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Sleep Habits, Healthy

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What is normal sleep?

The amount of sleep and hours of sleep varies at different ages.

 Average Night-Time SleepAverage Day-Time Sleep
Newborns to 3 months8-9 hours
(waking through the night to feed)
8 hours
6 to 12 months10-12 hours
(usually sleeps through the night)
5 hours
2 years10-12 hours4 hours
(less naps after 12 months)
3 years10 hours1 hour
4 - 6 years10 hoursusually no nap

Helpful Tips:

  • Newborns do not have a set night/day schedule at birth. Do not let a newborn sleep longer than 5 hours at a time in the first 5-6 weeks. Your baby may sleep through the night by 6 weeks. Let your baby sleep and eat as he/she wants.
  • Babies should not be put to bed with a bottle. It causes problems with tooth decay and ear infections.
  • Babies less than 12 months old should always sleep on their backs, even for naps. This is the safest sleeping position for your baby to protect him/her against Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
  • Older babies and children should have a naptime and bedtime schedule.
  • Start a quiet time, like listening to quiet music or reading a book, 20 to 30 minutes before bedtime. TV should not be a part of the quiet time.
  • After the quiet time, go through a bedtime routine like a diaper change or going to the bathroom, brushing teeth, etc.
  • Set a time limit for quiet time and the routine so it does not drag on and your child knows what to expect before bedtime.
  • Say goodnight, turn off the light (or you may leave a night light on) and leave the room.
  • "Security objects", such as a special blanket or stuffed animal, can be part of the bedtime routine.
  • It is important for children to be put to bed awake so they learn to fall asleep themselves.

Bedtime Habits to Change:

  • If your child cries, speak calmly and reassure him/her, "You are fine. It's time to go to sleep." Then leave the room.
  • Do not give a bottle or pick up your child.
  • Stretch out the time between trips to the room if your child continues. Do not do anything but talk calmly and leave.
  • Your child will calm down and go to sleep if you stick to this. It may take several nights for your child to get used to the new routine. Giving into this teaches your child bad habits.
  • If your child is used to getting a large amount of milk to make him/her fall asleep, start to cut down the amount of milk in the bottle by 2 to 1 ounce a night until the bottle is empty and then take it away completely.
  • Sometimes children get out of their routine of night sleeping because of an illness or travel. Quickly return to good sleep habits when things are back to normal.

Tips for Older Children:

  • If your child gets out of bed, take him/her back to bed with a warning that the door will be shut (not locked) for 1 or 2 minutes if he/she gets out of bed.
  • If your child stays in bed, the door stays open. If your child gets out of bed, the door is closed for 2 minutes. Your child can understand that he/she has control of keeping the door open by staying in bed.
  • If your child gets out again, shut the door for 3 to 5 minutes (no more than 5 minutes).
  • Be consistent. Put your child back in bed each time he/she gets out of bed.
  • When your child stays in bed, open the door and give your child praise. ("You are doing a great job of staying in bed. Goodnight.")
  • Your child can be rewarded for staying in bed by earning a star on a calendar for staying in bed all night. You can give a special prize for a certain number (5 to 10 stars).

Disclaimer: This information is not intended to substitute or replace the professional medical advice you receive from your child's physician. The content provided on this page is for informational purposes only, and was not designed to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease. Please consult your child's physician with any questions or concerns you may have regarding a medical condition.

Reviewed: 06/06

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