(Revised and updated from an earlier version.)
It's common for parents to worry that their little one isn't getting enough sleep, but few are taught what to expect in that regard. Having a sense of “what’s normal” is an important first step in developing a plan for improving your child’s sleep. You want to be sure you are asking your baby or toddler to do something he or she is capable of doing! In the summer of 2016, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine established new guidelines for the amount of sleep 0-5 year olds should get each day:
Infants 4–12 months: 12–16 hours total in 24 hours
Children 1–2 years: 11–14 hours total in 24 hours
Children 3–5 years: 10–13 hours total in 24 hours
As you can see, this is a wide range! Your 4-year-old will most likely need far less sleep in a day than he or she did at 6 months old. Use the following charts as a guide for helping you determine age-appropriate schedules and expectations for your baby or toddler.
Note: Be sure to adjust for prematurity! For the purposes of understanding sleep development, calculate your child's age based on his or her due date, rather than actual birth date.
The following are the most common sleep schedules by age, but please see the new guidelines listed above and talk to your child’s pediatrician to determine your child’s individual needs.
Age of Baby: 0–4 Months
Number of Naps: On demand (usually 4–5)
Nap Spacing: 45–120 minutes awake time between naps. Nap irregularity in frequency and duration is common at this age.
Day Sleep Notes: No schedule yet; keep baby rested. Avoid over-tiredness and long stretches of wakefulness. Don’t be afraid to soothe your baby: He or she needs sleep! Single sleep cycle naps (30–45 mins) are common in the second half of this phase.
Approximate Total Day Sleep: Many babies will sleep 15–16 hours in 24 hours during first 2–3 months, then decreases to more like 14–15 hours around 3–4 months old.
Age of Baby: 4–6 Months
Number of Naps: 4 down to 3
Nap Spacing: At 4 months old, single sleep cycle naps (30–45 minutes) are still normal (see our Naps 101 series). By 5–6 months of age, babies are capable of lengthening naps, though may need nap assistance to learn that skill. 2–2.5 hours awake time between naps. On 3-nap schedule, third nap is shortest (30–45 mins).
Day Sleep Notes: Schedule is emerging. Prioritize your baby’s naps, paying attention to sleep location and environment now. Start your day at a regular time (within a consistent 30-minute window). Work toward 3-nap schedule with longer wake times between the naps by 6 months (see next section).
Approximate Total Day Sleep: 3–4.5 hours
Age of Baby: 6–9 Months
Number of Naps: 3 down to 2
Nap Spacing: 3-nap schedule: 2–2.5 hours between naps 2-nap schedule: Ladder schedule (2-3-4): Time awake increases over the course of the day, with approximately 2, then 3, then 4 hours between each sleep session, starting with morning wake-up.