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0-3 years: Helping your child to sleep

Sleep is very important for babies and toddlers.  Their bodies and brains are growing and developing quickly - plenty of rest gives them the energy they need to learn and grow strong. 

Too little sleep can make children irritable and difficult and make it hard for them to enjoy things.  They need you to help them learn good sleep habits.  Make time to do this now - it's good for them and for you. 

How Much Sleep?

Different children need different amounts of sleep.  Don't worry if your baby sleeps more or less than another one.  Babies don't usually sleep through the night (more than 8 hours) before they are six months old.  Most children have one or two naps during the day up to around three years old.

Sleeping Guide

Newborn: 16-17 hours (about 7 sleep periods in 24hrs)

3 months: 14-15 hours (about 4 or 5 sleep periods)

6-8 months: 13-14 hours (mostly overnight, with some waking and daytime naps)

12 months: 13 hours (about 11hrs overnight and two daytime naps)

2 years: 13 hours (including 1 daytime nap)

3-5 years: 11-12 hours (naps usually end between 3 and 4 years old)

Setting Good Habits

Have a set routine at bedtime, like bath-drink-story-bed - and stick to it.  Be firm about a regular bedtime as your child gets older.  The last hour before bedtime should be a quiet period.  Avoid exciting play, physical activity and television if possible.

 Tips To Help Them Sleep

  • Don't let your child have naps after about 3 or 4pm
  • Make sure that your child is warmly dressed but not overheated
  • Avoid battles close to bedtime
  • Don't let them fall asleep in front of the television

Problems?

  • Often the reason a child wakes in the night is beacuse they haven't learned to go to sleep on their own
  • If your child cries or gets up, put them back to bed quietly and without fuss or too much attention or emotion.
  • Try to stay calm - they're not crying to get at you
  • Try not to rely on a 'sleep trigger' (dummy, bottle, breast or rocking) to get your child to sleep - they may stop sleeping without it

Look After Yourself

  • Get as much sleep as you can - whenever your baby is asleep
  • Ask family and friends to help with chores
  • Try and stay healthy to boost your energy levels and reduce stress

 Stay Positive!

  • Don't blame yourself if your child isn't sleeping
  • Work with your partner and family - try not to argue - help each other to stick to routines

 Get Help!

Ask your health visitor for advice if you are having problems getting your child to go to sleep or stay in bed.  They can tell you about sleep clinics, baby massage and different methods of settling your baby.  Whatever method you try, be consistent and give it enough time.