Behaviour & Sleep

Baby's Sleep

All babies are different but most babies will wake often in the night. Having a baby is tiring and broken nights are not easy. A newborn can sleep anything from 8-18 hours out of 24. It takes time for babies to get into a pattern of being awake more in the day than at night.

It is more common for babies to be around a year old before they sleep all through the night. Your lack of sleep won’t last forever.

Just like adults, even when babies have begun to mostly sleep well at nights, there will be times when they struggle to get to sleep or wake again in the night. It might be because they are unwell, ‘overtired’ or coping with changes. They may also be experiences developmental change.

Dive Deeper

Early Days

In the early days with your baby it is best to be led by them. Trying to get their sleep pattern to fit in with yours is very unlikely to work and will be stressful for you both. Keep them close and get to know the ‘cues’ or signs that babies give to let you know they are hungry, tired or want a cuddle or chat.

Find out more about baby feeding and sleeping cues

Rest when you can. If it is your first baby sleep when they do. If you have other children try and build in some rest time where you do quiet activities together.

Relaxation techniques can help with tiredness and don’t take too long.

If you live with your partner or another adult, make a plan together of how you will both fit in rest, as well as time with the baby.

If family and friends can offer help make the most of it. Loved ones like to feel useful. If you have help don’t struggle on your own – this is good for you and for your baby.

At Around 3 Months

Babies sometimes begin to have some slightly longer periods of sleep at about three months old.

Once you get to know your baby's sleeping pattern, you can start to teach them the difference between night and day.

  • When you are caring for your baby during the day, have lots of chat and play time. 
  • Don’t worry about household noises like the hoover or the washing machine in the day.
  • At night times keep the house quieter, the lights low and your voice soft.
  • Try and do night feeds in a bedroom. Avoid TV and other screens as this can be stimulating for your baby and make it harder for you to go back to sleep.

Some babies need more help to get to sleep - they may need rocking, stroking or dummies to help them.

Try and put your baby down in their crib when they are drowsy – it is good if over time they learn to drift off to sleep. This might work sometimes and not others, but your child will be learning that their cot is a nice place to be and that you will come to them when they need you.

Read more about ideas for talking and playing with your baby

As Your Baby Gets Older

As your baby gets older you can carry on helping them understand bedtime routines. Babies need a lot of repetition to help them get into a routine. 

You may notice that there is a time in the evening where they naturally seem sleepier – begin your routine about an hour before this. You can gradually move the bedtime earlier once they have begun to settle down regularly at that time.

Bath time, pyjamas, quiet cuddles and then bed at similar times every day will help this. It takes a while for it to become a habit so keep going.

Should I leave my baby to cry?

Some advice talks about leaving your baby to cry it out. This is not good for babies.

Babies rely on their carers to help them feel safe and secure. When babies know that their parents and carers always respond to their needs and their feelings, they grow in confidence.

  • They are more likely to learn to settle back to sleep quickly.
  • If you don't go to your baby they may stop crying because they lose hope that the people they trust most will come.
  • This might make it harder for them to show their feelings in a healthy way as they get older.

If your baby crying is becoming to much to deal with, there is support available.

Read more about babies crying


Safe Sleep

When you have a new baby and are tired yourself, sometimes the easiest options about where and how your baby falls asleep, can put them at risk.

By remembering some simple guidelines, there are things you can do to keep your baby safe while they are sleeping. This will reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), also known as cot death.

More guidance on safe sleep

Children & Young People With Additional Needs

If your child has additional needs it can be even harder to get them into good sleep patterns. This can be very tiring and stressful for the whole family.

Find out more information and advice


Sleep Hygiene


Safer Sleep For Babies


Who can Help?

If your child is 12 months or older, you can contact the National Sleep Helpline on 03303 530541 for support and advice. This is available Sunday - Thursday 7pm - 9pm. The helpline is run by a team of specialist trained sleep advisors. Although they cannot give medical advice, they can talk through your issues, offer you some practical strategies and recommend services that could help.

You can contact the Healthy Child Programme by calling Just One Number on 0300 300 0123 or texting Parentline on 07520 631590. Our opening hours are 8am-6pm Monday-Friday (excluding bank holidays) and 9am-1pm on Saturdays.

If you are 11-19 you can text ChatHealth on 07480 635060 for confidential advice from one of our team.

Alternatively you can go to see your GP to discuss concerns.

To speak to other Norfolk parents and carers, you can join our online community forum below.

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