After months of emotional, physical, and mental preparation, your precious baby is here! These first few months are equal parts exciting, scary, and exhausting! Suddenly, you have more questions than answers. How long do newborns sleep? Can they sleep too much? While each child is unique, some guidelines can help you feel more confident about what to expect from your new babe’s sleeping patterns.
How Much Sleep Babies Need According to Their Age
How often do babies sleep? Well, that depends on the individual child. Some babies will nap for longer times, but less frequently. Others might have more naps in a day, but for shorter times. Here is a guideline to help you get an idea of how much sleep your little one should be getting at different ages.
- Newborn babies: There is little differentiation between day and night. Periods of sleep will happen in between feeds. A newborn baby will sleep on and off through most of a 24-hour cycle.
- 2- 6 weeks: At this stage, your little one will sleep 18 – 20 hours in a 24-hour cycle. The longest sleep will likely be a 4–5-hour sleep after one of the night feeds (usually in the first part of the evening). Thereafter, and for daytime naps, 2–4-hour sessions.
- 6-12 weeks: One 6–7-hour sleep from bedtime to the first night feed. Between 3-4-hour stretches thereafter. Your little one will likely be sleeping away 16-18 hours of their day at this age.
- 3-6 months: The nighttime sleep should stretch for 8-10 hours from bedtime until the early hours of the morning. Subsequently, a 3-4-hour stretch with one or two daytime sleeps. Making up a total of 14 – 18 hours of sleep through the day.
- 6-24 months: At this stage, your baby should be sleeping for 12-16 hours of the day. They may be sleeping for 10-12 hours at night. They will most likely still be having a daytime sleep too. One long nap of 3-4 hours or two shorter 1-2-hour naps.
Can Babies Sleep Too Much?
Yes, newborns can sleep too much. At this early stage, your little one should be nursing or feeding from a bottle 8-12 times in a 24-hour cycle. Allowing your infant to sleep for too long will mean that they might miss out on vital nutrition and fail to thrive. In addition, if you are breastfeeding, leaving your newborn to sleep for more than four hours may also cause your milk supply to wane.
During the first few weeks, you should gently wake your baby for a feed after a four-hour sleep. Check-in with your pediatrician if your baby is not awake enough to feed at least eight times a day at this stage.
What Happens When Babies Don’t Get Enough Sleep?
Over-tired babies are fretful, disinterested in their surroundings, and might suffer from separation anxiety. They could become difficult at feeding times and they will have trouble falling asleep. Signs that your little one is over-tired are: yawning, tugging at their ears, or rubbing their eyes.
Five Tips for Getting Your Baby to Sleep Through the Night
1. Establish a Bedtime Routine
It is never too early to start a bedtime routine. A consistent bedtime routine is a way of letting your little one know that it is time to sleep. The bedtime routine acts as a signal to your little one’s brain to move from an alert and wakeful state to a sleepy state. In a drowsy state, your baby is more likely to fall asleep quickly.
During your baby’s bedtime schedule use calming sensory input to help settle them. We all have different parenting styles, and babies are all unique, so do what works best for you. Whatever you decide to incorporate into your bedtime routine needs to be easy for you to replicate every day. Here are a few ideas of sensory soothing practices that you can include in your routine:
- Touch: Bathe your little one in a warm bath. After the bath, wrap them up in a soft, warm towel and dress in soft, warm clothes. If your baby is amenable to it, you can do a soothing massage while dressing them.
- Visual: For the duration of the bedtime routine, the room light should be dim. One of your little one’s sleep triggers can be to read them a bedtime story.
- Sounds: Many parents use sounds to help soothe their babies. Sing lullabies, play classical music, or white noise.
- Smells: Our sense of smell can trigger specific responses too. Scents such as lavender, vanilla, and chamomile are helpful for soothing and preparing for sleep. If your baby has a sleep blanky or comforting soft toy, the scent of this item will also help them to relax.
- Movement: Rhythmic movement is an effective way to lull little ones to sleep. You can rock them in your arms, push them in a pram, or walk with your baby in a sling or pouch.
- Sucking: For many infants, the action of sucking has a significant soothing effect. Whether it be on their thumb, a pacifier, or when breastfeeding or bottle-feeding.
2. Comfortable Bedding and Clothes
Make sure that your baby’s sleeping clothes and bedding are soft, warm, and comfortable. No scratchy tags or rough surfaces. Natural fibers such as cotton and bamboo are ideal as they are soft, breathable, and hypoallergenic.
Change your baby’s diaper just before bedtime. Choose a diaper that is soft, comfortable, and very absorbent.
4. The Ambience of the Sleep Environment
Make sure that your baby’s room is at a comfortable temperature. The lights should be dim during bedtime preparations and dark during sleep time. If you find that your infant is particularly sensitive to noise stimuli, you can play white noise in their room to help block out external home noises.
5. Limit Your Baby’s Awake Time
A baby’s nervous system is immature. Therefore, babies are sensitive to sensory input. Few babies will go to sleep readily if they are over-tired. The length of time that a baby can be awake between periods of sleep increases with age. However, it may be as short as 45 minutes for a newborn.
- At 6-16 weeks of age, the length of time increases to 45-80 minutes.
- 4-7 months old: 90 – 150 minutes.
- 7-12 months: 2 – 3 hours.
- 1 – 2 years: 3 – 4.5 hours.
How Do I Know When My Baby is Ready for a Sleep?
One of the most powerful tools in your parenting armory is understanding your baby’s sleep cues. If you can quickly respond to your little one’s sleep cues, you can get them to bed before they become over-stimulated and over-tired. Here are a couple of signals that you can look out for:
- Holds their hands near their face and/or sucks vigorously on their hands.
- If your infant looks away from you and won’t make eye contact.
- Arches their back away from you.
- Loses interest in their feed.
How Do I Know My Baby is Getting Enough Sleep?
These first few days and weeks might go by in a blur of exhaustion. You might feel that no one is getting enough sleep. This too shall pass! Just remember that your baby is an individual and that there is no one-size-fits-all program for newborns.
If your baby is feeding well, growing nicely, and sleeping more-or-less according to the guidelines we have listed here, you are doing great!