Before you have a baby everyone tells you how little sleep you’ll be getting. So if you find that your newborn is a great sleeper, you might be wondering what all the fuss was about. But you’ll also likely be asking yourself, “Is my baby sleeping too much?”
In this article, we’ll cover what’s normal in terms of how much a baby will sleep at different ages, why babies sleep a lot, and what to do if you think you have a baby who is sleeping too much.
Baby Sleep: What’s Normal
Before diving into whether or not your baby might actually be sleeping more than they should, it’s important to have an understanding of just how much sleep is typical at each baby stage. Using these ranges as a starting point can help you determine if your baby’s sleep is falling within or outside of what is considered a normal amount.
Typical sleep hours in a 24-hour period (with the caveat that every baby is different!):
(You can also click on the links for a more in-depth overview of what to expect for your baby at each age.)
Newborn 0 - 2 weeks: 16 - 18 hours per day of sleep (no nap schedule)
Newborn 2 - 8 weeks: 15 - 17 hours per day of sleep (no nap schedule)
2 months: 14 - 16 hours per day of sleep (4 naps)
3 months: 14 - 16 hours per day of sleep ( 3-4 naps)
4 - 6 months: 13 - 16 hours per day of sleep (3 naps)
6 - 9 months: 12 - 15 hours per day of sleep (2 - 3 naps)
9 - 12 months: 12 - 15 hours per day of sleep (2 naps)
You’ll notice that though sleep requirements do shift and reduce through the first year, your baby still requires a good deal of sleep throughout all 12 months. What does change drastically is how your baby will begin to consolidate nighttime sleep as the months go on as well as take longer, but less frequent naps.
Just because your baby may be sleeping more than what’s listed as typical, does not necessarily mean that your baby is sleeping too much. There are other factors to consider, so let’s take a closer look.
Why do babies sleep so much?
In our article about baby sleep cycles, our sleep consultant Chloe Fries from La Lune Consulting shared that baby sleep is crucial because, “proper sleep plays a big role in your baby's temperament, mood, the maturation of their brain, the building of their immune system, and their ability to learn and understand new skills.”
Additionally, growth hormone is released only while asleep, so sleep is essential for proper growth and development. Did you know that your baby will never grow faster in life than they do during infancy? This kind of rapid development means that your baby needs a lot of sleep. Unlike you who thrives off sleeping about ⅓ of your life, the ratio is reversed for your baby.
As this rapid growth slows down, so will the amount of sleep your baby requires. Little by little, your child will require less and less sleep until they reach their elementary years where it will level off around 10 hours per night.
Ok, so now that we’ve made clear that it’s super normal for your baby to sleep a lot, let’s discuss if it can ever be too much.
Is there such a thing as a baby sleeping too much?
There are certain short periods of time when a baby will require more sleep than usual (which I'll touch on a bit later.) But there are other times when, yes, it is possible that a baby could be sleeping too much. Though rare, (usually you just have a baby who requires more sleep), it's important to keep a watch on it just in case.
According to Medical News Today, these are the signs to watch out for if you have a baby who you think is sleeping too much:
- Lethargy - doesn’t seem alert during wake times
- Struggling to eat enough - she may not take full feedings and/or sleep through meal times
- Extra fussy or irritable - perhaps even right after being fed as if not getting enough to eat
If you see any of these signs from your baby, your next step is to reach out to your baby’s pediatrician.
If you are confident that your baby is thriving and demonstrating proper weight gain but still seems to sleep beyond the typical range, it may just be that you have a sleepier baby.
In some cases you can be thankful for this extra peace and quiet. But if your baby is skipping meal times just to cluster feed a ton later or is sleeping more during the day than at night, then it’s probably a good time to intervene to teach good sleep habits.
How to Care for an Extra Sleepy Baby
It’s important to remember that every baby is unique. And when you find out that your baby is doing something outside of the range of what’s considered normal, it may send off alarm bells in your brain when there’s really no cause for concern. You may very well have the best sleeper on your hands, who is probably a true joy in his waking hours. If that’s the case, congratulations!
