How Long Do Newborns Sleep?

Most newborns sleep the majority of the day and night, waking only to eat and dirty their diapers. But, is your newborn getting enough sleep a day? What about at night? This post will cover newborn sleep patterns and how long newborns sleep at various times in the day.

How Long Do Newborns Sleep a Day?

According to the AAP, newborn babies sleep an average of 16 to 17 hours a day over a 24-hour period but usually in 1-2 hour segments. And, according to The National Sleep Foundation, newborns sleep between 14 and 17 hours a day.

As a sleep consultant for over 10 years, I want to point out that there is quite a big difference between a 3-4-week old versus a 12-week old but both are considered a “newborn.” Sleep needs change rapidly and, therefore, you can expect your 3-4-week old to sleep more than your 12-week-old, for example.

This is one reason why we break down newborn sleep patterns by the week. If you compare a 1-week-old who is eating and sleeping virtually all day and night, you will see that a 6-week-old is awake much more.

It’s important to adjust your expectations as your baby grows and changes so you can make sure you are helping your newborn get the appropriate amount of sleep.

Can your baby sleep too much? The short answer is ‘yes’ but it’s highly unlikely. If your baby is healthy, they are likely sleeping the amount they need and babies need a LOT of sleep! If you are ever concerned, be sure to talk to your baby’s doctor, of course. The total amount of sleep in a 24-hour period will vary from baby to baby. Your baby’s average will stay relatively constant, though, meaning they will sleep approximately the same amount every day unless they are going through a growth spurt or have changed their habits.

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How Long Do Newborns Sleep at Night?

You might be researching newborn sleep patterns and begin to see things about making bedtime earlier. But, don’t do this too early! That’s because newborns will often sleep a maximum of 8-10 hours at night beginning around 6 weeks old, on average. After these 8-10 hours, they might stay awake for playtime for 1-2 hours at a time and you don’t want that to be 3:00 or 4:00 a.m.! Your newborn might stay awake from 3:30 to 5:00 a.m. and then take a 2-hour nap, for example. So, keep bedtime later until your baby extends their nighttime sleep to 11-12 hours which occurs around 3 months old.

Even though your newborn might sleep 8-10 hours at night, it’s important not to let them sleep through feedings until their doctor approves. This is usually after your baby has doubled their weight, established a good weight gain, and is growing appropriately. Every baby is different so be sure to get specific instructions from your doctor.

The newborn days are often the most exhausting for parents because you might be only sleeping in 1 1/2 to 2-hour chunks yourself but take heart it’s a relatively short period of time in your baby’s life! It only feels like years.

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How Long Do Newborns Sleep at a Time?

Now that we know how much newborns sleep in a day, we should discuss how long newborns sleep at a time. Some newborns will take long, luxurious naps for 2-3 hours at a time. Just be careful your baby doesn’t have day/night confusion. If that’s the case, you will want to limit naps to two hours maximum to help them sort this out. Otherwise, we will usually let newborns take long naps. Don’t worry, they will wake up soon enough!

On the other hand, some naps are short, lasting just 30-45 minutes sometimes. Don’t expect all naps to be long but you should expect at least 1-2 long ones and then the remainder are often shorter.

At night, newborns should be awakened to feed every two hours until their doctor tells you that your baby can sleep a longer stretch. Breastfed babies tend to wake every 2-3 hours to eat until at least 2-3 months old while formula-fed babies often go 3-4 hours.

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Sample Newborn Schedule

Putting it all together, here’s a sample 6-week-old baby sleep schedule so you can get an idea:

6-Week-Old Sleep Schedule
Time Activity
7:00 AM Wake, Diaper Change, and Milk
8:30 AM Nap
10:00 AM Milk and Diaper Change
11:30 AM Nap
1:00 PM Milk and Diaper Change
1:30/2:00 PM Nap
4:00 PM Milk and Diaper Change
4:30 PM Nap
6:30 PM Nap
7:00 PM Milk and Diaper Change
8:00/8:30 PM Milk (Cluster Feed)
8:30 PM Nap
9:45 PM Milk and Diaper Change
10:00 PM Bedtime
2:00 AM Milk and Diaper Change
5:00 AM Milk and Diaper Change

See more sample schedules here: Newborn Schedules By Week

Why Do Newborns Sleep So Much?

Newborns have to sleep so much primarily to grow. It takes a lot of energy to build muscles and for brain development. In addition, they have to process so much of what they see in the world. Remember, everything is brand new to them. Just like we adults might get over-stimulated and sleepy after an outing to an amusement park or party, babies need to recuperate from everything they see, hear, and learn during the day on top of all the growth that is happening!

How Long Should Your Baby Sleep in Your Room?

The AAP recommends that you share a room with your baby until 6-12 months, on average. It is important to note that they recommend “room-sharing without bed-sharing.” Sharing a room with your baby is considered the safest and can reduce the risk of SIDS. But, sharing a sleep surface can be dangerous. Always be sure to review the most up-to-date safe sleep recommendations.

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Conclusion

I hope this post has helped you learn more about newborn sleep patterns and will help you establish healthy sleep habits from a young age. Be sure to check out our free e-Books for more information about how you can help your family get better sleep!

References:

AAP Newborn Sleep Needs
AAP Sleep Needs by Age
Sleep Foundation Sleep Hours
Safe Sleep Recommendations

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