Newborn Sleep Needs
As a new parent, you are probably filled with questions about how much sleep your newborn baby needs. Newborns have very different sleep cycles and patterns compared to older children and adults.
It’s important to understand their unique sleep needs so you can help your baby get the rest they require to grow and thrive. In this blog, we will provide an overview of newborn sleep requirements and patterns to help you support healthy sleep during the first months. Here is an age-wise guide for newborn sleep need:
Newborn (0-3 months)
In the first few months of life, expect your newborn to sleep an average of 14 to 17 hours per day. However, this sleep is not consolidated and will be broken up into shorter cycles. Newborns alternate between two sleep states: active (REM) and quiet (non-REM) sleep. They drift in and out of sleep frequently and are easily startled awake.
At first, expect your newborn to sleep around 8-9 hours total during the daytime. Nighttime sleep will be another 10-11 hours but divided into shorter 2-4 hour stretches. Newborns need overnight feedings so don’t be surprised if your baby wakes every few hours. Setting up a bassinet close to your bed can make night feedings easier.
At around 2 months, your baby’s sleep will start maturing. Sleep cycles extend to about 5-6 hours at a time. Total sleep needs to decrease slightly to an average of 15 hours per day. Your baby will start developing more of a sleep/wake pattern.
Between 3-4 months, you can establish a calming pre-bedtime routine. This helps signal sleep time to your baby. Sleep starts consolidating into longer nighttime stretches. But expect feedings and waking until about 6 months.
Between 6-8 months, separation anxiety and new cognitive skills may disrupt sleep. Total sleep time decreases to about 14 hours per day with 11 hours consolidated at night. Naps decrease to about 2-3 per day.
By 9 months, sleep settles back down, with most babies sleeping through the night. Naps continue decreasing to 1-2 per day. Night waking becomes less frequent. Total sleep need is about 12-15 hours, with 10-11 hours concentrated overnight.
From 12 months on, your baby transitions to 1 regular daily nap. Night sleep becomes more predictable in a normal sleep cycle. Your baby’s sleep patterns now resemble that of older children and adults.
Tips for Helping Your Newborn Get a Good Night’s Sleep
Getting a newborn to sleep through the night can seem impossible. But there are strategies you can try to help your baby sleep better and longer. Here are some tips for setting up a healthy sleep environment and schedule.
Create a bedtime routine
Starting a predictable bedtime routine helps signal to your newborn that it’s time to sleep. Activities may include a warm bath, putting on pajamas, reading a story, singing a lullaby, and rocking them before putting them down drowsy but awake. Be consistent each night.
Make sure their bedroom is dark, quiet, and cool
Newborns sleep best in a dim, quiet space kept between 65-70°F. Blackout curtains and a white noise machine can help minimize disruptive light and sounds. Don’t overdress your baby or let the room get too cold or hot.
Swaddle your baby
Swaddling provides a snug feeling that reminds your newborn of the womb. It prevents startling awake. Stop swaddling once your baby starts trying to roll over. Transition to a sleep sack to continue providing that cozy, confined feeling.
Rock or sing your baby to sleep
Rhythmic motions like rocking combined with soft singing or shushing noises can help lull your newborn to sleep. Try rocking, patting, swaying, or going for a stroller or car ride before bedtime.
Avoid caffeine and alcohol before bed
If you are breastfeeding, avoid consuming caffeine or alcohol close to bedtime. This gets passed to your baby through breast milk and can interfere with sleep.
If your baby wakes up during the night, try to soothe them back to sleep without feeding them
Your newborn will wake frequently overnight. Before immediately feeding, see if you can help them go back to sleep by rocking, swaddling, shushing, offering a pacifier, or singing. If feeding is the only thing that works, keep the session quiet and lights low.
Establishing healthy sleep habits from the start helps ensure your newborn gets the quality nighttime sleep they need. Work with your pediatrician if you have ongoing concerns about your baby’s sleep patterns. With time, patience, and consistency, your newborn can sleep better at night.
Newborns demand a lot of overnight care and wake frequently to feed. But these erratic sleep cycles are completely normal and will gradually improve over time. Keep track of your newborn’s sleep patterns to plan care accordingly. If sleep issues continue beyond the first few months, consult your pediatrician for advice. With patience and consistency, you can establish healthy sleep habits right from the start. Make sure your newborn gets the 14 to 17 hours of sleep they need per day by providing a comforting sleep environment. With time, your baby’s sleep will consolidate at night for longer restful periods. Learn here more about baby care and healthy growth.
Q: How many hours should a newborn sleep?
A: Newborns need 14-17 hours of sleep per day on average, including both nighttime and naps. However, this sleep is broken up into shorter cycles rather than consolidated overnight.
Q: What’s the longest a newborn should sleep?
A: Newborns should not go more than 4-5 hours without eating, including at night. If your newborn is sleeping longer stretches, wake them to feed to ensure they are getting adequate nutrition.
Q: When can I expect my newborn to sleep through the night?
A: Most babies don’t start sleeping through the night (6-8 hours) until 3-4 months of age. Premature babies may take longer. Every baby is different though – some start sleeping longer stretches sooner.
Q: How can I get my newborn to sleep better at night?
A: Try a relaxing bedtime routine, swaddling, white noise, and avoiding overstimulation before bed. Make sure baby is not overtired. Be consistent with putting them down drowsy but awake.
Q: Where should newborns sleep?
A: The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends room-sharing with your newborn without bed-sharing for the first 6-12 months. Use a crib or bassinet close to your bed, not a shared sleep surface.
Q: Is it normal for newborns to be awake a lot at night?
A: Yes, it’s completely normal and expected. Newborns sleep in short bursts and need overnight feedings. Frequent waking will improve over the first weeks and months as sleep patterns mature.
Q: When should I transition my newborn out of a swaddle?
A: Stop swaddling once your baby shows signs of trying to roll over, usually around 2 months old. Transition to a sleep sack to continue giving them a snug feel.
Q: How often should newborns feed at night?
A: Expect to feed your newborn every 2-4 hours overnight on demand. This includes breastfed and bottle-fed babies. Night feeding frequency will decrease as your baby gets older.