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Did you know that sleep is the primary activity of the brain during early development? As a matter of fact, sleep is a critical part of a baby’s healthy growth and development; especially a baby's mental and physical health. So what are the healthy sleep patterns for infants? How long should your baby be sleeping?

Typically newborns will sleep between 10.5-18 hours a day. Their sleep cycle is irregular and usually depends upon their need to be nurtured, changed or fed. By six months of age, nighttime feedings are usually not needed and therefore infants sleep through the night (9-12 hours). The following are a few sleep tips all parents should consider as your baby catches his or her daytime or nighttime ZZZs.

Sleep Tips for Newborns

  • Put baby in crib when sleepy NOT asleep. They'll eventually learn how to get themselves to sleep 
  • Encourage nighttime sleep by playing with baby and introducing them to light and noise during the day while they are awake
  • Take note of baby's sleep patterns and signs of sleepiness (rubbing eyes, crying, fussing)
  • Always place baby on back to sleep. Be sure baby's head is clear of blankets or other soft objects to help prevent Sudden Unexpected Infant Death (SUID)

Sleep tips for Infants (3-11 months)

  • Create an enjoyable and consistent bedtime routine (song, bath, pajamas, book reading)
  • Develop a 'sleep friendly' environment free of noise, toys and other distractions (grandmothers included!)
  • Try to avoid irregular daytime and bedtime schedules
  • Put baby down to sleep when drowsy to encourage baby to become a 'self soother' and to fall asleep independently.

The most important sleep tip for parents is to explore the following resources to learn more about healthy sleep and its benefits for you and your baby:

American Academy of Pediatrics
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
National Sleep Foundation

Heraghty, J. L., Hilliard, T. N., Henderson, A. J., & Fleming, P. J. (2008). The
physiology of sleep in in­fants. Arch Dis Child, 93, 982-985.

National Sleep Foundation (2013). Children and Sleep. Retrieved from

Tonia R. Durden, Ph.D.

Tonia Durden

The UNL Learning Child Team

Dr. Tonia Durden is the Early Childhood Extension Specialist at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Her primary responsibilities include providing expertise and leadership in developing research based early childhood programming and resources that support the holistic development of young children. In addition she coordinates and supports UNL-Extension’s statewide efforts in evaluating and strengthening early care professional and family based programs and initiatives. Dr. Durden's ...

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