Infant Sleep

Sleep is very important to your child's healthy growth, development, learning and well-being. A lack of sleep affects a child's behaviour, attention, learning and memory.

Get to know more about your baby's sleep patterns and how to respond at a free "Sleep and Your New Baby" session for parents of newborns, and check our booklet Sleep and Your Growing Baby.

 Safe sleep
A safe sleep environment includes where your baby sleeps, your baby's sleeping position, the kind of crib or bed, type of mattress and the home environment factors such as smoke exposure.

Creating a safe sleep environment for your baby will lower the risk of injury and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

 To make a safe sleep environment you can:

  • Put your baby to sleep on their back
  • Make sure the crib, cradle, or bassinet meets current Canadian regulations
    • Cribs made before September 1986 do not meet required safety standards and should never be used
  • Use a firm mattress with a tight-fitting sheet
  • Remove bumper pads, comforters, pillows, stuffed toys and other soft items from your baby's crib
  • Dress your baby only in a diaper and a fitted one-piece sleepwear
  • Keep your home smoke-free
  • Keep the room temperature at a comfortable level
 Room sharing

Room sharing, by placing your baby's crib in your room for the first six months of life, helps your baby sleep safely and lowers the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

Bed sharing or co-sleeping is when your baby shares the same sleeping surface with an adult or another child. Bed sharing or co-sleeping is not recommended. Sharing the same sleep surface increases a baby's risk of SIDS and suffocation. This risk is even higher for babies less than four months old.

 Sleep habits
In the first few months, babies' sleep patterns are not regular. They may sleep two to four hours and may want to feed when they wake up. After three months, most babies begin to feed less often and may sleep longer at night with daytime naps. For a baby, six hours is a long time to sleep.

Here is a general guide to the amount of sleep, including naptime, your baby needs daily, based on age:

  • Birth to two months old: 16-18 hours
  • Two to six months old: 14-16 hours
  • Six months to one year old: 13-15 hours 

You can help your baby sleep by:

  • Learning the signs that show your baby is tired and ready for sleep (yawning, rubbing eyes, fussing, and crying)
  • Not waiting until your baby is over-tired before putting them down to sleep
  • Keeping night feedings and diaper changes quiet with the lights low

Babies usually settle into more regular sleep patterns by three or four months old. When you feel that you and your baby are ready, try putting your baby down on their back when they are sleepy but still awake, so they learn to fall asleep on their own.

 Bedtime routines
Good sleep habits start from birth but it takes time for a child to learn them. Parents can help their children learn these habits by keeping the same bedtime every night and setting a bedtime routine. 

A bedtime routine can include:

  • Having a bath
  • Brushing teeth
  • Reading a story
  • Singing softly
  • Other activities that relax your child

 Keep the routine simple so it can be used anywhere, anytime. Ask everyone who cares for your child to follow the same routine. This will help your child know when it is time to go to sleep.

 Additional resources

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