Baby Sleep Requirements and Safety During the First 2 Years

Sleeping patterns during the first months of life change constantly. As your tiny and quiet newborn grows into an active toddler, the total hours of sleep will decrease, and the practices to keep him safe also vary. During the first year of life, your baby brain develops quickly, and mainly while sleeping. Providing the right environment and hours of sleep to your child has many health benefits.  

But how many hours should your little one sleep? Should he or she still take naps? And how can you provide a safe sleeping environment according to your child's age? All those questions come to our mind whenever we read about healthy sleeping habits. There is nothing to worry about; we have it all figured out for you.  

Over the first two years of life, the number of total hours a baby sleeps will slowly decrease while the nighttime sleep hours increase. Naps decrease as they grow up, but this will be up to every kid and parent's routine. Here are some general guidelines provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).  

Newborns 0-3 months  

Newborns sleep around 70% of the day, having short periods of sleep due to their digestive system's small size. They wake up every other hour to be fed. As their stomach grows, they will sleep 4 to 5 hours and stay awake during the day for longer periods.  

During the first three months of life, babies do not sleep through the night, which is completely normal. Every baby is unique, but newborns usually sleep 16 hours in 24 hours. Achieving the right hours of sleep translates into healthy growth, weight gain, and mental development.  

A safe environment for bedtime during the first three months of life include the following practices:  

  • Always lay your baby fully on its back until the first year of age. Side or stomach sleeping is never recommended.  
  • Use a firm surface, choose a safe baby mattress and safety-approved crib.  
  • Keep your baby crib empty. Avoid placing stuffed animals, pillows, bedding items, or any other object to prevent Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).  
  • Room temperature should be between 68° and 72°F. Avoid overdressing your baby, and never place a hat or lose clothes.  
  • Share your room but not your bed to prevent suffocation accidents.   

Infants 4-12 months  

By the fourth month of life, your baby has doubled its birth weight, and tummy time is paying off. Soon your little one will be sitting up and crawling around, and then the first steps will come. Sleeping is crucial to achieving each milestone. In this stage, your baby should sleep between 12-16 hours, including naps. Naps can last from 3 to 4 hours during the day.   

Since your baby is no longer a newborn that stays put, safety becomes an urgent matter. When your baby starts to roll and sit up, he can reach everything around; the crib must remain in your room at least until your baby is six months old, ideally until the first year, to prevent accidental suffocation or strangulation. A firm mattress is still needed, along with a fitted sheet. Toys and other objects should not be placed near the crib. Blankets, bumpers, and pillows are not recommendable.  

Toddlers 1-2 years  

When your tiny baby enters the first year of life, you are going to experiment with a whole new stage. The first steps soon become jumps and runs, and now your child can reach top drawers, climb, and ask all types of questions. Curiosity runs your toddler life and exploring becomes the number one priority.  

The sleeping requirements of a toddler are 11-14 hours, including naps; it is most likely that your little one now sleeps longer during the night and takes a nap of 1-2 hours. Since your child will spend most of the day awake, it is time to establish a healthy routine to prepare them for bed.  

A bedtime routine sounds like a lot of work, but it only means that you should be consistent with activities before sleep. For example, you can limit screen time and rough playing two hours before bed, take a bath, brush your teeth, read a story, and cuddle before turning the lights out.  

Your toddler is now out of risk of SIDS; sleeping fully on its back does no longer apply, but he or she now can reach many objects, so the rules of the game change. Here are some considerations to keep your toddler safe during the night.  

  • Transition to a toddler or twin bed when the crib becomes too tiny or when your child can climb out. Make sure the bed has a side rail.  
  • Objects like ties, cords, window blind pulls, and others alike should be kept out of reach because they represent a strangulation risk.  
  • Use a firm mattress that fits right into the crib or bed.   
  • Small pillows and light blankets are now allowed. 

Healthy sleeping practices benefit your baby's development, humor, and learning process. Providing a safe environment for your child at each stage of life is crucial to prevent accidents. Toddlers who can fall asleep on their own and follow sleep routines can easily develop healthy sleeping habits when they become adults. We hope the above information cleared any doubt about your baby's sleep requirements and how to keep him safe.