When you first bring you baby home, your baby will sleep as many as sixteen or seventeen hours per day, but that sleep will come in short, two to four hour increments. She will wake up several times during the day and night needing to be fed, changed, or otherwise comforted.
Newborn babies wake up this frequently because their stomachs don’t hold much food yet, and the liquid diet (formula of breast milk) that they live on doesn’t take very long to digest. Breast fed babies will actually tend to wake up more frequently than formula fed babies, because breast milk digests faster in baby’s stomach. This is one of the few drawbacks to breastfeeding.
Of course, you shouldn’t let that discourage you from breastfeeding. Breastfeeding is the healthiest way for baby to get her nourishment, both physically and emotionally. Baby will eat more often, but ultimately, that’s the way nature intended for babies to eat.
One of the best things you can do as a new parent is to learn to work around your newborn’s sleep schedule. Generally speaking, this means taking lots of small naps right along with your little one. For most of us, who have grown accustomed to sleeping eight hours at night, this requires quite a bit of adjustment, but it is often the only way for new parents to get adequate rest.
About the time your baby reaches three months old, you’ll find that she is beginning to sleep for longer stretches. She’ll also be eating more, as her body is undergoing rapid growth. As baby is able to eat larger portions before she goes to sleep, she will be able to sleep longer before becoming hungry again.
Around three months, you should start training your baby to sleep at night. This doesn’t mean that you should ignore her when she cries, but it does mean that you should try to keep night time feeding, changings, and other necessary baby care as subdued and uninteresting as possible.
Do this by keeping the lights low or off and taking care of baby’s needs without interacting as much as you normally would. The idea is to make night time as boring as possible, in contrast to day time, when baby can see lots of things going on, and you interact and play directly with her.
The more baby begins to view day time as fun time and night time as blasé, the more she will soothe herself to sleep at night. Of course, she will still need naps during the daytime, and she won’t actually sleep through the night for several months yet, but she will steadily sleep for longer periods at night if you don’t give her extra reasons to want to be awake.