Newborn sleep
Personal Health

What to Expect With Your Newborn: Sleep

If you're a new parent, sleep is undoubtedly a hot topic in your household. What's the best way to encourage your newborn to sleep? Newborn sleep can be a complicated topic, so here's the basic rundown on helping your new little one get their rest.

What's Normal

Newborn babies sleep a lot — often, they'll be snoozing most of the day and night, as much as about 18 hours. You may find that you have to wake them up to eat, especially in the first few weeks. Some babies will have their days and nights mixed up, meaning they sleep less at night and more during the day. No matter when your baby is doing the bulk of their sleeping, you will have to spend some time feeding them in the middle of the night. Since most newborns eat every two to three hours, anticipate multiple night wake-ups for feeding and cuddling sessions.

Safe Sleep

The American Academy of Pediatricians recommends that all infants sleep in a room with their parents for the entire first year of life, but always on a separate sleep surface like a bassinet or crib. For safe newborn sleep, babies should always be put to sleep on their back and without any type of blankets covering them.

You may find that you like to use swaddles or sleep sacks with your baby — either right from birth or later into infancy. Most of these are safe, but check safety guidelines and talk to your medical provider if you have any questions or concerns.

Sleeping Well

Some families prefer to put their babies to bed in a controlled environment for naps and at night, while others are OK with their babies sleeping on the go (such as while out and about, in a car seat, stroller, or a baby carrier). Both approaches are fine in infancy.

Establishing a sleep routine so your baby knows when it's time to go to bed can be helpful for families. Routines can include elements like a bath, a dark room, white noise, lullabies, and a nursing session or bottle. Repeated behaviors like these can send powerful sleep signals to a baby.

However, please do not feel like you need to get your baby on a "sleep schedule," especially not in the first few months after birth. Babies don't develop regular sleep cycles until about six months of age, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. It's normal for their sleep patterns to vary, and important that they still have the opportunity to wake to feed. That said, there's nothing wrong with putting your baby down for naps and to bed at roughly the same times each day.

Some experts recommend training babies to sleep on their own using a variety of methods. If you choose to sleep train your baby, it's safest to begin at four months of age or after. While some families find that sleep training works for them, you can absolutely have a happy, healthy, and well-rested family without these methods.

Once your baby is about three or four months old, they should be sleeping about 10 hours at night, and five or so during the day. As your baby grows, he or she will need less sleep overall — but most babies and toddlers will still sleep for about 10 hours at night, with less napping.

It's important to remember that normal infant sleep can be widely variable. Your baby may not sleep as much or as little as your previous children or other children that you know — and that's OK. Learn what is normal for your baby and family, so everyone feels well-rested.

Posted in Personal Health

Carrie Murphy is a freelance writer and certified birth doula living in New Mexico. She writes about reproductive health, pregnancy, childbirth, and lifestyle topics. Carrie's work has been published in or on ELLE, Glamour, Women's Health, US Catholic and other local and national publications.

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*This information is for educational purposes only and does not constitute health care advice. You should always seek the advice of your doctor or physician before making health care decisions.