Decoding The Newborn Sleep Schedule
First things first, though. If you're wondering if you'll ever get a good night's rest again, you'll be happy to know the answer is yes!
So, let's look at what's typical for newborns and babies at every stage of first-year development. From there, we'll help you develop a sleep schedule that will (hopefully) put you on the road to a whole night's sleep instead of the occasional nap.
Why You Need a Routine to Promote a Healthy Newborn Sleep Schedule
Newborns have different needs than babies at any other age. They need to eat more frequently, or their energy will be unbalanced. Too much playtime or stimulation in the daytime can lead to exhaustion, causing them to miss meals because they're too tired.
Sleeping through mealtimes means they're not getting the nutrition they need for proper development. Conversely, if they're too wound up, they might not be able to sleep. Fussy babies don't eat or sleep well, which means you won't either.
Newborn Sleep Schedules: Why Babies Don't Stay Asleep
Your sleep habits are probably pretty consistent. As adults, we go from light sleep to deep sleep to REM sleep and back several times a night. On the other hand, your baby isn't yet capable of passing from one sleep cycle to another without waking up.
The result of this stage in the newborn sleep schedule is that they wake up frequently and can't always stay asleep for long periods. Their newborn sleep patterns will change as they develop, but you can expect frequent wake-ups for the first three months or so. After that, they should start to synchronize with your sleep routine.
At four months and onwards, your little treasure starts to experience psychological changes that might impact their infant sleep cycles. They're absorbing a lot of information from their environment and will be learning how to roll over. They go from having two sleep cycles per night to four and will likely wake up more often.
The trick here is to do your best to maintain the routine you've established. It might take a while to adjust, but in time, sleep patterns will improve.
Typical Newborn Sleep Schedules
Your newborn spends most of its early days eating or taking a daytime nap. The average newborn sleeps about 15-18 hours a day (not all at a stretch), but that will change as they grow. The older they get, the less sleep they'll need.
That said, it's good to know what's expected in a healthy newborn sleep schedule, how much your newborn should be sleeping, and why they sleep as they do. Let's dive in!
0-6 weeks: sleeping 15-18 hours per day
The Newborns Sleep Schedule for babies up to six weeks old will be erratic. For the most part, they'll only wake up to eat; then, they'll be snoozing again almost right away. At this stage, it's unusual for babies to stay awake longer than 30 minutes at a time. Past the six-week mark, they'll be awake a little longer, but not much. Naps usually last anywhere from 15 minutes to three hours, while the longest nighttime sleep you'd expect would be about four hours.
This is usually the most hectic stage for new parents as you're unlikely to get very much sleep at all. You'll be laser-focused on ensuring your precious one gets all the care and attention they need. You'll want to feed them every time they wake up.
There's no doubt about it - it's an exhausting part of the newborn sleep schedule, but it doesn't last forever. It's never too early to start establishing positive sleep associations and teaching them the difference between night and day. Emphasize brightness and activity during the daytime and wind down at night with quiet time, softened lights, and darkened rooms.
2-3 months: sleeping 14-16 hours per day
Between two and three months into the newborn sleep schedule, your baby begins developing recognizable sleep patterns. They'll be awake longer between naps, and they'll start to get sleepy at specific times but still won't stay awake for longer than 1-1/2 to two hours or so at a time. They'll be napping a bit longer, too, sometimes up to three hours. It is reported that some babies take about 12 weeks or even longer to establish a healthy circadian rhythm where they fall asleep at night and are awake during the day.
In the previous phase, you might have started using some techniques to get them to sleep faster, like pacifiers, rocking, or feeding until they fall asleep. However, these approaches aren't sustainable. Establishing healthy sleep patterns and positive sleep associations requires some effort on your part. Choose soothing activities, like warm baths or swaddling. Swaddling is incredibly calming to many babies as it mimics the feeling of a mother's embrace.
4 to 6 months: sleeping 12-15 hours per day
At 4-6 months into the newborn sleep schedule, your baby might be sleeping up to eight hours at a stretch! Naps will be up to three hours long, and waking time between a nap is anywhere from 90 minutes to 2-1/2 hours.
Four-to-six months old is a time of significant transitions for babies. Some might experience sleep regression, while others will be sleeping through the night like a champ. Sleep regression is when your baby's sleeping patterns are erratic and they consistently wake up and can't fall asleep. While sleep regression is tough for any parent to go through it is temporary. Their transitions go beyond the physical changes in their little bodies, though, as this is the time you'll want to wean them off certain sleep associations-including night feeding and swaddling.
Sleep Bags are a great way to shift away from swaddling gently. They're slightly weighted for cozy comfort and made from breathable bamboo with a reversible zipper for easy changing-the perfect alternative to loose blankets.
6 to 10 months: sleeping 11-15 hours per day
As your newborn's sleep pattern begins to settle in, your diligence in establishing and maintaining their sleep routine should be starting to pay dividends in sweet, restful sleep. If you're not quite there yet, don't fret-and certainly don't compare your baby's sleep patterns to another's. Even within the general newborn sleep schedule laid out here, every child is a bit different.
