Safe Sleeping For Babies: A Guide For Parents

September 14, 2023

Safe Sleeping For Babies: A Guide For Parents

This guide discusses how to keep your baby safe whilst sleeping, the recommended hours and sleep cycle for each age range, and tips on how to get your baby into a good sleep routine.

Thank you so much to Jenna Wilson and the Sleep Consultant Team at Little Dreams Consulting, for providing the content and information within this guide.

We recognise that everyone’s situation is different and so not all the information may apply to every family, infant and child. If you are concerned about your infant or child’s sleep or think your baby is in pain, discomfort or unwell, always consult with your GP or paediatrician for advice.

little boy sleeping on soft white blanket

How can I be sure my baby is safe whilst sleeping?

Safe sleep is the most important thing to be aware of with little ones, especially those under 12 months. The Lullaby Trust is the best place to go for advice about all things safe sleep but the basics of safe sleep are:

1. Place your baby on their back when they go to sleep
2. Place their feet at the foot of the cot
3. Ensure they are in a clear cot

How much sleep do babies need?

The majority of brain growth and development takes place between 0-3 years old. Our little ones are constantly experiencing and learning new things during the day and then process and retain all of that information during their sleep cycles. Therefore, it is imperative that they get adequate rest.

The following chart represents how many hours of sleep an individual should aim for each night
based on their age.

Age recommended hours of sleep

Newborn sleep schedule (0-6 weeks)

What should I do in these early weeks?

We would suggest recovering, resting and getting to know each other. Becoming a parent can be a huge adjustment so ensuring you recover and are kind to yourself is really important.

Is there anything I can do to get into good sleep habits?

If you feel ready you can start to teach your little one the difference between night and day. Make daytime and daytime feeds light and chatty and make night feeds quiet and dim. This is not to say don’t chat or look at your little one but just means that night-time feeds should be less chatty and more calm and quiet than daytime.

How long can my little one stay awake?

We suggest awake windows of around 45-60 minutes for newborns under 6 weeks, any longer and you are likely to have an overtired baby who finds it very difficult to settle.

Newborn sleep schedule (6-12 weeks)

How can I structure my newborn’s day?

In a relative sense, your little one’s sleep will develop and mature slightly around 6 weeks of age. At this age, little ones can generally stay awake for 1 – 1 ½ hours so be aware that your baby may need a nap more regularly than you realise.

How can I guide my little one towards a good routine?

Little ones of this age should now recognise the difference between night and day so, if you feel ready, there are three sleep goals you can work towards. It is important to remember that these are goals to try perhaps once every day or two and not something to worry about all the time:

Goal number 1: Helping your baby develop independent sleeping strategies

If your little one depends on a “prop” to fall asleep – such as breastfeeding, bottles, dummy, patting, rocking, or even sucking on parents’ fingers- then they will find it difficult to get back to sleep without their “prop.” At this age, it is very normal and natural for your little one to fall asleep feeding, in the pram, etc but just have in the back of your mind that you will try not to feed (breast or bottle) to sleep every time.

Goal number 2: Encourage full feeds during the day by creating an EAT-PLAY-SLEEP pattern

Newborn babies (from around 6 weeks up to around 12 weeks) need about 4-5 naps per day and these should be around 1-3 hours in duration. If you try to get into the habit of not feeding just before your little one goes down for a nap then they are less likely to fall asleep feeding each time.

Goal number 3: Establishing a good bedtime routine

Once you have all recovered and spent a little time at home, a bedtime routine is a great way to help your baby organise days and nights and start to consolidate night-time sleep more quickly. However, if you have not started implementing a routine for bed by weeks 8-10 it is something to think about at this time.

Starting bedtime with a bath is a great first step. It’s such a significantly different experience from anything else in the day that your baby will soon learn that a bath means bedtime is near. This could be followed by a little massage which is great to help babies relax.

The bedtime routine should always include a full feed to ensure your baby’s tummy is full. It will probably be tricky to keep them awake during this feed and then a short story or a song is a lovely way to end the bedtime routine and can provide a “buffer” between the feed and being placed into the Moses basket/cot.

Baby’s sleep cycle (5-12 months)

Around the age of 12-16 weeks, babies develop sleep cycles. This means that when they come to the edge of sleep (around every 45 minutes) they need to be able to fall asleep independently rather than need assistance to get back to sleep. If they don’t know how to do this, they will wake you to help them. It is very important to be aware that little ones may still need a night feed (or two when they are little) up to the age of 12 months but having a full waking every hour means they will not get the sleep they need to grow and develop.

How should I structure my baby’s day?

5 months old

Little ones of this age need around 3-4 hours of daytime sleep which will be over 3-4 naps. Bear in mind that they can, generally, only stay awake for around 1 ¾ – 2 ½ hours at a time before they are ready for their next nap. Ideally, they will have at least two naps of over an hour and the other two can ‘fit in’ towards the end of the day.

6-7 months old

Little ones of this age need around 3-3 ¼ hours of daytime sleep which will be over 3 naps. Often this is a transitional age for naps and the third nap gets ‘forced out’ as awake times increase and naps become longer. Little ones of this age have a slightly increased awake window of around 2 ½ – 3 hours at a time before they are ready for their next nap.

8-10 months old

Little ones of this age will need around 2-3 hours of daytime sleep over 2 naps. They can also work with an increased awake time of 3-4 hours at a time before their next nap and bedtime.

11-14 months

This age can be a further transitional age as most little ones are ready to transition to one nap between 12-14 months, the second nap gets forced out whilst the first (easiest) nap becomes the after-lunch nap. This will remain for quite some time. We suggest little ones have around 2-2 ½ hours of daytime sleep at this age and around 5-5 ½ hours of awake time.

15 months – 2 ½ /3 years

Little ones will often remain on one nap until around 2 ½ – 3 years of age. This nap should be after lunch for around 2 hours (which will reduce to around 1 ½ hours at 18 months of age and may need to be reduced further).

How can I tell if my little one is ready to transition to a nap?

Often little ones will happily go down for their nap and sleep for a long time, even if they are ready to transition. If they don’t drop their nap themselves these can be three signs to look out for if they have previously slept well, having fallen asleep independently:

1. They find it hard to fall asleep at bedtime when they have not had a problem previously
2. They start waking in the night, happily, for no reason
3. They start waking early in the morning (before 6am)

Get in touch

If you are concerned about your infant or child’s sleep please contact us.

If you would like to contact Little Dreams Consulting, please use the contact form below.




Disclaimer: Information contained in this article is intended as general advice and does not replace a medical assessment. If you are concerned about your child please contact your doctor for advice.


Get in touch

A smiling girl being examined with a stethoscope

Related articles

A mother smiling and holding her child in the snow December 9, 2022

The Best Vitamins For Children In Winter

Read more A bright red first aid bag on a blue background December 9, 2022

What Should Be In A Family First Aid Kit?

Read more A boy smiling whilst being vaccinated November 1, 2022

Polio Vaccination In London

Read more View all articles

Book your appointment

Clinic, remote appointments and home visits are available daily.

We can always find a time to suit you, so please do ask if you are having difficulty finding a suitable time.

Book an appointment