Sleep and the Newborn Baby


Newborns spend most of their time sleeping. On average, a newborn baby will sleep between sixteen and seventeen hours per day for their first three to four months. Unfortunately for the parents, this sleep tends to be in two to four hour stretches.

It’s perfectly normal for babies to wake up frequently. In fact, a healthy newborn baby should wake up every two to four hours to eat. For the first few months of her life, a newborn’s stomach isn’t large enough or developed enough to handle enough food to tide her over any longer than that. She going to wake up, and she’s going to be hungry.

Of course, this means that even though baby is going to get 16+ hours or sleep every day, mom and dad are going to have a really tough time carving out eight hours of sleep at night. Fortunately, this doesn’t last forever. Somewhere between a year and two years old, most babies start sleeping through the night, giving mom and dad some much needed rest.

In the meanwhile, there are some things you can do to make it through these first few months. Try this:

  • Take turns with night time parenting. If you’re bottle feeding, this is fairly easy. If you’re breastfeeding, mom will still have to pull the majority of nighttime baby duty (after all, baby will generally be hungry), but dad can still help out with everything except the actual feeding.
  • Take naps. Lots of naps. Anytime baby is sleeping is a good time for mom and/or dad to catch up on some much needed sleep, too. If you need to, let the dishes of the vacuuming go for a day. Your rest is important, and that will still be there tomorrow.
  • Make nighttime parenting as boring as possible. To a baby, everything is new, and everything is fascinating. Most babies can start recognizing the difference between day and night as early as two weeks old. They can begin to sleep for slightly longer periods at night and slightly shorter periods during the day. The best way to help them do this is to keep things dark and relatively uninteresting during nighttime feedings.

There will be times when the early stages of your baby’s life seem to take forever. In reality, it doesn’t last very long. As babies grow, they will generally develop sleep habits closer to your own. Until then, remind yourself that you will look back fondly at these times sooner than you think.