However, if you're late in implementing a sleep routine, they might need a little time to catch up. Don't worry though, late doesn't mean never. Statistically, most babies are sleeping through the night by the time they're nine months old, so you've still got a good chance of reaching that milestone soon!
By this point, you should have just about broken all unsustainable sleep associations. They'll still be snug as a bug in their Sleep Bag, and that's something that they can continue to do until they size out of them.
10 to 12 months: sleeping 11-14 hours per day
Except for naps during this time of the newborn sleep schedule, your 10-12-month-old sweet newborn's sleep patterns will be normalizing. They'll be sleeping through the night most of the time, taking a couple of 1-2 hour naps, and spending the rest of their time discovering the world and getting to know the people around them.
Babies can experience sleep cycle setbacks at this stage, which could be caused by anything from separation anxiety to changes in the environment. They'll be starting to eat solid foods and will need to eat more, but nighttime feedings are over. To reduce the potential for setbacks, be sure to stay consistent and maintain your bedtime routine.
If your baby still isn't sleeping through the night at this stage, you might consider sleep training. Above all, don't beat yourself up. Every child is different and you're only human. It's never a bad idea to ask for help when you need it!
Read More >> 7 Tips For Dealing With Sleepless Nights
How Do I Know My Baby Is Getting Enough Sleep?
We've established some sleep pattern ranges here as a baseline, but it's not unusual to wonder whether your baby is getting enough sleep. Truthfully, these numbers are just averages. If you're a couple of hours off here and there, it's nothing to worry about especially if your peanut seems happy, content, alert, and engaged while they're awake. If they're feeding normally and filling their diaper about six times a day, there's generally no need for concern.
Sleeping too much should never be cause for alarm. However, there are a few clear signs that your baby might not be sleeping enough.
Watch for these telltale signs. If your baby is always tired, overstimulated, uninterested in play or food, or cranky more often than not, it indicates they might have an unhealthy sleep cycle.
If you are concerned, speak to your pediatrician about the irregularity of their newborn sleep schedule which if left untreated could lead to health issues. However, the answer often has less to do with a physical problem and more with something behavioral.
We've talked a bit about negative sleep associations, which is a big contributor to sleeplessness in infants. If your baby relies on a complicated or elaborate routine before bed, they will continue to expect it as they grow out of the behaviors.
Lightly weighted sleepwear can help, as does keeping to a strict bedtime. Keeping the room dark and the house quiet at bedtime also helps. If it's hard to keep the noise level down at home, try a white noise machine or an app at low volume. Should you decide to go this route, place the device at least seven feet away from the baby's crib, as some studies have found that the noise level can be detrimental if used over the long term.
If your baby is used to being rocked to sleep, start putting them down when they're drowsy but not fully asleep. The association between drowsiness and their bed will help to change the behavior, but you must commit. Focus on the goal, stay consistent, and a full night's sleep is within reach!
When Will I Be Able to Sleep?
The first few weeks of having a newborn in the house are the most challenging when it comes to sleep. You'll be wondering if you'll ever be able to get a whole night's sleep ever again-but we're here to tell you, you will!
It's easy to slip into despair when you're overtired, your baby is cranky, and your friends are telling you how perfect their little angels were at that age. But know this; every baby is different. Some will start sleeping through the night as early as two months, while others won't get there until they're nine months or beyond.
Still, others will do remarkably well only to regress, making you feel like you're on a zombie roller coaster that never ends!
Even if you're having trouble getting your young prince or princess on a schedule that works for everybody, we've got a few strategies you can try:
- Make bedtime a little earlier
- Train your baby to self-soothe
- Stick to a routine
- Ask for help
The last point is critical-and not too many moms actually do it! Ask dad, sister, or grandma to take over once in a while so you can get some much-needed zzz's. Schedule these sessions in advance, so you have something to look forward to. Yes, you're their whole world, but if you want to be able to give them 100%, you need to nourish yourself first.
Baby Sleep Safety
You'll never get enough sleep if you're constantly worried about the "what ifs." Baby sleep safety is critical, but if you set yourself up properly, you'll have the peace of mind you need to focus on more important things.
Here are some baby sleep safety tips to get you through those all-important first months:
- Babies should sleep on their backs on a firm surface with fitted sheets.
- Do not place bumper pads, pillows, or toys in the crib.
- Remove loose blankets and objects from the crib.
- Only bring your baby to your bed for comfort or feeding. If you feel there's a chance you might fall asleep, be sure there are no loose blankets that could cover their head.
- Keep your baby in the same room for six months to one year.
- Do not put your baby to sleep on a sofa or armchair.
- Don't allow your baby to fall asleep on a nursing pad, lounging pad, or pillow.
- Maintain a smoke-free environment.
Do you have insights to share about newborn sleep schedules? We'd love to hear about them!
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