Your new baby is here – CONGRATULATIONS! ? – and everyone has told you about all of the sleepless nights ahead of you. Sleep deprivation and parenting genuinely go hand in hand, at least for the first few weeks after birth, but what can you expect from newborn baby sleep?
I can tell you what shocked me when I had my first baby ten years ago.
She slept all of the time – SERIOUSLY. I just wanted to see her eyes and stare at her face, but she slept all of the time. That can be shocking for parents at first. How can this little human being who sleeps all of the time cause me to be sleep deprived?
The reason is that babies only sleep in chunks, and let’s not forget that babies typically have their days and nights mixed up. That can lead to sleepless nights and copious amounts of coffee for you.
There are so many questions that go with newborn baby sleep.
- Is it bad that my baby wants to sleep in my arms?
- Can I make my baby a good sleeper?
- Should my newborn baby sleep all of the time?
Don’t stress! Let me tell you my super-duper secret – this will pass. Babies’ sleep does naturally change, and as soon as you make it through this phase, something else happens. The first year is full of development and evolving, so the key is understanding your baby’s growth and how to support him.
Ready to learn more about your baby’s sleep? Let’s dive in together.
How Many Hours Should My Newborn Baby Sleep?
The short answer is that your baby needs A LOT of sleep, way more than what you probably thought she needed since everyone told you that you would get no sleep with a baby.
Babies between 0-8 weeks old spend most of their days sleeping. A newborn will wake up to eat, poop, and then go right back to sleep. Eat-poop-sleep is the general schedule your baby will follow for the first few weeks of life. They need to dedicate a lot of energy into growing!
A 6-week-old baby sleeps up to 18 hours a day out of 24 hours. Newborn babies can sleep up to 20 hours a day. As your baby grows, they need less and less sleep. As he grows, you’ll gradually notice the awake periods are more extended, and he is more alert during those times.
You aren’t there just yet, but that time is on the horizon.
Remember that your baby needs to sleep 16-20 hours per day between birth to 8 weeks old.
If My Baby Sleeps So Much, Why Am I So Tired?
Just because your baby sleeps so much doesn’t mean that you get much sleep.
You can expect your newborn baby to sleep 8 to 9 hours in the daytime and 8 hours throughout the night. That sounds great, but your baby has a small stomach. Your baby has to eat every two to three hours around the clock.
Sleeping through the night seems like the holy grail of parenting, but you should realize upfront that sleeping through the night is defined as sleeping five to six hours consecutively. Also, some babies will not sleep through the night until closer to one year old.
So, you’re tired because you’re only sleeping 1.5 to 2 hours before your baby is ready to eat again. It can be exhausting to wake up several times throughout the night to feed your baby!
Understanding Your New Baby’s Sleep Cycles
If you think you understand sleep cycles, think again. Your new baby’s sleep cycles are different than yours. This sleep cycle is one of the main reasons why your bab’s sleeping patterns are so unpredictable. Their sleep cycles are continually evolving over the next few months, so it’s like a rollercoaster for sleep.
As adults, we pass through one sleep cycle into the next without waking up. That’s how you can sleep eight hours straight without a problem.
Babies, on the other hand, are different. Newborn babies don’t stay in a deep sleep, commonly referred to as REM (rapid eye movement) sleep for long periods. That means your baby is susceptible to frequent wake-ups.
My Baby Has His Days and Nights Mixed Up
Did you ever notice that when you laid down to get to sleep while pregnant, your baby suddenly wanted to play soccer in your womb? Babies in the womb have their days and nights mixed up. Our movements throughout the day act like one big swing, gently swaying and rocking our babies to sleep. So, babies in the womb spend most of the day asleep.
At night, when we settle down to read a book and go to sleep for the evening, the baby in our belly wakes up because all of the movement stopped. Now, it’s party time! ?
That schedule will continue when your baby arrives earthside.
It does take time to help get rid of day and night confusion. You cannot have a super structured sleep time, but there are some things that you can do to help your baby understand nighttime vs. daytime. Here are some tips.
Create a Bedtime Routine
Something that you should establish immediately is a bedtime routine. Babies can understand habits, and over time, with persistence, your baby will realize that when these patterns are followed, bedtime follows close afterward. This alerts his body that sleep is coming soon.
You don’t follow this routine during the day, so it does help to establish the difference between naptimes and bedtimes.
If the newborn doesn’t like to sleep in a bassinet, here are some helpful tips.
Make Nighttime Dark and Days Bright
In the day time, keep the rooms bright. Don’t close the curtains for sleep time, and don’t keep things quiet. Everyone should talk freely throughout the day. That’s a difference between night and day.
At night, try to make his room as dark as possible. A nightlight should be okay, but don’t turn on the TV or play with your cellphone too much at night. Blue light can affect your baby’s sleep just as much as it can change your sleeping patterns.
