If there’s one thing that newborns know how to do, it’s sleep. They may sleep as much as 18 hours a day during the first week after birth, and they usually settle in to about 12 to 16 hours a day by the time they hit a month old.
The problem is that newborns don’t sleep for very long. If your newborn sleeps for more than two hours at a time, consider yourself lucky. It’s almost unheard of for a newborn to sleep more than 4 hours at a time, barring some sort of physical ailment that’s causing him to sleep more than he ought to.
This means an erratic and tiring schedule. There’s really no way around it. You’re going to be up several times each night to change diapers, feed your newborn and to comfort her.
You see, a baby’s sleep cycles are shorter than ours. They spend more time in REM sleep, which contributes to the amazing things happening in their cognitive development. Unfortunately, REM sleep is lighter and more easily disturbed. Hence, all of the waking up.
Somewhere between about six and eight weeks of age, your baby will probably start to sleep for shorter periods during the daylight hours and for longer periods at night. She’s probably likely to continue to wake for night time feedings for a while, however. By the time they finish with this stage, they may be sleeping for five or six hours at a time at night, but you really can’t count on it.
Some babies will sleep for a long stretch at night as soon as 6 weeks, but most don’t. It takes some babies until five or six months, and others even longer.
At best, your baby’s sleep at this stage is going to be unpredictable. Take advantage of those hours of sleep you do get, and remember that it won’t last forever.