Even before your baby is born one of the few things you can bet on is that you will become slightly obsessed with how much and when your baby sleeps! (Read the ThinkBaby section All About Sleep for more.)
Not only do we as new parents need a little bit of a rest ourselves when our babies sleep, but also we know they are content if they are resting peacefully in their cots!
Some people like to get into sleep routines with their new child (following a regime laid down by one of the main routine exponents such as Gina Ford, for example), but most parents are happy to let their child go with the flow of adhoc sleeping when out in their pram or after a feed, with a few nightfeeds through the night, until at least three or four months.
Whether you go 'free range' or are trying a routine, how much sleep is normal?
How much sleep does your baby need?
Don't sit there timing your baby's naps down to the last minute – growth spurts, teething or changes in your daily activities may all affect when and for how long your baby sleeps from time to time, but on average, you should be able to see the following pattern emerge.
Newborn to one month
In the earliest weeks, your new baby will probably sleep for about 15-16 hours out of every 24 hours. About seven hours of that will be daytime naps (not all in one go, though you might find one nap break tends to be longer than the others), and about eight or so hours of night sleep which is interrupted by waking for a feed.
Your baby will still need about 15 hours sleep in any 24 hour period, but the night sleeps will begin to stretch out more (so the evening nap will become part of the nighttime stretch, possibly from about 8 or 9 o'clock in the evening), but probably still with one or two wakes for a feeds. Your baby will probably have about five hours daytime nap by this time.
Your baby will probably need about 14 to 15 hours of sleep per 24 hours but now much more of this is night sleeping (about 11 hours), with about three and a half hours of daytime naps. During the day, your baby will be much more animated.
Your baby now needs about 14 hours of sleep per 24 hours. Nighttime sleeping will total about 11 hours and may well no longer be broken up with any feeds except during phases when your baby is teething and needs comforting, the weather is cold and the chill wakes your baby, or your baby is going through a growth spurt and is more hungry than usual.
By about one year your baby will need about 13 to 14 hours of sleep per 24 hours but only about two and a half hours of that will be daytime naps, possibly just one long midday nap.
If your baby is unwell or your are travelling (many babies love sleeping in the car but won't then go to sleep in a strange hotel bedroom!) then you may find that these sleep averages change a little and might even throw your baby's sleep patterns out for a week or so afterwards. But overall, you should find these sleep times familiar.
And a couple of tips…
Don't try to keep your baby awake in the day in the hope that this will make him sleep longer during the night, it is more likely to make him restless.
And in the night, if your baby does wake for a feed, unless his nappy feels very full or he has done a poo, try to avoid changing his nappy as this will rouse him much more than he needs to be for a quick feed and it might prove more difficult to get him back to sleep.
You might also find these articles useful:
Helping your newborn get enough sleep
Troubleshooting: your sleep problems answered
Safe sleeping for babies