Why 12 hours?!
It’s a question I’m often asked. “How did you arrive at that number specifically?”. “My baby does well sleeping 11 hours”. “My baby is happy with 10 hours of sleep, 12 would be too much!”. “My baby is just wide awake after 10 ½ hours, maybe its just his natural preference.”
You’d better believe I asked myself those same questions and had those same doubts while I was in the trenches with my own babies. A busy life, started by a whirlwind of a morning running around after my three older children, made it necessary for my twins to wait their turn. To this day they still hear “give me just one second, I will be right there” more often than not. At first, I wasn’t actively trying to teach them to be patient or to begin extending their nighttime sleep. Those first few months, I was really in survival mode. Long term thinking was pretty much nonexistent. It was all about making it through the day and on those really tough days, just making it through the next hour. To my surprise, more and more often they started falling back to sleep and waking 30 to 45 minutes later even happier.
It became clear to me that after they slept that extra little bit longer, they had an easier time staying awake until their first nap. They were happier overall and much more engaged with the world around them. At first, I thought it was a happy coincidence but that it also made sense. Who wouldn’t be happier having an extra 30 to 45 minutes of sleep? So, I decided to experiment a bit. For a week, I picked them up when they initially woke up, no extra 30 to 45 minutes of sleep. I could tell that they were rested but quickly become were cranky, fussy, and irritable. They struggled to finish their full feedings and were never able to make it to their first nap. The next week, I encouraged that extra bit of sleep. They were consistently happier and were rarely fussy throughout their entire day. Full feedings were easy and they had no problems staying awake for two to two and a half hours until their morning nap. I then experimented and picked up one of my babies early and left their other to sleep a bit more. It didn’t matter which baby it was, the baby that slept more was consistently happier. This helped me eliminate their personalities as being the cause.
Honestly, I didn’t make much of it back then. I just figured they needed a bit more sleep and that was it. Nothing special. It worked wonderfully for our family schedule. Our morning routine was made easier. A happy coincidence. Fast forward a few years. I’m now in the U.S. trying to replicate my successes with greater multiples (twins, triplets, and quads mostly). Most of these babies were born prematurely and were underweight. It was paramount that these babies that were entrusted to me, received the best care possible. It was also important that I found a way to achieve the same results, despite the different variables. The questions and doubts that can so frequently pass through your mind were a constant worry in mine.
The funny thing is when you’re unknowingly conducting research, the process unfolds right in front of you. You don’t have to do much other than take notes. The answers come regardless; when the babies wake up, when they feed, etc. You just have to be open to those answers and let them guide your conclusions. All these years later, that original happy coincidence I experienced with my twins, has proven to be the case for most babies. If you give them a little time, most will go back to sleep and will be much happier for it. The extra sleep has a positive effect on their overall mood, feeding ability, and their ability to stay awake during the day.
So, to all the parents that ask “why 12 hours?”. I can confidently say that 12 hours is the optimum amount of sleep for babies, toddlers, and children. Babies that sleep 12 hours are happier babies, they are easier to manage, they are emotionally more even-keeled, they are able to stay awake for longer periods of time during the day, and they wake up happy. Twelve hours of sleep teaches babies to be patient and that makes all the difference.
Optimum Amount of Sleep by Age
0 to 6 weeks (Newborns)………………..18 to 22 hours
6 weeks to 12 Weeks………………..17 to 20 hours
3 months to 6 months………………..15 to 17 hours
6 months to 12 months………………..14 to 16 hours
12 months to 24 months………………..14 to 15 hours
24 months to 36 months………………..12 to 14 hours
3 years to 5 years………………..12 to 13 hours
5 years and up………………..10 to 12 hours