Did you know that, according to the National Sleep Foundation, by the age of two, most children will have spent MORE time asleep than awake over the course of their life? Clearly, sleep plays a large role in your baby’s life – even beyond the first year!
But what should your newborn’s sleep look like? How much should your newborn sleep? Is there such a thing as sleeping too much? How can you help them sleep? We’ll answer all those questions, and more!
Decoding Newborn Sleep
Immediately after birth, your baby will spend about an hour or so awake before entering a deep slumber - they’re just as exhausted as you after being brought into the world! You will find it hard to keep them awake during feeds. No worries, the hospital staff is very helpful during this time to maintain a very consistent eat sleep cycle.
You’ll spend this time snuggling, learning about newborn care and establishing a bond between you and your baby before you prepare to take them home. This sleep pattern may last for about 12 to 18 hours and will be over just in time for you to leave for home with your new family.
Over the next 24 hours, your baby will start to become more alert and awake. They’ll settle into the typical awake-eat-sleep pattern of newborns. This pattern will be pretty consistent throughout her first month, and even into her second.
As a newborn, babies should be spending 75% of their time asleep! As they get older, the number of hours they spend asleep each day will slowly decrease, which you can see in our baby sleep chart below. Learn more about newborn sleep in our article Simplifying Baby Sleep: Birth to 3 Months.
Why Do Newborns Sleep So Much?
Once your baby is born, life outside the womb can be overstimulating. They've just spend nearly a year in the warmth and comfort of your belly - so they'll spend 2/3rd's of the day asleep and the rest of the day eating in those first 6 or so weeks. Their tummies are so tiny, they fill up fast. So, although they might only spend a little time eating, they'll keep waking to be fed between napping. They sleep so much simply because that's what they're used to and what their tiny bodies need.
How Much do Newborns Sleep?
The short answer? A LOT. As you can see from the chart below, newborns (0-15 weeks) will sleep up to 18 hours during a 24 hour period.
|15-18 hours||15 minutes-3 hours (3-5 naps)||2-4 hours||30 minutes - 1.5 hours|
|14-16 hours||30 minutes - 3 hours (3-4 naps)||3-6 hours||1-2 hours|
|12-15 hours||1-3 hours (3 naps)||6-8 hours||1.5-2.5 hours|
|12-15 hours||1-3 hours (2-3 naps)||9-12 hours||2-3 hours|
|11-15 hours||1-2 hours (1-2 naps)||10-12 hours||2-3 hours|
|11-14 hours||1-2 hours (1-2 naps)||10-12 hours||2.5-3.5+ hours|
As you can see the durations are always given in the form of ranges because each baby is different. Just like adults some are heavy sleepers whereas others are light sleepers. Some might not stay awake longer than 30 minutes in between naps for the first couple months, while others might be up for close to an hour or more between napping.
Another thing to keep in mind is that there may not be a set pattern to their sleeping habits. Before 3-4 months old, their sleep can be pretty erratic – the only thing you can count on is that there will be a lot of it! Savor this time, because it won’t last forever! Your baby’s sleep will change, and as they grow older, they’ll need a little bit less of it every day.
How Much Should a Newborn Sleep? Is my baby sleeping too much?
It might seem crazy that newborns sleep more than they are awake. To some parents it may not seem that way, who are struggling to catch a breath in between their baby's super short naps. However in some cases babies will sleep longer and may need to be woken up to be fed.
FROM THE EXPERTS
“For newborns, sleep during the early months occurs around the clock and the sleep-wake cycle interacts with the need to be fed, changed, and nurtured. Newborns sleep a total of 10.5 to 18 hours a day on an irregular schedule with periods of one to three hours spent awake. The sleep period may last a few minutes to several hours."- National Sleep Foundation
Newborns aren’t born with an internal biological clock – it’s developed over their first few months. You won’t see a regular sleep-wake cycle develop in your baby until 3 to 6 months old. Until then, they’ll spend 75% of their time asleep, and the other 25% alert and feeding.
When to wake your baby
The only time you need to intervene in your newborn’s sleep is to make sure they are adequately fed, every 2.5 to 3 hours. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, breastfed babies will eat 8 to 12 times per day and bottle-fed babies will eat 5 to 8 times per day (formula takes longer to digest, so baby stays fuller for longer).
It is a safe bet is to schedule feeding times every 2 to 3 hours, or ask your pediatrician for a recommendation based on your baby’s needs. During each pediatric visit, your baby will get weighed to ensure they’re gaining enough weight and getting enough food. However, if you have questions about sleeping or eating patterns of your baby between scheduled visits, do not hesitate to consult your baby’s doctor.
FROM THE EXPERTS
“Most newborns lose weight in the first few days after birth. Until your newborn regains this lost weight - usually within one week after birth - it's important to feed him or her frequently. This might mean occasionally waking your baby for a feeding, especially if her or she sleeps for a stretch of more than 4 hours.
Once your newborn establishes a pattern of weight gain and reaches the birth-weight milestone, however, it's generally OK to wait for feedings until he or she wakes up."- Elizabeth LaFleur, R.N., The Mayo Clinic
As long as your baby is gaining weight at a healthy rate (as determined by your doctor), it’s okay to let her sleep. Many babies will wake on their own because they’re hungry, but if not, then you may need to wake them up yourself. This may be the case during the first couple of weeks after birth.