Limit Activities to the Daytime
Your baby will be awake at night, and it’s hard to avoid talking and playing with your baby. You did wait 40 weeks for this, after all!
The problem is that your baby will start to expect all the fun things at night. He will want to be awake at night so that you kiss his toes the way he likes and make silly faces.
All of those things should be done during the day when he is awake. It makes your baby want to be awake more throughout the day, but nighttime is boring. He should want to be asleep during this time.
Stay Calm and Quiet at Night
Nighttime isn’t the time for too much activity. Get up, change your baby’s diaper, feed him, and work to get him back to sleep. If you do have the TV on to help you stay awake, keep the volume down low. Don’t start cleaning or listening to music that is too loud.
Remember, you want your baby to understand and see the difference between night and day.
My Baby Fights Going to Sleep – How Can I Help?
Is your baby fighting sleep? This is a common problem that many parents face, and it can be so frustrating. You know that your baby is tired, but no matter what you do, she doesn’t want to sleep. So, what gives?
Your baby might be overstimulated. Overstimulation throughout the day can lead to your baby either sleeping too little, fighting sleep, or sleeping when they should be eating. In a nutshell, overstimulation can cause a whole lot of problems for a baby who needs sleep to ensure proper development.
Overstimulation can be too many noises throughout the day, too many things to see, or too many people trying to play with your baby. Sometimes, babies need to relax just as much as adults do.
Another problem that can cause your baby not to fall asleep easily is being chronically overtired.
That’s right; it makes no sense to adults. When we’re tired, we fall right to sleep, but babies don’t operate the same way that adults do. It would make life a lot easier if they did sleep like us!
When your baby becomes overtired, it means that he has been awake too long between naps. Your baby will be fussy and harder to settle down for sleep.
To avoid your baby being too tired, you have to know sleepy cues. Get your baby to sleep when he first shows signs of being tired. Here are some signs that your baby is ready to sleep.
- Rubbing eyes
- Looking away
0-8 Week Old Baby Sleep Schedules
One thing that you should know right off the bat: your baby’s sleep for the first eight weeks will be irregular and erratic. Creating any type of schedule can be difficult because you have frequent eating and growth spurts to handle, along with gassiness and a host of other issues.
It’s best not to create an actual schedule at this age. Instead, you’ll fall into a general routine and flow, but it can change at any moment when your baby decides to switch it upon you.
Up to 6 weeks old, your baby should not stay awake for longer than 35-40 minutes. In those 45 minutes, you need to feed your baby, change his diaper, change his outfit (if required), and get ready for sleep again.
Your baby needs to eat every two to three hours. Breastfed babies tend to eat more often, generally every two hours. This is normal, and you should always feed your baby when he is hungry. Don’t try to put a newborn baby on a feeding schedule. They have a lot of eating and growing to do!
General Schedule for a Newborn to 8 Week Old Baby
|Your baby wakes up for the day||7 AM|
|How many total hours of sleep in 24 hours||16 to 19 hours|
|Total Naps and Length of Naps||3 to 5 naps per day between 30 minutes and 3 hours long|
|Time awake between sleep times||30 minutes to 1 hour|
|Typical bedtime||9:30 to 11 PM|
Is It Okay If My Baby Falls Asleep in My Arms?
While some sleep experts tell you that your baby needs to fall asleep awake in his bed, I can say to you, parent to parent, that all of my kids needed to fall asleep in my arms. You can later work towards getting your baby to fall asleep awake in his bed.
Here’s the deal:
This stage is all about survival. You need to get as much sleep as possible, and your baby needs to sleep and eat as much as possible. So, if you find that your baby falls asleep easier by rocking in your arms, it’ll be fine.
On the opposite side, don’t feel guilty about laying your baby down to sleep while he is still awake. Many people recommend starting this at birth, so your baby learns how to put himself to sleep.
So the verdict is that you won’t ruin your baby either way. Do what works for your baby!
Get Some Sleep
Figuring out newborn baby sleep can be tricky, but there are a few things you should remember. First, your baby is going to sleep up to 20 hours a day between birth and eight weeks old. Second, you need to try to sneak naps and rest time as often as possible because your baby will be awake every two hours around the clock to eat.
Don’t worry; this stage doesn’t last long. Soon, you’ll move into 2-month-old sleep, and everything changes again!
Hey, this is Linda. My biggest accomplishment in life is being a mother of four children. Their current ages range from almost ten years old down to 20 months old.
I’m passionate about writing parenting articles because I understand so well all of the problems and trials you face as a parent. From breastfeeding woes to budgeting problems and behavior problems, along with everything in between, chances are I’ve faced it over the last ten years. Read more about Linda here.