Mother and Baby

Baby sleep: What is normal?

Section: Sleep

Understanding the baby sleep chart:

Firstly, before looking at the chart reading and bursting into tears because your baby isn't doing this, remember that all babies are different and this is just a guideline to help you see what babies usually do, and to help you plan a baby sleep schedule.

Secondly, if your baby is waking often in the night and hardly napping in the day, he could be suffering from a medical issue. This would usually be silent reflux or reflux (GORD), or dairy intolerance, usually cows’ milk protein allergy (CMPA). These will stop your baby from sleeping well, as he is uncomfortable and in pain. You will need to see your GP and ask to be referred to a Paedtrician/gastroenterologist specialising in these baby issues.

Don't worry - they are actually more normal than you think and often the medication given can change things around very quickly.

There are lots of forums and mummy blogs that can help reassure you that you aren't the only one whose baby is suffering from one of the above conditions.

Thirdly, I know it can be really tough when your baby doesn't sleep and it can be something as simple as where they are sleeping and when.

There is only a 15-minute window of opportunity from your baby showing you tired signs, to then being overtired and grumpy

There is only a 15-minute window of opportunity from your baby showing you tired signs, to then being overtired and grumpy. When this happens that's when you have to use a 'sleep prop' to get your baby to sleep.

A 'sleep prop ' is something your baby has before they go to sleep, like rocking, going out in the pram or car seat, a dummy, or feeding to sleep. If he has it every time he goes to sleep, he will wake into a light sleep at night and need that prop again.

Premature/low birth weight

If your baby was premature then start when he reaches his birth date. Until then, follow naps every 45 mins-1 hour, 6 naps, 7-9 hours sleep per day, 19-21 hours total.

Jo Tantum's top tips to help your baby sleep better​:


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1) Try to get your baby to sleep without a 'sleep prop'

Follow the chart guidelines to see when your baby is going to be tired. Try to stop the feeding-to-sleep cycle by having a short feed then cuddles.
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2) Have naps in the Moses basket or cot

 If this is a bit scary, try firstly getting them to sleep with the pram/car seat still.

Check out M&B's round-up of the best Moses baskets
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3) Get total blackout for baby’s room and the pram. 

This is because babies don't understand they need to close their eyes to go to sleep, so they get over-stimulated by their surroundings and can't switch off. Darkness helps calm them and creates a good trigger for sleep.

M&B loves: Gro Anywhere Blackout Blind, now £19.20
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4) Soothing sounds can really help 

When they are tiny, womb sounds are amazing and can be a miracle to frazzled parents. Later, wave sounds will help. There are lots of apps and machines/toys that make these sounds.
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5) Always start a good sleep pattern at the beginning of the day

If it goes wrong, start again the next day. Always be consistent. It usually takes 72 hours for a baby to start learning a new routine and a full 7-10 for this routine to become normal. Always persevere - it is worth it.
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6) Make sure your baby is having enough milk/food in the day

 If your 6-month-old baby is having 4 milk feeds and 2-3 meals, then he isn't likely to waking in the night because he's hungry. So see what other reasons it can be. Usual suspects are teething or being poorly.
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7) Determine what type of cry it is

When your baby wakes in the night, listen for 5 minutes; if your baby is groaning, saying "Mmm", or making rhythmic noises, then this means your baby is in light sleep and trying to settle back. Give him the opportunity and confidence to go back to sleep. If he doesn’t, soothe him so he is; continue this and soon your baby will start self-settling. Always work on naps to get better night sleep.

This chart is based on babies’ natural sleep patterns. I have spent the last 27 years charting thousands of baby sleep patterns. So I hope it helps your baby sleep better - and for you to better understand your baby's sleep.

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  • Author: Jo Tantum Jo Tantum
  • Job Title: Baby sleep expert

With over 27 years experience working with babies and parents worldwide, it's no wonder Jo is the UK's leading Baby Sleep Expert, teaching babies how to love sleeping with calm, gentle guidance, encouraging confident parenting.

Jo helps parents with her best-selling book Baby Secrets, Sleepytime, Bedtime products and Go Anywhere blackout blind ; she also offers email and Skype support, while her Sleep Angel Sleep trainers offer overnight and home support.

You have probably seen Jo at one of The Clarion Baby Shows around the country, as one of their key speakers, or on Daybreak Live with Gabby as their Baby expert, ITN news, on BBC Radio, or in one of the many parenting magazines including Mother & Baby, for which she writes.

Working with Pampers as their Sleep Expert for the third year running and other large brands including Boots Parenting and Annabel Karmel as their Sleep Expert.

Jo's mission is to make a difference to parents where she can.

Her new venture with her business partner is Prestige Parenting Services; this agency offers top-quality, confidential childcare and household services.

If you need any advice about your baby, whether it's sleep, natural routines, reflux or twin issues, then Jo and her team can help you.


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