However even after the first couple of weeks, if your baby continues to sleep a lot, acts lethargic and has to be woken up each time for a feed, you may want to consult your pediatrician.
Safety in Newborn Sleep
First, make sure you’re helping your baby sleep safely. Every parent should get familiar with the American Academy of Pediatrics’ (AAP) safe sleep guidelines:
- Always place your baby on their back to sleep.
- Place baby on a firm surface to sleep, clear of any loose bedding, pillows, or stuffed toys.
- Roomshare, but avoid bed-sharing
Read more about the AAP’s policy here.
How to Help Your Newborn Sleep
Overstimulation during the day can cause your baby to either sleep too little, or sleep when they should be eating, due to exhaustion. Your baby can also become overtired if they stay awake too long in between naps, which usually causes them to become very fussy and harder to settle for sleep. Here’s how you can help your newborn sleep and begin instilling healthy sleep habits:
1. Teach the difference between night and day: If you have a baby who seems to sleep a lot during the day, but is wide awake come bedtime, it could be a sign that they’re getting their days and nights confused. Remember to keep night times dark and calm with little activity. Following a consistent bedtime routine helps them understand when it’s night and time for bed. You can have a similar routine before naps, but make it a shortened version.
2. Create a soothing environment: Adding white noise, light-blocking curtains, and keeping the room at a comfortable temperature will help your baby sleep better.
3. Cultivate a consistent bed time routine: It consists of feeding, swaddling, shushing, swaying and the proceeding to sleep.
4. Develop healthy sleep habits: Put your baby to sleep drowsy, but awake. This tip is crucial to helping your baby learn good sleeping habits starting at around 3.5 - 4 months and throughout their first year.
Using the Zen Swaddle helps babies learn how to sleep soothe and develops healthy sleeping habits. The Zen Swaddle is gently weighted on the chest and sides to mimic touch. The gentle pressure can help soothe an overtired baby and calm an overstimulated one! The Zen Swaddle’s design recreates the womb environment for your newborn to help combat Moro Reflex, and the weighted center helps teach your baby to self soothe, a skill required to start sleeping through the night.
The Zen Swaddle® helps your baby get the sleep she needs with it's patented weighted design.
5. Avoid an overtired sleeper: If you’re keeping your baby awake past their drowsy stage, they’ll become overtired and fussy. This requires learning your baby’s sleepiness cues. Watch the video below to learn what they are and how to spot them.
You can also check out our post, 7 Tips & Tricks on How to Get Your Newborn to Sleep, for other effective sleep tips!
Changes in Your Newborn’s Sleep
Your newborn won’t have much of a “schedule” until their a few months old, but there will be somewhat of a pattern present. If there’s a sudden change in your baby’s usual patterns, it could be due to one of the reasons described below.
Unpredictability due to the Newborn Sleep Cycle/Pattern
While your newborn might have your eyes or nose, they definitely do not have your sleep cycle. Newborn sleep patterns are completely different than adults’ because they wake much more frequently and erratically during any stretch of sleep. This is completely natural, but be prepared for some serious unpredictability with their sleep cycle, especially during the first two months. Read our article to learn more about Your Baby’s Sleep Cycle.
Your baby is literally growing right before your eyes every single day. If your newborn is experiencing a growth spurt, you might find that they are eating constantly. And if she’s not eating, it’s because she’s sleeping. This is completely normal, and necessary! During a growth spurt, babies need the extra rest and nourishment. Your baby is likely to go through a growth spurt at:
- 7-10 Days Old
- 2-3 Weeks Old
- 4-6 Weeks Old and
- 3 Months Old
4 Month Sleep Regression
A sleep regression is a period of time when your baby suddenly stops sleeping well. The 4 month sleep regression is by far the most common, and can occur as early as 3 months old. If your good sleeper has suddenly started fighting sleep at every turn around 3 months, this could be why. The cause of the 4 month sleep regression? Those newborn sleep patterns are changing. Learn more, including tips on how to survive the sleep regression, in 10 Tips for Surviving the 4 Month Sleep Regression.
Sleeping Through the Night
While the amount of daytime sleep your baby needs will decrease as they get older, their nighttime sleep duration will get longer – which is good news for you! However, you shouldn’t expect your newborn to be sleeping through the night quite yet. Find out what to expect and how to make it happen in our article: When Do Babies Sleep Through the Night & What Might Be Preventing It?
After 3 months, your baby still needs a good 13-15 hours of sleep per day. Colic, sleep regressions, acid reflux/gas, and Moro reflex are just a few of the things that could be interfering with your baby’s sleep. The Zen Swaddle or Zen Sack can help with many issues, but some fixes might require a change in routine. You can check out our 7 Highly Effective Sleep Tips to help, or read up on 2 month old sleep and 3 month old sleep. If you find your baby is not getting anywhere near the amount of sleep on our chart, it might be a good idea to talk with your pediatrician to make sure everything is okay.