Newborn sleep patterns: what to expect

Newborn sleep patterns: what to expect

By Rebecca Michi, Sleep Consultant

First things first. Newborn babies are not designed to sleep through the night. They are not designed to sleep longer than two or so hours at a time. Yes, they sleep a lot in the first weeks, but all of that sleep is in fragments. Secondly, please do not be under any illusion that newborn babies can be sleep trained. They cannot.

Expect to be a little sleep deprived! You are probably used to at least eight hours sleep a night, with no interruptions (although often late pregnancy hampers this a little for mums to be!) but that just isn’t going to happen with a new baby in the house. That’s why it’s important to have an idea of how newborn sleep patterns work.

A newborn baby will sleep on average for 16 hours a day. Usually this is more or less split equally between day and night. As already explained, babies this young have no concept of day and night and this isn’t going to change in at least the first eight weeks. Most babies will sleep for between two and four hours at this age, waking mainly for feeds and nappy changes etc. Why do newborn babies wake so frequently?

The answer to this is simple: because they need something. Usually a feed. A newborn baby’s stomach is not big enough to hold great volumes of milk and so feeds are little and often until the tummy grows. Most often for newborn babies, a feed also means a nappy change too.

How can I adjust to a newborn baby’s sleep pattern?

You don’t really need to. You do need to be prepared to be woken frequently, but this newborn phase- although it seems otherwise- is only very short. By the age of one month, your baby will have already begun to adjust to life in the outside world and has already made huge physical developmental changes. All of this means that sleep patterns are constantly changing and adjusting. The old advice is still the best in the newborn phase: sleep when baby sleeps!

How will baby’s sleep patterns change?

As an average guide:

  • At one month babies tend to sleep for just over 15 hours in a day, approximately 8.5 of which is at night.
  • At two months babies will sleep for the same amount of time in a day, with around 10 hours at night.
  • At three months babies will have around 14-15 hours of sleep a day, again with around 10 hours at night.
  • By the age of six months, most babies will have around 14 hours of sleep a day, with approximately 11 hours at night.

This is just a guide! Daytime sleep may still only be in two-hour chunks, or your baby may take shorter ‘cat naps’. Of course, your baby may still wake more frequently in the night when they’re older too, but that’s a whole other blog post!


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