On the other hand, many babies need a bit of intervention to bring their sleep to the optimal point. Dr. Sears writes, “Thriving” means more than just getting bigger, it means that your baby is developing to his fullest potential; physically, mentally, and emotionally.” Proper nutrition, sleep, love, and play all contribute. Striking a balance with your little one is key.
So, if you know your sleepy little guy or gal could use a bit more balance, here’s what we recommend:
- Check in With Your Baby’s Pediatrician - First things first. Even if you really aren’t concerned, you have fairly frequent check-ups during your baby’s first year and mentioning that your baby sleeps a lot if you are important. And don’t hesitate to reach out if you don’t have an appointment coming up, your doctor is there to answer your questions and make sure your baby is staying healthy.
- Wake Your Baby to Feed Them - Lots of sleepier babies will sleep through meal times if you let them. So though your baby may not have any sort of weight issues as this new pattern emerges, a newborn who skips feeds and doesn’t make up the calories later may not continue steady growth. This is why it is recommended that you wake your baby to feed them in the first few weeks of life, about every 3 hours. At around 8 weeks, as long as your doctor gives you the a-ok, your baby can sleep longer stretches of 5-6 hours. Just remember that you should never let your little one sleep longer than 3 hours during the day, or they will continue to have their days and nights mixed up.
- Track Your Baby’s Schedule - Something else we recommend if you’re worried your baby is sleeping too much is to right down their schedule. For a few days, keep a log of each time they feed as well as how long they’re sleeping. If you match those to the typical ranges listed above, you may just find that what you think is too much sleep is exactly right on target.
- Implement a Dream Feed - If your little one just loves to sleep, and you’re struggling to get in that last feed you know he needs, we recommend implementing a dream feed. Not only will this help your baby get enough calories while staying half-asleep, it will also help you get a longer stretch of sleep yourself before your baby wakes in the middle of the night to eat again. We tell you all about how to implement this awesome feeding hack in our article, “The Dream Feed: What it is and How to Do It.”
- Work to Get Your Baby on a Schedule - Though we don’t recommend a set schedule for your baby until the 2-month mark, it’s important that you start working towards more of a routine for your baby. This will help to regulate your baby’s body so they know what times of the day are for eating, sleeping and playing. We recommend using sleep aids to induce relaxation when it's time for sleep, such as the Dreamland Baby Weighted Swaddle or Sack and keeping it bright and giving your baby a dose of fresh air when it's time to be awake.
Times When More Sleep Is Common
For most babies, there isn’t such a thing as too much sleep. If your baby is happy and eating well, it’s often something to embrace. However, there are times when you may see that your baby is suddenly sleeping more.
- Growth Spurts - As mentioned, sleep is required for growth. So when your baby is gearing up for more growth, you will naturally see a bit more sleep. It shouldn’t be drastic but will probably be noticeable. They’ll likely be back to their old sleeping ways within the week.
- New Milestone Developments - Mental development is growth, too. Like growth spurts, sleep is necessary to solidify new learning. Using all that brain power will make your little one sleepy. It’s common for these to go hand in hand.
- Sickness - When your baby gets an illness such as a cold, sleep is necessary for recovery. The more your baby is able to get sleep, the sooner they’ll be back to feeling their best (just be sure you’re making sure they continue to get in their typical number of feedings.)
- Immunizations - Immunizations can cause an immune system response which means you may see your baby sleep a bit more than usual in the day or two after.
When should I call the pediatrician for sleep?
Remember, every baby is different and therefore requires different amounts of sleep. That said, sleep is an important part of your baby’s development as this is when her brain and body grow! But if you’re noticing that she seems lethargic throughout the day or would rather sleep than do anything else, and that she just seems off, it’s always a good idea to consult with your pediatrician. No one knows your baby better than you do so if you’re concerned that your baby isn’t just sleepy and there may be cause for concern, trust your instincts, and get the reassurance you need.
Do babies sleep more before or after growth spurt?
