things you can do for the health of your baby. It is recommended to continue breastfeeding for two years and beyond.

Myth: Increase the volume of the night feed
Fact: babies know how much their bodies need and regulate it throughout the day and night. If you over feed a baby, he/she will tend to spit it up.

Soothing strategies

  • Tactile. Massaging, rubbing, kissing, rocking (up and down or side to side), position change while carrying (for example, changing from hip to shoulder), warm bath, hands-free swaddling while baby awake
  • Auditory. Singing, humming, playing music, white noise (fan, vacuum)
  • Sight. Mobiles, dim lights, darkness
  • Motion. Swings, cradles, rocking chair, going for walk, baby carriers

Find more tips on helping your child settle at sleep time.

Night waking

There are a number of reasons why your toddler who usually sleeps through the night may start waking in the night.

  • Teething
  • Growth spurts
  • Illness
  • Separation anxiety
  • Change in routine

Once these issues have been resolved, you may have to reestablish sleep patterns so that your toddler returns to sleeping through the night.

Safe sleep

The safest place to sleep for your toddler is in their own crib and on their back. If your toddler is turning onto their tummy on his or her own, it is not necessary to force your toddler to return to the back. More safe sleep tips.

Resources