Expert / 13 March, 2023 / Kerry Secker

From Newborn To 12 Months: A Guide To The Stages Of Baby Sleep

Kerry Secker from Care It Out has put together this invaluable guide to baby sleep stages. From newborn to 12 months plus, Kerry takes us through the stages of baby sleep and exactly what you need to know to be prepared.

Your baby’s sleep is not a linear or straight-line process because their sleep is a constant work in progress. Your baby is constantly changing as they grow and develop so it makes total sense that their sleep will constantly change too.

It’s completely normal and natural for their sleep to come and go and change. But knowing this doesn’t make it any less tough or tiring for you! So, I’ve put together a simple guide to your baby’s sleep through the stages. It’s complete with straightforward and caring sleep suggestions to support you both through each stage.

The Fourth Trimester Stage

What’s happening at this stage?

Congratulations on your new baby! Your new baby is born naturally nocturnal and their circadian rhythm (sleep system!) is very immature. Sleep is naturally a bit erratic at this stage and some sleepless nights as a new parent are to be expected.  It might not seem like it but it does usually sort itself in time!

Why can sleep get a bit sticky at this age?

There’s a lot of pressure to get your brand-new baby’s sleep sorted and settled straight way but this can be tricky with a naturally nocturnal new baby who just wants to sleep all day and feed all night. And get used to their new environment- their world life is wildly different to womb life!


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My top sleep suggestions for this stage are:

This stage is all about bonding with your brand-new baby, establishing feeding (however you’re feeding!) and getting to know each other. Keep reminding yourself that there’s no bad bed habits and you can’t spoil your baby.

  • Try not to worry (easier said than done I know!)  if you’re finding it tricky to get a nap routine going. It’s likely to get easier as they get older and I don’t recommend looking at naps until around 8-10 weeks old. You can check out my FREE age-appropriate nap gap video here so you’re prepared for napping during every baby sleep stage.
  • Keep it light, bright, and noisy during the day. There’s no need to tiptoe around them during the day! This helps them slowly learn that daytime is awake time.
  • Aim to get out into fresh air and natural light when you’re ready. This is not only great for your wellbeing; it also helps develop their immature circadian rhythm.
  • If you want to start off a simple bedtime routine feel free! It doesn’t need to be complicated and simply doing 2 or 3 things in the same order before bedtime is a great base for their bedtime routine!
  • Try to only change their nappy at night if it’s really needed. Changing their nappy at night can really disturb or wake them.
  • It’s always ok to meet their needs at night but try and keep it as quiet and dark as possible.

The Four Month Progression Stage

What’s happening at this stage?

At this stage, your baby’s sleep is going through big changes! Their sleep matures and moves towards more like adult sleep and their sleep cycles develop. It’s the biggest change your baby will go through as their sleep physically changes and they’re learning a new sleep skill.

Why can sleep get a bit sticky at this age?

You might notice that your baby wakes more frequently at night now and/or finds it harder to get back to sleep when they do.

You may also find that your baby gets a bit of food FOMO (fear of missing out!) during the day and gets easily distracted whilst taking their milk.

My top sleep suggestions for this stage are:

I know it’s far easier said than done but try to stay calm and consistent with what you’ve already put in place for your baby.

  • Remind yourself that every baby goes through the four-month regression and it’s only temporary. It does usually pass in time!
  • Try not to make any big changes for your baby around this time. Change is strange and their sleep is changing.
  • It’s normal for them to get a little food fomo at this stage as playing becomes their priority. Taking them somewhere calm, quiet, and away from the action for their milk during the day can really help them to focus on their feeds.
  • Feeding or supporting your baby to sleep isn’t a bad habit! But if you do want to change this, now’s not the best time! And my suggestion would be to keep this support as simple as possible. If they’re feeding to sleep try to stick to feeding to sleep only. If they’re rocking to sleep try to stick to rocking only. The simpler this is, the easier they may be able to stitch their sleep cycles together at night.
  • When they wake at night-time try to pause, and give them the patience to stitch their sleep cycles together. Giving them the practice to do this is a really key part of this stage!

For this baby sleep stage, have a look at my four-month regression session here.

The 6 Month Stage

What’s happening at this stage?

Your baby’s circadian rhythm (sleep system) starts to mature and develop which means your baby might consolidate their naps and night time sleep around this time.

Your baby might also be ready to transition from 3 to 2 naps and drop their last nap.

Why can sleep get a bit sticky at this age?

There’s an expectation that a six-month sleep switch gets flicked on around this time.  And that all babies are capable of sleeping through the night and not feeding a night feed. Spoiler alert some babies are but many aren’t!

