How Many Hours Do Newborns Sleep – It is common for most newborns to sleep 16 hours a day.  Generally, this sleep is fragmented as most newborns do not sleep for longer than 2 – 4 hours at a time during the first month after being born.

Many first time parents ask, “why won’t my newborn sleep?” or “how should newborn babies sleep?”  Baby news is inevitably followed by congratulations, rueful anecdotes of sleepless nights, and unsolicited advice. In this age of information and technology, we have everything we need to prepare.  This collection of expert advice includes both factual and time-tested advice from generations of parents on how to help your newborn sleep at night.

How Many Hours Do Newborns Sleep
How Many Hours Do Newborns Sleep?

Typical newborns sleep an average of 16 hours a day. This slowly tapers off to an average of 14 hours after six months [1]. Regarding general newborn sleep tips, it’s important to remember every baby is different, and each varies in their sleep-wake cycle.  As long as your infant is showing signs of growth and development with no symptoms of discomfort and pain, there is no need to set a timer.

Why won't my newborn sleep
How Many Hours Do Newborns Sleep? Newborn Sleep Tips Both During The Day And Night Hours

Your newborn is new to circadian rhythms and will awaken throughout the night which will affect your day-night sleep cycle. You will undoubtedly be summoned for nighttime feedings and will have a lot of sleepless nights. Realistically, it is going to be a tiring month of random surges of sleep for you and your baby.

Try to lay down when your baby does. Even if you do not sleep, rest is beneficial. By the end of four weeks, your baby should stay asleep for extended stretches [2].  By week 12, many newborns fall asleep faster. And two-thirds of their sleep will take place during the night instead of during the day [3].

How should newborn babies sleep
What You Need To Know About Newborn Naps

Why Won’t My Newborn Sleep? – Three naps per day is an ideal schedule and goal. Newborn naps occur in bursts of one to two hours of sleep which have no rhyme or reason. Be prepared for unpredictability for at least a few weeks or even months.

Dr. Harvey Karp, author of The Happiest Baby on the Block, puts it succinctly, “It’s important to have realistic expectations.”

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Newborn Sleep Tip #7 - Drifting And Drowsy

Newborn Sleep Tip #7 – Drifting and Drowsy

Start as early as possible to teach your baby self-soothing skills. Author Kim West of The Sleep Lady’s Good Night, Sleep Tight suggests making a “sleepy scale” when your baby is six to eight weeks old. One means the baby is wide awake, and ten means the baby is in a deep sleep. When babies hit seven on the sleepy scale, that is the time to lay them in the crib to sleep [4].

If you hear waking or rustling during a light sleep, wait before you rush into the room. Babies settle themselves on their own if they are not hungry or uncomfortable. Only go in if you feel it is going to be a full-blown howl.

Once babies can sit and turn on their own, give them a comfort object that reassures and helps relieve separation anxiety.

Newborn Sleep Tip #6 - Avoid Eye Contact
Newborn Sleep Tip #6 – Avoid Eye Contact

Parents who make eye contact with sleepy babies encourage them to leave the sleepy zone. This is especially true in the middle of the night when your baby is beginning to drift off to dreamland again.

Dr. Alan Greene, author of From First Kicks to First Steps suggests making a lot of eye contact during their day, so your baby knows it is time to shine and socialize. He also suggests avoiding your baby’s gaze during night feedings. He compares parental eye contact to a double-latte as far as perking up the baby.

If babies awaken, provide comfort by patting their rumps or backs. Do not take children out of the crib.

To help your baby fall asleep faster, minimize interactions during the nighttime. Avoid creating sleeping habits that you will regret further down the road.

Newborn Sleep Tip #5 - Safe And Cozy
Newborn Sleep Tip #5 – Safe and Cozy

According to Dr. Greene, having a cozy bassinet makes newborns sleep better especially if they share the same room as their parents. Bassinets and swaddling provide a sense of security that mimics the enclosed space of a mother’s womb. The presence of parents in the room increases your newborn’s feeling of safety.

Newborn Sleep Tip #4 - Temperature Control
Newborn Sleep Tip #4 – Temperature Control

Dr. Greene also says to make your baby’s room warmer during the day and a tad cooler at night. Adults sleep better in cooler temperatures, and so do babies. Optimal infant sleep temperature is between 65 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit.

Having a white noise machine or something similar is also advisable since babies are accustomed to the thumps and sounds of their mothers’ wombs. A nature playlist or radio static can also be used. “Babies love and need strong rhythmic noise,” opines Dr. Karp.

Newborn Sleep Tip #3 - Fewer Diaper Changes

Newborn Sleep Tip #3 – Fewer Diaper Changes

Dr. Michael Cohen, author of The New Basics: A-to-Z Baby & Child Care for the Modern Parent, suggests using nighttime diapers for sleep time which are more absorbent than daytime ones. Dr. Cohen, also recommends using diaper cream for babies with sensitive skin or diaper rash.

Tip 2 Strategic Lighting
Tip #2 – Strategic LightingNewborn

Promote your newborn’s internal body clock (circadian rhythm) by regulating and using light strategically. Our bodies associate light with day and darkness with sleep. By mimicking the passing of the day, your baby will ease off the “Go” button.

Elizabeth Pantley, a world-renowned expert on children’s sleep (author of The No-Cry Sleep Solution for Newborns), suggests letting sunlight into the house during the day. If you are putting children down for a nap, put them in a well-lit room barring the possibility they do not take naps easily. Use dimmers throughout the house before bedtime to prepare babies for rest.

Tip 1 Bedtime Routine
Newborn Sleep Tip #1 – Bedtime Routine

Establish a simple but consistent bedtime routine. Treat your baby to a warm bath, massage, reading, and rocking every night. Play soft music when your baby is sleepy. Avoid any activity or play an hour before bedtime. Be consistent with your responses. Do not avoid your baby’s eyes one night and then play another night.

Sleeplessness is inevitable. However, preparation, correct information, and proper practice help new parents during those first months keep their humor and sanity intact.

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How Many Hours Do Newborns Sleep, Newborn Sleep Tips, Why Won’t My Newborn Sleep, How Should Newborn Babies Sleep Reference:

[1]   American Academy of Pediatrics; Good Night, Sleep Tight, Laura A. Jana, MD, FAAP, Jennifer Shu, MD, FAAP, January 20, 2012.
[2]   American Academy of Pediatrics; Good Night, Sleep Tight, Laura A. Jana, MD, FAAP, Jennifer Shu, MD, FAAP, January 20, 2012.
[3]   Stanford Children’s Health, Infant Sleep, What are the sleep needs of an infant? Newborn Sleep Tips.
[4]   Stanford Children’s Health, Infant Sleep, What are the sleep needs of an infant? Newborn Sleep Tips.

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