Newborn Sleep: What’s Normal?
Your bundle of joy is finally here, so you can say sayonara to sleep for a while (sorry!).
But before you nervously pore over 47 different baby sleep books in hopes of finding a magic formula, breathe deeply and take in these basic truths.
Newborns can typically be found sleeping about eight hours at night and eight to nine hours during the day. But keep in mind that this is just an average and some newborns sleep a lot more or less. The first few months your baby will go through different sleep patterns and it’s important for new parents to know that it may not be consistent. They most likely won’t sleep through the night until a few months in, and even at that point, some may not. Each newborn’s sleep schedule is different!
Here are a few common situations you may notice about your infant’s sleep patterns:
- They sleep a lot
- They need to eat often in between sleeping
- Newborns are restless, fidgety and noisy sleepers
- They won’t sleep through the night until they are developmentally ready
Here’s a bit more information about each of these truths.
#1 Newborns sleep a lot
As we mentioned before, the average newborn gets 16.5 hours of sleep per day – that’s a lot of sleep! This may come as a surprise to new parents, but with the amount a baby needs at this stage, it shouldn’t be alarming. If your newborn won’t sleep or they are consistently getting much more than 16 hours, consult your pediatrician.
#2 Newborns need to eat often
Discouraged that your baby won’t snooze for more than a few hours at a time? Relax – it’s completely normal. Because their tummies are so small, they need to wake up to fuel up on breastmilk or formula every two to four hours during these first developmental months. This means their rest will often need to be broken up because of a feeding or diaper change.
#3 Newborn sleep is fidgety and noisy
Young babies are restless sleepers because they spend half the time in REM sleep (rapid eye movement) – a light phase of sleep when dreams occur. As they get older, they spend less time in active REM and more time in quiet, deep sleep. Newborns are also noisy because the mucus in their noses causes them to make strange sounds. This can also mean their breathing may be irregular – but chances are there’s nothing to be concerned about. If in doubt, speak to your doctor.
#4 Babies start to sleep through the night when they’re developmentally ready
By six to eight weeks, your baby should start to sleep less during the day and for longer periods at night, but most babies won’t start sleeping through the night (six to eight hours) until they’re at least three months old. Between four and six months, most babies are capable of getting between eight and 12 hours at night, but some don’t get there until the age of one or even later.
Top Tips to Help Your Baby Sleep
- Don’t keep your newborn baby up for more than two hours at a time or they could become overtired
- Learn to recognize your baby’s tired signs (rubbing eyes, fussing, looking away and yawning) and put them to bed as soon as possible to avoid sleep deprivation
- Swaddling your baby can control their startle reflex and help them sleep better
- Always put your baby to sleep on their back to ensure safe sleep and reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)
- Teach your baby the difference between night and day by keeping the house bright and noisy during the day, and quiet and dim at night
- Establish a bedtime routine early on to help your baby learn that certain cues (bath, lullaby, pacifier, cuddle, bed) mean it’s time for bed
- Put your baby to bed when they’re sleepy, but still awake, when you want to teach them to go to sleep on their own