My top sleep suggestions for this stage:

  • Remind yourself that night feeds are normal and you only need to night wean or drop night feeds if they aren’t working for you
  • If sleep hasn’t settled and you’re looking for a sleep approach to help, research at least 3 (they’re all SO different) and find one that feels good and is a fit for your family.
  • If bedtime is becoming a bit of a tussle it might be time to think about reducing their last nap to 20/30 minutes max
  • If they still need a cat nap because they can’t make it from their last nap to bedtime it’s always ok to offer them one. I’m not really a rules kind of girl but generally I’d suggest:
  • A nap no later than 5/5.15 pm
  • The key to the catnap is keep it short. 20-30 mins is a great cat nap!
  • Ideally, they’re awake by 5.30 pm ish at the latest
  • Your baby might be ready to scrap their cat nap completely! If they’re finding it a super long stretch to bedtime you might want to think about bringing bedtime earlier but ideally no more than 15/20 minutes.
  • You might find that your baby naturally starts to consolidate their naps as their circadian rhythm starts to mature. This can mean longer naps for you both- hooray! But I generally suggest 2 hours/ 2 hours 15 mins max in one nap. And you might need to adjust their bedtime, because if they’re sleeping longer during the day, they may not be tired at their usual bedtime!

The 8 Month Stage

What’s happening at this stage?

There’s a lot of physical changes going on for your baby at this stage. They might start to crawl, pull themselves up or even walk! As your baby grows, they may also be able to manage more awake time during the day now.

Why can sleep get a bit sticky at this age?

With their new and exciting skills to master they might find it harder to switch off at sleep time now. And they might want to practice their new skills at night-time!

My top sleep suggestions for this stage are:

  • Check that their first nap isn’t too long for them now. If you find that their second nap is getting short, late or they’re flat out refusing it, it might be time to cap that nap to 40/45 mins.
  • Do their nap gaps need to grow? As they get older, they can manage longer periods of awake time and if their wake time is too short it can lead to a nap tussle and short naps.
  • It’s natural your baby will want to crawl and cruise around their cot before falling asleep. I call it the futzing around before falling asleep and it can take up to 20- 30 minutes on average. Your role isn’t to coax them to sleep, but give them the space, time and support whilst they figure out how to fall asleep with their new skill.
  • Learning any new skill takes time and patience to get the hang of!  It’s natural that as soon they start moving around we want to get in there and help them but if we do this they don’t get the chance to practice. Yes, it will mean naps and bedtime will take a little longer, but it will help the phase pass. In the meantime, put them down 5 or 10 minutes earlier for their nap or bedtime and give them the time to figure out their new sleep skill.
  • Cot crawling or cruising are part of what I call “sleep space”. They’re not communicating with you or asking you for support. If they’re not asking for support, I would suggest giving them the sleep space they’re asking for to either get to sleep or ask for support. If they start to cry, the best response is always respond to them, get them calm and try again.
  • It’s so tempting to go in and lie them straight back down or even hold them down the minute they spring up! I don’t suggest doing this because this jack in a bed can quickly become a game for your baby and you’ll end up even more frustrated and it can take them even longer them to fall asleep in the long run!
  • Give them lots of time to practice their new and exciting skills during the day!

The 12 Months Stage

What’s happening at this stage?

The biggest thing for your baby at this stage is their naps might need a time tweak.

Why can sleep get a bit sticky at this age?

Nap transitions can be a little tricky and they take time.

My top sleep suggestions for this stage are:

  • If they’re ready to transition to one nap give them the time to transition
  • If they’re limping towards lunchtime and can’t quite make it without a nap, meet them where they are at! Start with a nap at 11/11.30 am and slowly nudge the nap later by 10 mins every 2 -3 days until it’s after lunch.
  • Try to avoid the post 3 pm danger doze if you can. But if they need a short nap in the afternoon or fall asleep, I’d give them 10/15 min max.
  • Their bedtime might need adjusting. If they need two naps still (which is very age-appropriate!) it might need pushing slightly later.
  • But if they’re down to one nap bedtime might need bringing slightly earlier whilst they adjust. It’s always ok to do this but I suggest no more than 10/15 min.
  • If they’ve started day care bedtime routine might need tweaking. Time together in routine but if they’re super tired speed up the routine.

I really hope you found this reassuring (always here for it first!), informative and useful, but if you need any further sleep support you can find out more about me, my sleep approach, and services here:

Big love and sleep solidarity

Kerry X

Instagram: @careitoutsleepconsultant


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