Since a baby’s growth spurt is a period of intense, rapid growth in a short period of time,
it’s likely that your baby will sleep more before, during and after a growth spurt. That’s because growth is an important part of your baby’s development, and it takes a lot of energy which translates to more sleep. Some babies may just take a longer nap than usual or wake up less during their longer nighttime stretch of sleep. These extra periods of sleep during a growth spurt should only last a few days.
Why is daylight important for baby sleep?
It’s important that your baby be exposed to natural sunlight during the day as it sends signals to the brain like “good morning, time to wake up!” as well as help differentiate a 24-hour period. Morning light also helps to provide a properly aligned circadian rhythm which can promote consistent and restorative sleep – that goes for adults, too.
How does lack of sleep affect babies?
No matter what age, sleep is essential for a healthy life, even for babies. That’s because good, quality sleep is needed for cognitive reasoning, social skills, and over-all wellbeing, including brain and body development in infancy. Sleep is also the time when your baby’s brain processes all of the new and exciting things she experiences throughout the day – like the sky, the floor, even her toes!
Do pediatricians recommend sleep training?
When it comes to sleep training your baby, most pediatricians are all for it, but not until your baby is around 4 months old. That’s because by the time a baby reaches the 12-week mark, they have been through what is considered the “fourth trimester” and their sleep patterns are likely more consistent and predictable. Sleep training is when a baby can learn to self-soothe and fall asleep on their own, even when they wake in the middle of the night. Many parents question what the best sleep training method is, but every family is different. With some practice and patience, you’ll find a sleep training method that works for you and your family.
Why is getting enough sleep important for babies?
Sleep is a very important part of your infant’s development because it allows their mind and body to grow, rest and recover. While every baby has a different sleep pattern, newborns spend more of their hours sleeping than awake. The Dreamland baby swaddle and sleep sack provides evenly distributed weight from your baby's shoulders to toes to naturally reduce stress and increase relaxation. This can help baby sleep better and for longer stretches.
Input About Your Sleepy Baby From a Sleep Consultant
We were fortunate enough to get some final thoughts from an experienced sleep coach on how to help your little one who seems to be sleeping too much. Brooke Nalle, founder and owner of Sleepy on Hudson, offers great advice and also gives us peace of mind about how normal it is to have a little one who sleeps a lot, or seems to have their days and nights mixed up.
1.) What's your biggest recommendation for a baby who is extra sleepy?
There are a few concrete steps that you can take to keep your baby active and alert during the day and sleepy at night.
First, make sure your young baby gets plenty of daylight and fresh air during the day and transitions to a quiet, calm, dark environment at night. Secondly, choose a wake-up time for your infant. Try to start your day at the same time every morning to help establish her clock from the get-go. This also helps get her on a good feeding schedule right off the bat. Finally, wake your baby by shifting his environment, taking him out of his sleep sack or swaddle so he can wake naturally. Fresh air and a change of temperature helps immensely. Make sure your baby is not sleeping through his feedings during the day. This will help him be ready for better, longer stretches at night.
2.) When should a parent be worried that their baby is sleeping too much?
As long as a baby is eating enough in a 24 hour period and is solidly on the growth curve, then extra sleep is totally fine. As a sleep consultant and as a mother, I believe strongly in relying on my mother's instinct as well as the advice of my pediatrician. There are no stupid questions, so if you are worried, give your doctor's office a call!
3.) What's the best way to regulate a baby's sleep so he/she doesn't sleep too much during daytime hours?
Choose a scheduled wake time sometime between 6-8 am to allow for maximum daylight exposure. Make sure she is eating at good intervals during the day, somewhere between every 2.5 - 4 hours (get specific schedules and advice from your pediatrician or lactation consultant). Finally, choose a final nap cut off. For example, if you are aiming for an 8 pm bedtime make sure that all naps are over by 6 pm (more on that here). These wake windows will stretch longer as a baby matures.
Thanks, Brooke!Though we can't say a mother's intuition is always right, we'd say it's pretty close. If you feel like your baby truly is sleeping too much, then you need to trust your gut and check in with your baby's pediatrician. If all the other signs point to a healthy and thriving baby, enjoy a bit more sleep while it lasts!