Sleep - or lack of it - is probably the most-discussed aspect of baby care. New parents discover its vital importance those first few weeks and months. The quality and quantity of an infant's sleep affects the well-being of everyone in the household.
And sleep struggles rarely end with a growing child's move from crib to bed. It simply changes form. Instead of cries, it's pleas or refusals. Instead of a feeding at 3:00 AM, it's a nightmare or request for water.
So how do you get your child to bed through the cries, screams, avoidance tactics, and pleas? How should you respond when you're awakened in the middle of the night? And how much sleep is enough for your kids?
How Much Is Enough?
It all depends on a child's age. Charts that list the hours of sleep likely to be required by an infant or a 2-year-old may cause concern when individual differences aren't considered. These numbers are simply averages reported for large groups of kids of particular ages.
There's no magical number of hours required by all kids in a certain age group. Two-year-old Sarah might sleep from 8:00 PM to 8:00 AM, whereas 2-year-old Johnny is just as alert the next day after sleeping from 9:00 PM to 6:00 AM.
Still, sleep is very important to kids' well-being. The link between a lack of sleep and a child's behavior isn't always obvious. When adults are tired, they can be grumpy or have low energy, but kids can become hyper, disagreeable, and have extremes in behavior.
Most kids' sleep requirements fall within a predictable range of hours based on their age, but each child is a unique individual with distinct sleep needs.