Newborns love to sleep—so much so that they spend somewhere between fourteen and seventeen hours a day practicing it. That’s some serious passion.
But a newborn sleeping too much—is that possible? When should you be concerned? And when should you just count your blessings and keep binge watching Netflix while baby naps?
In this article 📝
- Why do babies sleep so much?
- How do you know if your newborn is sleeping too much?
Why do babies sleep so much?
According to the National Sleep Foundation, babies sleep through over half of their first year of life. And while it may seem like they’re missing out on a whole lot, it turns out they’re using their slumber time very productively.
In your baby’s first twelve months, their brain will double in size. Sleep plays a vital role in this early development. As the Urban Child Institute tells us, much of this growth happens in the cerebellum, a part of the brain that controls their physical development and motor skills. Think driver’s ed for baby bodies.
During these first few months, they also develop their long-term memory circuits and make important strides in terms of their sensory development. And, as this 2010 study tells us, newborns are actually learning about their environment–like shifts in light and air–even while they are napping. How efficient.
But while newborns get a lot of sleep, they definitely don’t get it all at once.
Because newborns have tiny stomachs, they need to eat often. As in multiple times through the day and night. For the first few weeks of their lives, they will need to feed about every two to four hours–and sometimes even more than that, if they’re cluster feeding. That means that there’s no sleeping through the night at this point.
Of course, this all has a huge bearing on your own ability to get the zzzs you need. Try to nap when you have the chance. (Yep, that laundry can wait.) Be gentle with yourself. Ask for help. It won’t be like this forever.
Should I let my newborn sleep all day?
All babies are different. Some enjoy their sleep so much that they’ll sleep straight through their meals even in the middle of the day. If your newborn is a really long sleeper, it’s a good idea to wake them every three hours or so to feed. They gain about an ounce of weight a day in these early weeks, thanks mostly to those frequent feeds.
While newborns are only awake for about five hours a day, their waking hours will gradually increase. As a rough guide, by the time they get to about four months, they should decrease their sleep hours to between twelve and fifteen per 24-hour period—and by the time they’re a year old, they should be down to between eleven and fourteen.
Their circadian rhythm—that’s the term for the sleep-wake cycle we all experience—also starts kicking into gear when they’re in the region of three to four months old. They start to realize that night is for sleeping and daytime is for adventuring.
By the time they reach the six-month mark, 90% of babies have the ability to sleep through the night, leaving even more time and energy for daytime fun.
So what if your baby is sleeping way more than the amounts we’ve suggested above? Let’s take a look.
How do you know if your newborn is sleeping too much?
If your baby is sleeping for even longer times than usual, it may be a sign that something else is up. Here’s what to watch out for.
Is it normal for a newborn to sleep 22 hours a day?
Newborns usually cap out at about nineteen hours of sleep a day. If your newborn sleeps all day, it’s worth getting medical attention, particularly if this extra sleeping is accompanied by any of the following symptoms:
- Dark-colored urine, dry lips and tongue, crying with no tears, sunken eyes or a sunken spot on the back of their head, or fewer wet diapers. These can be symptoms of dehydration.
- Extreme lethargy when they are awake
- Trouble feeding
- Extreme fussiness
- High fever or a fever that won’t break
What causes a newborn to sleep too much?
Jaundice. If your baby has too much of a substance called bilirubin in their blood, they might get jaundice. Bilirubin is created when your body breaks down old red blood cells. When your baby is in the womb, the placenta helps get rid of this substance—but once they’re born, they have to perform this task themselves.
Sometimes, their organs are not quite ready to tackle this. Jaundice usually develops within a few days of birth and causes baby’s skin to have a yellowish tinge. Other symptoms include fatigue, crankiness and high-pitched cries.
If your baby is diagnosed with jaundice, the doctor will likely schedule some follow-up visits to check their progress. In most cases, jaundice will go away on its own soon after their birth. In rare cases, it can signal another issue.
Illness and infections. Those little immune systems are still kicking into gear, making baby more susceptible to viruses and bacterial infections. Even something as small as a cold can make your baby sleep more than usual. If you’re concerned about your baby’s symptoms, check in with your doctor.
Medical procedures. If your baby has undergone a medical procedure, such as circumcision or vaccination, they might be a little sleepier than usual.
Growth spurts. These can happen as soon as the second or third week of your baby’s life and can interfere with their sleep. During a growth spurt, you might notice that your baby is awake and eating more often for a few days, and then spends the next few days getting more sleep to turn those calories into extra weight and height.
A growing belly. As they get slightly older, they will need to feed less regularly. That may mean longer stretches of napping. For example, a baby that was taking four shorter naps might now take two or three longer naps.
We get it, it can be confusing! But you are definitely not alone. If you need support along the way, your Peanut community is here for you.
Good luck, mama.