Sleep and settling for babies

​​​​​​​​​Some babies settle down to sleep easily and some find it difficult to drop off. As you get to know your baby and they develop and grow, their sleep patterns may change.

How much sleep a baby needs

Babies who are between 6 and 12 months old will usually sleep 11  to 16 hours in a 24-hour period. Many have learned to sleep more at night, waking only once or twice for feeds. At this age their appetite is changing. For a few nights they may wake more for feeds but will settle again when their daytime feeds increase.

How to settle a baby

There are many different methods to settle your baby and it’s about finding the one that works for you and your baby.

Some babies need silence to sleep, others like music to be playing. Some like to be rocked from side to side, others just like to be held tightly or be gently massaged. Take the time to find what works.

Babies have their own way of communicating. After the first few weeks, you’ll recognise your baby’s ‘tired’ signs.

Signs that mean it is time for bed are when your baby is:

  • crying
  • doing random jerky movements
  • frowning
  • pulling faces or rubbing their eyes.

Allow your newborn baby to sleep when he or she needs to sleep. Be aware that after a few hours, the baby will wake for a feed.

  • If your baby is very sleepy when it’s time for a feed, you could talk to your Maternal and Child Health nurse, or call the Maternal and Child Health Line on 13 22 29 for advice.
  • Jaundiced babies and premature babies are sleepy and often need to be woken for feeds, especially in the first few weeks of life.
  • You can try soothing your baby by gently rocking them from side to side, speaking or singing in a gentle voice, or giving them a warm, soothing bath.

It is common for babies to be unsettled. Many parents worry that there may be something wrong. It can help to remember that there is a wide range of normal crying.

Remember that:

  • Babies may fuss or cry for about two hours a day on average, some more and some less.
  • Crying is one way your baby communicates with you and it’s important to listen and respond to what your baby is trying to tell you they need.
  • Understanding each other can take some time, but if you are finding this difficult (which is very normal) try to address some of the reasons they may be upset. Start by checking if they are hungry or in need of a nappy change.

If they have difficulty settling

​​​​​Babies can sometimes become difficult to settle when they’ve been in a stimulating environment or are late for a sleep session.

Babies could also wake because they are hungry, are too hot or too cold, require a nappy change or want you near them. Babies might also wake up crying from separation anxiety.

It’s also common at this age for your baby to wake up due to teething aches and other pains or illness. If your baby has an earache or a cold, it will be harder to settle them.

If your baby keeps waking up due to pain or illness, contact your family doctor or Maternal and Child Health nurse, or call the Maternal and Child Health Line (24/7) on 13 22 29.