Parents of newborns have a lot of questions about their babies’ sleep. And for good reason: newborns sleep most of the day and night. That’s because newborns’ bodies and brains are developing rapidly, which requires a lot of rest for them – and not a lot of rest for you.
We understand this can be frustrating, but this new experience should be embraced – it’s the start of a new journey for you, one that can help you grow as a parent and a person.
To help you thrive while raising a newborn, here we’ll answer all of your newborn-related sleep questions.
If you’re looking to establish healthy sleep habits for your newborn, we recommend downloading the Smart Sleep Coach by Pampers ™ app. It makes it easy to keep track of sleeps and feedings, and the smart schedule automatically updates as you track sleeps so you can help get sleeps in tune with their biological rhythms.
How Much Sleep Does My Newborn Need?
A lot. A typical newborn sleeps about 2-4 hours before waking up to eat, snuggle, or get a new diaper; they’re then awake for 45 minutes to 2 hours before going back to sleep again. In total, most newborns typically sleep 14-17 hours a day.
Every baby is different, though – some sleep as little as 11 hours-a-day, others up to 19. If your baby is sleeping less than 11 hours, you may want to talk with your pediatrician.
How Much Should My Baby Sleep Their First Two Years?
Here’s a longer guide to your baby’s first few years of sleep:
Keep in mind that some of these hours will come from daytime naps, but we want to work on getting the majority of sleep overnight.
A Note on Premature Babies and Sleep: Premature babies will typically wake up for feedings more often than full term babies and you should talk with your pediatrician about age adjusted sleep expectations.
Do breastfed babies sleep better than formula fed?
While every baby is different, research suggests that breastfed babies take a little bit longer to start sleeping through the night. They also need more night feedings. That said, breast feeding can help reduce your baby’s risk of SIDS, a rare but fatal phenomenon in which a healthy baby passes away at night. Luckily there are many things you do can reduce your baby’s risk of SIDS .
When Do I Start Weaning?
If you have a newborn, no time soon. Weaning typically starts between 5 and 6 months, but many babies still need night feeds until around 9months.It is important that before you start weaning you reach out to your pediatrician to get the all clear – at which point nighttime feedings can start to be phased increasing your baby’s ability to “sleep through the night.”
Tip: Make sure feeding is not the last thing your baby does before bed, and more importantly don’t feed your baby to the point of them falling asleep. You want to put them in their crib when they’re tired but awake so they can learn how to soothe themselves to sleep. Feeding them to sleep will create an association which could mean they struggle to fall asleep without it.
Why Do Newborns Sleep So Much?
Newborns sleep so much for two reasons.
- They’re growing: Your newborn is developing super fact – their bodies, brains, and hearts are all growing faster than at any other point in their lives. This requires a lot of two things: energy and sleep. Your newborn will wake to take in calories and then go back to sleep to convert those calories into new cells.
- Their circadian rhythm is developing: The circadian rhythm, an internal clock of sorts, helps humans regulate their sleeping. It tells us when to wake up and go to bed based on our unique biology.
Your newborn’s circadian rhythm is still developing, which means they don’t understand the difference between day and night or when it’s appropriate to sleep. This ability begins to take shape around 4 months – that’s why we recommend waiting until then to sleep train.
When you are ready to sleep coach, the Smart Sleep Coach by Pampers™ will teach you how to help shape your newborn’s circadian rhythm to help them fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer – a skill that will serve them well for years to come.
Why Can’t My Newborn Sleep Longer?
Newborns simply are not meant to sleep for long periods. They wake often to eat, get a new diaper and to cuddle with their favorite parents – you!
Right now, though, newborns are mainly focused on growing – which requires a lot of sleep.
Is It Too Early to Start a Bedtime Routine?
No. While newborns are too little for actual sleep training, which begins around 4 months, you can start your baby’s bedtime routine the first night home. This consistent, daily routine helps them know it’s time for sleep.
How Do I Set up a Bedtime Routine?
Simple – anything that’s calm and soothing, like a bath or reading time, is perfect for a bedtime routine .
