Baby Sleep Schedule: What to Expect Between 7 and 12 Months
As your baby approaches their first year, you'll notice some changes in their sleeping habits. These expert tips will help you handle them with ease.
How Much Will Baby Sleep?
From 6 to 8 months, a baby should get an average of 11 uninterrupted hours of sleep each night, as well as 3.5 hours each day spread out over two or three naps (a morning, afternoon, and late-afternoon nap).
From nine to 12 months, they should still get 11 hours of nightly snoozing. However, your baby will only need three hours of sleep during the day, with the number of naps dropping to two (the short late-afternoon nap will be eliminated).
Bond With Baby
If you have an established bedtime, you’ll find that putting your little one to sleep is a great bonding experience. "As your baby grows, bedtime can be fun as you begin to share quiet songs and games and create family rituals," says Kim West, aka "The Sleep Lady" and author of The Sleep Lady's Good Night, Sleep Tight. Focus on activities that will calm your baby and prepare them for sleep, and avoid anything that might overstimulate them, such as loud music, toys, or TV.
Babyproof the Bedroom
As your baby becomes more mobile, you'll need to reevaluate their sleeping environment. Look around the room for any potential hazards. For example, a baby can easily stand or climb on their crib's bumpers, and they can injure themselves on wall hangings, pictures, curtains, and window blinds cords. If you’d like a little help, consider hiring a babyproofing specialist.
Set Some Boundaries
"It's important that the crib is used only for sleeping so the baby associates it with bedtime and naptime," says Nadav Traeger, M.D. director of pediatric sleep medicine at Maria Fareri Children's Hospital at Westchester Medical Center. "There shouldn’t be any playing or eating, and just some light reading, in the crib or bed when the child gets older."
Keeping that in mind, always put your baby to sleep in their crib—not in the stroller, car seat, or play pen. Of course, there will be times when they doze off during a walk or car ride. That's fine, Dr. Traeger says, as long as the bulk of their sleep takes place in the crib.
Combat Night Terrors
Around 12 months, some babies start experiencing night terrors, which make them scream or cry uncontrollably around the same time every night. The baby is actually asleep during the entire ordeal and isn't aware of what's happening. What can a parent do? Set your alarm clock for 30 minutes before your child usually wakes up screaming, then go in and gently wake them up. You don't need to get them out of bed; simply wake them so that you abort the sleep stage that leads to the night terrors. If you do this for two or three nights, the night terrors should go away completely.
Prepare for Protests
As your baby approaches their first birthday, they might fight against their bedtime. After all, they’d much rather be hanging out with Mama and Dada than getting some much-needed shut-eye. "This is when Baby starts asserting more independence, but don't give too many allowances when it comes to bedtime," says Dr. Traeger. "If parents change the routine too much, it will in turn change their baby's sleep patterns for the worse." Remember, consistency is key.
Separate Sleeping and Eating
According to West, many sleep problems involve associations with sleeping and eating. "You don't want her falling asleep at the breast or with a bottle in her mouth because it interferes with sleep independence, and it's terrible for those little teeth that are going to be bursting out any day," West says. She suggests setting recognizable mealtimes so your baby isn’t eating all day, which is an incentive to snack all night.
Understand Napping Problems
Sometimes your baby will have difficulty napping, and certain events—like holidays, trips, illnesses—can negatively impact their routine. "Over many weeks or months, your child develops 'cumulative sleepiness' until he hits a wall and becomes way overtired," says Marc Weissbluth, M.D., a pediatrician and author of Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child. "In this state, it's difficult for him to nap because his body is geared up to fight the fatigue." If you run into problems with napping, temporarily try a super early bedtime to help them wake up rested. "Often, the early bedtime will help erase his sleep debt so he is more able to relax and take a nap," Dr. Weissbluth says.
Evaluate Their Sleep Schedule
If your baby wakes up before 6 a.m., they’re probably overly tired. "Overtired children don't sleep as well, or as long, as well-rested ones," West says. Think about your 7-month-old to 12-month-old sleep schedule and decide if they’re:
- Going to bed too late
- Not napping enough
- Staying up too long between the end of their afternoon nap and bedtime (try not to let it exceed four hours)
- Going to bed when they’re past the "drowsy but awake" mark. "If he's too drowsy, he won't know how to get himself back to sleep when he's more alert—even at 5 a.m.," West says.