Newborns don't yet have a sense of day and night. They sleep around the clock,
and because their tiny stomachs don't hold enough breast milk or formula to keep them
satisfied for long, they wake often to eat — no matter what time of day or night
How Long Will My Newborn Sleep?
Newborns should get 14–17 hours of sleep over a 24-hour period, says the
National Sleep Foundation. Some newborns may sleep up to 18–19 hours a day.
Newborns wake every couple of hours to eat. Breastfed babies feed often, about
every 2–3 hours. Bottle-fed babies tend to feed less often, about every 3–4
Newborns who sleep for longer stretches should be awakened to feed. Wake your baby
every 3–4 hours to eat until he or she shows good weight gain, which usually
happens within the first couple of weeks. After that, it's OK to let your baby sleep
for longer periods of time at night.
The first months of a baby's life can be the hardest for parents, who might get
up many times at night to tend to the baby. Each baby has a different sleep pattern.
Some start to sleep "through the night" (for 5–6 hours at a time) by 2–3
months of age, but some don't.
How Should Babies Sleep?
During the first weeks of a baby's life, some parents choose to room-share.
Room-sharing is when you place your baby's crib, portable crib, play yard, or bassinet
in your own bedroom instead of in a separate nursery. This keeps baby nearby and helps
with feeding, comforting, and monitoring at night. The American Academy of Pediatrics
(AAP) recommends room-sharing without bed-sharing.
Put your baby to sleep with a pacifier. But if your baby
rejects the pacifier, don't force it. If the pacifier falls out during sleep, you
don't have to replace it. If you're breastfeeding, wait until breastfeeding is firmly
Helping Your Newborn Sleep
Newborns follow their own schedule. Over the next couple of weeks to months, you
and your baby will begin to settle into a routine.
It may take a few weeks for your baby's brain to know the difference between night
and day. Unfortunately, there are no tricks to speed this up, but it helps to keep
things quiet and calm during middle-of-the-night feedings and diaper changes. Try
to keep the lights low and resist the urge to play with or talk to your baby. This
will send the message that nighttime is for sleeping. If possible, let your baby fall
asleep in the crib at night so your little one learns that it's the place for sleep.
Don't try to keep your baby up during the day in the hopes that he or she will
sleep better at night. Overly tired infants often have more trouble sleeping at night
than those who've had enough sleep during the day.
If your newborn is fussy it's OK to rock, cuddle, and sing as your baby settles
down. Swaddling (wrapping the baby in a light blanket) can also help to soothe a crying
baby. For the first months of your baby's life, "spoiling" is definitely not a problem.
(In fact, newborns who are held or carried during the day tend to have less colic
When Should I Call the Doctor?
While most parents can expect their newborn to sleep or catnap a lot during the
day, the range of what is normal is quite wide. If you have questions about your baby's
sleep, talk with your doctor.