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Newborn sleep patterns—what to expect from your new baby

New father kisses his sleeping newborn baby

Many new parents are eager to know when their newborn will sleep according to a schedule or what their baby’s sleep pattern will be like.

Here we will talk about the average newborn’s sleep and sleep patterns.

Newborn sleep patterns—what to expect from your new baby

Newborn day/night confusion

When your son or daughter was in mum’s womb, mum’s movements lulled baby to sleep and when mum rested, you may have noticed baby perked up. It takes a few days to several weeks for this to be sorted out but it will get sorted out. Of course, this is tiring for us, parents!

Newborn sleep patterns

When your baby is first born, they will sleep more than be awake.

Newborns generally sleep about 16 hours per day and their awake time includes any feedings. They will usually only be able to stay awake for one hour at a time.

As the weeks go by they will be able to stay up longer and there is a wide range of normal for a baby. On average however, most babies will still need 14-15 hours in a 24-hour period by one month of age to be happy with their world. By 3 months old, the average amount of sleep in 24 hours is still 14 hours.

It is better not to compare your baby with other babies or with what “the book” says your baby should be doing. Every baby is different and it is better to look at your baby and try to figure out what your own baby is telling you. Tuning into your baby’s cues is key to determine if they are hungry, tired or just needing a cuddle.

Most babies have an unsettled time of the day. This usually lasts for around three hours and is often referred to as colic—where they look like they are in pain (bouts of intense crying that’s difficult to soothe and the causes unknown).

Many parents worry that their baby is struggling with wind, however it has been suggested that the reason for this behaviour is more about the baby’s gut maturing in the early week and months after birth. Your baby is just getting used to the different sensations going on in their little bodies.

By three weeks of age their fussiness seems to become more predictable as it happens at a certain time of the day. The good news is that by 12 weeks, things will start to settle down and by 16 weeks you will start to forget that these periods used to happen.

Newborn sleep schedules

Some of us are very scheduled people and others of use are more go with the flow. Babies do respond well to a certain amount of predictability in the world. The goal of many parents is to “get baby into a routine early”. However, this routine or pattern to the day will change somewhat depending on your baby’s need for sleep. Your baby needs regular sleep periods through the day and this will help them to sleep better at night.

Many people might tell you to keep your baby up such that he will sleep more at night, but unfortunately the opposite is true.

A tired baby’s brain becomes more and more wired the more tired they become and they find it increasingly hard to switch off. The more tired they are, the faster their little brain waves go—sometimes they become so overwhelmed  that hardly anything works to get them to sleep.

Try to contain your baby’s world by recognising when they are starting to get tired and support them to have regular sleeps throughout the day. As your baby gets older they will be OK with staying up for longer and a new pattern will emerge.

Newborn sleep patterns

About Cheryl Fingleson

Cheryl has completed The Gentle Sleep Coach Program, the first and most extensive professional sleep coaching certification program available. Cheryl works with families across a range of areas, including settling ...

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5 Comments so far -
  • leara says:

    Expect not to sleep, then when you get to, it is a bonus!

    • Very true. Important to know what to expect. Unrealistic expectations can be our worst enemy. They will sleep one day and so will you. But expect frequent waking in those first few months. Thanks Leara!!

  • Nono says:

    Good article
    I love when I hear people say their newborn is really bad and wants to breastfeed every 2-3 hours ahhhh what did you think a new born needs???
    They will tell you what they need and when
    If you fight your newborn you will lose and be miserable
    I haven’t had many issues in each of my 5 children’s newborn stage and enjoyed most of it as I followed the
    Play by ear’ rule and feed them when they are hungry on demand and I have been able to have 5 hour plus straight sleep at night as early as 4 weeks

    • Nono says:

      Also to add
      I would use the bath in their ‘whitch hour’ to help settle then they would go down to bed in the next sleep after that much easier

    • Hi Nono! Thanks for your comment. You nailed it. Watching and learning from your baby is the best way to grow to know what it is they want. And in those early days it is just about meeting those very basic needs. thanks again xx

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