Whatever you choose to include in your bedtime routine, the goal is to calm and soothe your baby before bed while creating a predictable routine that becomes the foundation for a life-long habit. That’s why a bedtime routine should be the exact same every night: consistency is key to habit-growing.
How Do I Help My Newborn Baby Sleep?
Luckily newborns are naturally pretty good at sleeping, but they and all babies also need mood setting to help encourage healthy sleep. To help your newborn sleep, we suggest:
- A Dark, Cool Room: Darkness promotes the production of melatonin, a natural hormone that helps your baby sleep. Your baby – and you – will sleep better in a room set between 68-72° F.
- A Consistent Routine: This becomes more important as your child gets older, but it’s never too early to create a consistent bedtime routine that helps calm your baby and cues that it’s time to go to sleep.
- Using a Sound Machine: White noise or another consistent, calm sound from a sound machine can help your baby fall asleep and stay asleep.
How Do I Put My Newborn to Bed Safely?
These simple tips can keep your baby safe during bed and nap times.
- Place Your Baby on Their Back: Babies should be placed in bed on their backs for the first year at night and during daytime naps. At some point your baby will learn to roll over from front-to-back and back-to-front. If your baby rolls onto their stomach before then, go into their room and gently readjust them onto their back.
*Note: Since newborns sleep so many hours on their back, place them on their stomachs for short periods of tummy time while they’re awake – and always under supervision. This helps build your baby’s neck and shoulder muscles and their motor skills.
- Use a Fitted Sheet: Your baby only needs a fitted sheet for the first year – this prevents suffocation.
Tip: Dress your baby in one more layer than you’re wearing to keep them warm at night. So, if you’re wearing a t-shirt, dress your baby in a t-shirt and a long-sleeved shirt.
- Keep the Bed Firm: Your newborn needs to sleep on a flat, firm mattress. It may seem like soft surfaces are best for your delicate newborn, but soft materials or blankets pose a major suffocation hazard.
- No Pillows, Blankets, or Toys: Similarly, your baby’s bed should clear of blankets, sheets, pillows, or toys.
- Do Room Share: Keeping your baby’s crib in your own room for the first 6-12 months can greatly reduce their risk of SIDS. Plus, it makes night feedings that much easier!
How Often Should My Newborn Eat?
Newborns eat about every two-three hours – which is usually why they wake up. As they grow, they’ll eat less often and sleep for longer periods with more awake time in between – and then the real fun begins!
As new as some of this may be for you, this is also a very special and precious period: a time when you and your newborn can enjoy sweet cuddles and quiet memories together. This is the start of a beautiful new era for you both - embrace it and enjoy it!
And remember - if you have any questions, The Smart Sleep Coach by Pampers™ app has expert answers that will help you get the most results and joy from this experience. We’re so excited for you!
How Does Sleep Help My Baby Later in Life?
Sleep is fundamentally important for your newborn’s growth now and later. That’s why sleep coaching is so important, because:
- Sleep coaching improves your baby emotional balance.
- Sleep coaching can improve learning skills.
- Sleep coaching can reduce obesity later in your baby’s life.
- Sleep coaching helps parents get more sleep, which makes them more attentive, alert, and emotionally available during the day.
When Will My Baby Sleep Through the Night?
Again, sleep coaching is a process, but most babies can sleep for 6-8 consecutive hours by 8-9 months.
Rest assured this does not mean they won’t sleep for long periods before that – but, again, sleep coaching is a not linear: your baby may sleep five hours consecutively for weeks and then wake after 2. This may because of sleep regressions, sometimes called sleep progressions – periods when your baby wakes more often because of developmental progress, like learning to pull themselves up.
These progressions will reoccur periodically over your baby’s first 2 years but are brief and can be mitigated.
“Infant Sleep and Its Relation with Cognition and Growth: A Narrative Review,” Nature and Science of Sleep
“Helping Babies Sleep Safely,” The CDC.
“Newborn Sleep Patterns,” Johns Hopkins School of Medicine .
How We Wrote This Article
The information in this article is based on the expert advice found in trusted medical and government sources, such as the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. You can find a full list of sources used for this article below. The content on this page should not replace professional medical advice. Always consult medical professionals for full diagnosis and treatment.