Newborns sleep a lot. That’s a fact. If they’re not eating or pooping, they’re almost certainly snoozing. Ah, simpler times. But how much do newborns sleep? And how much should a newborn sleep? Or can newborns sleep too much? Let’s find out.
No two newborn sleep schedules are ever alike, so you don’t have to worry about hovering over your little peanut with a stopwatch, timing every nap to the second. They can vary in length, by time of day, and are, in general, incredibly difficult to predict.
But when it comes to newborn sleep, there are some things worth keeping in mind in the first few days, weeks, and months together.
How long do newborns sleep? The first 24-48 hours
Birth is a big deal, for you and your baby. Physically and mentally-demanding, you’ll both be exhausted and ready for a deep, deep sleep once it’s over. So, during the first 24 hours, you may find it’s tricky to keep your baby awake long enough to feed.
However, by the time you’re ready to take them home, they’ll be well-rested and more alert. It’s at this point that your baby will demonstrate an awake, eat, sleep pattern of behavior — something which characterizes their first few months out of the womb.
And it’s the “sleep” part that takes up most of their time. Around 75% of it, in fact!
Why do they sleep so much?
For a tiny human so used to the safety and serenity of your womb, life in the outside world can be draining. There’s a lot of energy-sapping stimulation (lights, sounds, smells), and they’re quite simply adjusting to it.
But there’s also the fact that their stomach is so very small. At 1 week, it’s roughly the size of an apricot; at 1 month, it’s about the size of a large egg. This means they get full fast, and wake up regularly to feed again when it’s empty.
All in all, these first few weeks and months are all about fueling their mental and physical development — and sleep is a crucial part of that.
How much does a newborn sleep? How many hours is “normal”?
We always talk about newborn sleep in terms of ranges of time, because every baby is different. Like grown ups, you get your heavy sleepers, out for the count the moment they shut their eyes, and your light sleepers, who’ll test your tiptoeing to the extreme.
Typically speaking, newborns will sleep anywhere from 14 to 17 hours within a 24-hour period, according to the National Sleep Foundation. Newborn sleep happens in short bursts throughout the day and night, lasting an hour or two at a time.
Unfortunately, it’s difficult to spot a definitive pattern in the first few months. Newborns are notoriously erratic sleepers, and although you can guarantee there’ll be a lot of it, you can’t be sure they’ll sleep and wake at set times.
Our advice? Just enjoy the quiet, mama! It won’t be long until it’s a precious commodity.
How much should a newborn sleep? Can newborns sleep too much?
Chances are, you’ll only notice a regular sleep-wake cycle at around 3-6 months old. Prior to that, the unpredictability persists. Sometimes they’ll wake demanding a boob or bottle, sometimes they’ll sleep through. This means, on occasion, you may need to wake your baby to feed — especially if they’re a particularly heavy sleeper.
It should be noted that this is really the only time you should wake a sleeping baby. It’s up to you to ensure they’re getting fed regularly, usually every 2 to 3 hours, so that they continue to gain weight at a steady pace.
If they’re gaining weight and checking all of their developmental milestones, it’s perfectly fine to let your baby snooze for longer now and then. It’s good for them. Just don’t leave it too long if you’re breastfeeding, as this could affect your supply.
However, if you find you’re having to rouse your baby every time to feed, or if they appear lethargic and they’re sleeping far beyond the accepted normal range of 14-17 hours, you should speak with your pediatrician.
How to put a newborn to sleep
Now you know how much sleep a newborn needs (and why), it’s useful to know how to help them achieve some good quality shut-eye in the process.
For starters, an overstimulated, overtired baby will be harder to settle in the evening. Try to follow a consistent routine for daytime naps and bedtime, with the bedtime routine focused on minimal activity. Keep the room dark and calm, and consider using a white noise machine to lull your little one to sleep.
You also need to learn and recognize your baby’s sleep cues. These can be anything from yawning, rubbing their eyes, pulling faces, crying, tugging at their ear, or staring off into the distance. However your baby chooses to express sleepiness, that should be your first sign that it’s time for jammies.
Bathe, feed, burp, swaddle, and gently rock your baby towards the drowsy (but not yet asleep) stage, before placing them on their back in the crib. This helps teach your baby a crucial life skill: how to fall asleep on their own. If you put them down once they’ve fallen asleep, they may wake up fussy or frightened to discover that you’re not still there.
And remember, safety is paramount when it comes to newborn sleep. Follow the American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines for safe sleep at all times.
To recap: Newborns sleep a lot
Like, a lot! 14 to 17 hours a day, a lot.
But it won’t always feel like it, given how fractured their sleep patterns can be. Just as you’re about to crack open a book, brew a coffee, or drift off to sleep yourself, they’re awake again, ready to feed. So cherish the quiet moments — they’re few and far between.
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