Birth to 2 months: Anything Goes
Daily hours of sleep: 10 to 18
"Most newborns are asleep for three to four hours and then awake for one to two hours," says Judith Owens, M.D., director of Sleep Medicine at Children's National Medical Center, in Washington, D.C., and coauthor of Take Charge of Your Child's Sleep. "We don't know exactly why they need so much rest, but we suspect it's because sleep plays an instrumental role in early brain development."
Newborns lack a circadian rhythm, so their sleep is evenly divided throughout a 24-hour day. They can nod off any time, anywhere, even when the TV is blaring and the dog is barking. Some babies fall asleep when they're tired and wake up when they're hungry. Others sleep all day and stay up most of the night. If you've found that your little one is in the latter category, take heart: Your baby will probably outgrow this day-night confusion at around 6 weeks of age, when melatonin production begins and contributes to the development of a biological clock.
If your baby has her days and nights mixed up, expose her to bright light during the day so she starts to connect sunshine with being awake and alert, advises pediatric sleep specialist Jodi Mindell, Ph.D., author of Sleeping Through the Night. Also, keep the shades open in the daytime (except when she's napping); wake her for feedings so she doesn't catch too many zzz's; and take her outside for a walk to stimulate her and expose her to natural light. At night, aim to put her down between 7 P.M. and 8 P.M. (this is a good bedtime for the first two years, so you might as well get in the habit). If you need to go into her room for a feeding or diaper change, keep lights dim, and try not to talk to her too much. You'll help her associate darkness with sleeping.