Your baby is emerging from the newborn stage at 3 months old, which means you’ll start to see more distinct sleeping patterns emerge. You’re not quite to the point where you’ll be getting a full night’s sleep, but 3 month old’s will sleep an average of 14 to 16 hours a day, including naps and nighttime sleep.
You can expect your 3 month old to start sleeping slightly longer stretches at night, anywhere from 3-6 hours. As they get older, those stretches will become longer. This also means that a set bedtime can begin to be implemented.
Check out Nested Bean Mom & mommy blogger, Janene’s (Hello Ivory Rose) reflection of the first few months with her new baby:
"Looking back, the first month was all about snuggling, waking a sleepy baby to feed, figuring out nursing, and surviving the 24 hour shifts. The eye bags were real and deep. It was hard. It was tough needing to be present for my older 3 kids that are still so dependent on me for everything. By month 2, things felt a little more consistent with the schedule but I was still so tired. Month 3 came along and Avery had been sleeping through the night, nursing was going great, I was back to exercising and going to regular playdates with the kids and friends."
Not everyone's 3 month old experience will look like this, but it's true you'll begin to form more predictable routines than when your baby was a newborn. Even from 2 months old, you’ll most likely notice a big difference in how you’re able to keep more of a steady routine. You’ll be able to settle in to more of a pattern, with a few naps during the day and a longer stretch of sleep at night – which is what you’ve been waiting for!! Nested Bean mom, Reeba S., was so excited the first night her 3 month old slept through the night, she had to share with us:
“The first night my 9 week old slept through the entire night in his swaddle!”
3 months old can be a tricky sleep-stage because it’s around this age that babies develop sleep associations. The term “sleep association” has a bit of a negative connotation, but in truth, a sleep association could be anything from swaddling to a dark room to their pacifier. A sleep association is simply anything that your baby associates with falling asleep.
Ideally, around month 2, you began instituting a bedtime routine. This routine could be your child’s sleep association, which is positive! However, sometimes in an effort to get our little ones to sleep, we start doing something that soothes them, but isn’t sustainable. For example, if your baby wanted to be held to sleep, and wouldn’t sleep or would cry if you weren’t holding him, you probably just started picking him up and giving in to his request to get some peace and quiet. Although it might have helped then, it will be impossible for you to hold your baby every time they go to sleep, unable to put them down.
This particular challenge is why we created the Zen Swaddle, but there are many other negative sleep associations or sleep habits that your baby may have developed by 3 months old. Any environment or action that is impossible or difficult to recreate any time your baby needs to sleep is a negative sleep association. When your baby is 3 months old, it’s important not to start these types of sleep habits or break ones that are already formed. It can be pretty tough! But ultimately, your baby will need to learn to self-soothe and YOU need to get your own rest as well!
At 3 months old, it’s still normal for your baby to wake up to 3 times in the night to be fed. Some babies need less than this, as some 3 month old’s will start sleeping through the night. If your baby is waking more often than that, chances are feeding, rocking, or whatever you do with them when they normally wake in the night has become a sleep association, so they can’t fall back asleep without it. Try to slowly phase out the association, cutting down the time of the action bit-by-bit. This way, your baby will learn to self-soothe. 3 months old is the ideal time to start implementing these good sleep habits.
One thing to keep in mind if your baby is 3 months old is that when we say your baby might start sleeping “through the night”, that may not look like the 8 or 9 hour stretch that adults can sleep. While some babies could sleep up to 8 hours at night, most will be more around 4 to 6 hours at a time, which is still a great improvement over the 1 or 2 hour periods of sleep they were taking as a newborn! Babies are naturally early risers, so even when they sleep through the night, you’ll still be up pretty early with them in the morning.
Luckily, 3 months old also brings a more solid nap routine! Your baby will start to establish a sleeping pattern which might look something like 3 to 4 naps per day, ranging from 30 minutes to 3 hours long, with that longer stretch of sleep at night. Some parents find themselves struggling to get their baby to take a nap around 3 months old, and many times it’s because your baby is overtired – NOT because they need less sleep.
Sometimes we start noticing those 3 month old milestones, like becoming more active and being more alert, and think that means they don’t need as much sleep. Although they're smiling more, starting to play and developing hand-eye coordination, they still need lots of sleep, 14 to 16 hours total in a 24-hour period. In fact, they can still only stand to be awake for, at most, 2 hours between naps without getting overtired. Make sure you’re picking up on your baby’s sleepiness cues and putting them to sleep when they start to get drowsy.
Another common misconception around this age is that if you keep your baby awake longer or let them sleep less, they’ll sleep longer at night or later into the morning. Believe me when I tell you, this is NOT a good idea. Make sure your baby is getting adequate sleep through naps and going to bed at a reasonable time – between 8 and 11 p.m. (depending on your sleep/nap schedules). Otherwise, you’ll have a very cranky baby on your hands! Check out our bedtime chart by age for recommended bedtimes through the first year and more!
Want to know more about why babies sleep so much, how many hours they really need, and all the other ins-and-outs of baby sleep? Check out our Simplifying Baby Sleep 0-3 Months page!