Baby boy sleeping

Baby sleeps routine

I'm Leanne Fraser, a certified Sleep Consultant for babies and young children. 


Every day I coach and support families to get better sleep for their child, and for themselves. Sleep is a basic human need, we can't function without it- I'm a Mum myself I know exactly how it feels to be exhausted! 


My approach is completely non-judgmental- if what you are doing is working then there's no need to change it, but please know that if your sleep situation is un-manageable then there is help available. 

Mum and baby

Baby sleep and bedtime routines

Learn about your baby’s sleep, getting your baby into a good sleep routine, plus information on nap routines.

Baby sleep - the early days

The 4th trimester can be a rollercoaster ride, where both baby and parents are adjusting to their new lives. Baby has been continuously fed and embraced in Mum’s tummy and sleeping when they like, whereas on the outside world, gaps in feeding and different sleeping environments are introduced. It’s a sensory overload for your little one and it will take some time for them to work it out! It’s therefore natural and normal for baby to express their feelings through crying and to have irregular sleep patterns.

How long do newborns need to sleep?

A newborn’s little tummy can only hold enough milk to last them for a couple of hours or so, and they will sleep a lot. How often do newborns sleep?  Approximately 15 to 20 hours a day in stretches of 2 to 4 hours at a time.


It can be difficult to establish a newborn feeding schedule initially, so it’s important to allow your baby to do as much eating and sleeping as they want during these early weeks and to enjoy the precious bonding time whilst you get to know each other. 

A gentle routine for newborns

Baby bedtime routines & sleep patterns

When to start a newborn sleep routine is a very personal preference, there are no hard and fast rules. There are some simple and gentle things you could start once you feel ready to help set your baby’s body clock.


  • Help your baby separate day from night by starting and finishing the day at the same time and thinking of it in 12-hour cycles.
  • Expose baby to natural sunlight when they wake in the morning and during the daytime. Light activates hormones that help us sleep (called melatonin) and develop our internal body clock (called circadian rhythm) and the fresh air and exercise is good for you too. A newborn does not arrive with a pre-programmed body clock; this takes some weeks to fully establish!
  • When to start a nap routine? Regular naps are an important part of a newborn sleep schedule. Use a guide of 45min awake time before putting your little one down to sleep again. This will help prevent baby getting overtired and over-stimulated.
  • Swaddling can be very effective during baby’s early weeks whilst their Moro (startle) reflex is strong. It can help baby to feel safe and secure, as they did in the womb.
  • Dummies can be very useful, in particular for babies born early and those suffering with reflux. If breastfeeding, then wait until this is fully established and it is advisable to use for sleep times only.
  • White noise is helpful to block out any daytime noises and help create a calm environment. A constant and repetitive sound (like a hairdryer) is best and it should be used for naps too. You can continue to use white noise as your child grows.
  • You should be present when your baby is sleeping up to the age 6 months to help prevent SIDs, so it is useful to set up a quiet corner of the room or use a pram for daytime naps and evening sleep. You don’t have to be quiet as a mouse but turn down bright lights in the evening and be mindful of loud noises.

Your growing baby

At around 4 months, babies progress through a big change in their neurological development and how they sleep. It’s a big overall developmental time too- baby is much more aware of the world and their surroundings and big milestones, like rolling begin.


Baby will begin to sleep more like that of an adult, moving in and out of different phases of sleep within a cycle, so you may see some disruption during this time.


Baby sleep patterns are in approximately 45-minute cycles on average, which you may start to notice as you see baby stir in between them (or wake up!)


Try not to get caught up in comparing your child to others or tie yourself to the milestones you read about in books or from family and friends’ babies. All babies are different, and the same is true of their sleep. It’s important to focus on your own journey and know that your baby will do things in her own time.


By 3 months your baby’s circadian rhythm should be established and it will become easier to get into a more structured routine to help your baby sleep, should that suit you.


  • Use a simple baby bedtime routine- the same things in the same order every night will create a series of cues in your baby’s mind. 30 minutes is plenty, including a bath, story and song. Baby massage can also be a lovely opportunity to bond with your baby and to help relax them before bed.
  • Put baby to bed early if they seem exhausted
  • Once baby is showing signs of rolling, it is safest to remove a swaddle and swap to a sleeping bag.
  • Black out blinds will help prevent early wakes on light mornings and to aid baby sleep in the light evenings.
  • Once ready, start to practice putting your baby down at least drowsy or ideally awake so that they can develop their own sleep skills. Try offering comfort via stroking, patting and your voice. This can take time and practice, but it will help baby to connect their sleep cycles and wake less during the night. Sleep training is there as an option, if it feels right for your family.
  • Use a baby nap routine and schedule to prevent your baby getting overtired. Appropriate wake windows for your baby’s age (3 months = 1.5 hours, 4 months = 1.5 hours, 5 months = 2 hours, 6 months = 2 hours 15mins)
  • Motion is a very useful way to help baby sleep by using the pram, car or sling.
  • If you are ready to start using a feeding pattern, feeding each time your baby wakes can be very effective. You can make this easy by creating an EAT < PLAY > SLEEP repeat pattern. Feeding your baby when they first wake from a nap will mean that they are well rested and therefore awake when feeding. They will also have an efficient feed and have a nice full tummy when they go down for their next nap. Of course, if feeding on demand is your preference and works for you, then there is no need to change it.

Think there's more than one way to raise a baby?


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Join the C&G baby club today

  • Weekly emails with tips and advice for your stage
  • 1-to-1 support from our dedicated Careline team, 8.30am - 5.30pm Monday to Friday.

More from baby

Important notice:

Breastfeeding is best for babies and provides many benefits. It is important that, in preparation for and during breastfeeding, you eat a varied, balanced diet. Combined breast and bottle feeding in the first weeks of life may reduce the supply of your own breastmilk, and reversing the decision not to breastfeed is difficult. The social and financial implications of using an infant formula should be considered. Improper use of an infant formula or inappropriate foods or feeding methods may present a health hazard. If you use an infant formula, you should follow manufacturer’s instructions for use carefully – failure to follow the instructions may make your baby ill. Always consult your doctor, midwife or health visitor for advice about feeding your baby. 

Any more questions?

Our specialist baby advisors and experienced mums are here to talk and ready to help whenever you need them. You can call us or reach us on Live Chat 8.30am-5.30pm Monday-Friday.


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