Characteristics of Newborn Sleep

There’s good news and bad news about the characteristics of newborn sleep. The bad news is that newborn’s sleep characteristics are very different from ours, which means you’re likely to lose some sleep during the first few months of your baby’s life. As a matter of fact, your newborn’s sleep needs are very different than what her sleep needs will be in four to six months, which leads us to the good news. The good news is that, while your newborn’s sleeping and waking habits may be disruptive, they don’t last forever. Usually by four to six months of age, babies will begin to sleep through most of the night. So, take courage and take naps while you can. These sleepless nights won’t last too forever. Here are some characteristics of your newborn’s sleep patterns:

  • New born babies sleep an average of 16 hours per day. Now, we all know they don’t do it at once, but when you add it all together, they spend a lot of their time sleeping. Hint: when baby sleeps during the day, it’s a good idea for mom and dad to catch a nap, too.
  • Your newborn will wake up every 2-4 hours, generally speaking. While your baby is less than four months old, if she doesn’t wake up within 4 hours, you should wake her up.
  • Baby’s stomachs only hold so much breast milk or formula, and they need to be fed every 2-4 hours. Formula fed babies tend to be able to go a little longer between feedings, but in no case should you go more than four hours between feedings with a newborn.
  • Your newborn will probably fall asleep often while suckling at the breast or bottle. This is normal, and isn’t something to worry about. That said, it is also good to put him to sleep sometimes when he is not feeding, so that he will not completely equate sucking with sleeping, a habit which could become problematic later.
  • Your newborn’s sleep cycles are much more rapid than yours. Everyone has sleep cycles. We regularly cycle between light sleep and deep sleep. As adults, we typically enter periods of light sleep every hour and a half to two hours. Your newborn will enter into periods of light sleep every hour or so, sometimes even more frequently.
  • Starting somewhere between 3 and 6 months of age, your newborn will start to sleep for longer stretches at a time during the night. He will start to “sleep through the night”. For a baby, sleeping through the night is considered 5 hours of uninterrupted sleep. Congratulations. At this point, your baby is moving towards sleep maturity.