Newborn sleep patterns (or lack thereof!) are a tricky thing, leaving every exhausted parent desperate to know the answer to one question: When do babies sleep through the night?!
Everyone will warn you about those sleep-deprived days with baby, but no one can really prepare you. There isn’t a rhyme or reason to it and no two children are alike. Newborn sleep patterns are one of parenthood’s greatest mysteries—but there’s light at the end of the tunnel.
Read on to find out:
- How much you can expect your newborn to sleep
- When do babies sleep through the night
- What you can do to help baby sleep through the night 🙏🏻
- Plus, tips to help YOU manage the exhaustion (it’s real, mama!)
How Much Should Newborns Sleep?
From birth to 3 months or so, parents can expect their babies to sleep A LOT, usually around 16–18 hours a day (then comes the 4 month sleep regression).
But that doesn’t mean you’re getting the sleep you need. Newborn sleep doesn’t often happen in normal nap time and nighttime sequences—it’s generally in clusters that range from 30 minutes to 4 hours.
You can’t expect much except for the fact that your little one’s schedule will be “irregular,” and that can be unsettling when you’re adjusting to all the other new things a baby brings to your family. But, take heart! It won’t always be like this, and together, you and your baby can learn how to sleep—and sleep well.
Can Newborn Babies Sleep Too Much?
The first one to two weeks of your baby’s life will be extra sleepy. You may even find yourself wishing that your baby wouldn’t sleep so much! (Don’t get used to it.🙃) They will drift in and out of sleep easily, and to keep them adequately nourished, your healthcare provider may advise you to wake your baby for feedings. Embrace those sleepy snuggles while you heal from birth, because week three often marks a new world of wakefulness, and thus, a new schedule for everyone!
Why Does My Baby Sleep All Day?
When women are pregnant, baby’s sleep schedule has a lot to do with mom’s movements. When mom is up and about, the motion lulls baby to sleep. When mom is sleeping, baby is ready to party!
In the womb, babies also rely on mama’s melatonin to help them sleep. Once out in the “real” world, babies bodies have to learn to regulate themselves. The trouble? Their internal clock is all out of whack, since they were generally sleeping during the day (while mom was up and about) and moving around at night (while mom slept).
It can take baby about three months to regulate their own melatonin production. But, in the meantime, you can help your baby establish good sleep habits by teaching them how to align their days and nights correctly:
- First thing in the morning, expose your child to natural sunlight (of course, don’t let him burn or get too hot). The point is you want his eyes exposed to the light as this can help set his circadian rhythm for the day.
- During the day, keep the blinds open, turn on lights, and continue with the regular sounds of day-to-day life. If you can, get baby outside as much as possible. ☀
- Once the sun sets, dim the lights. Avoid baby seeing any TV screens or iPhones. (She shouldn’t any way.) Encourage the evening atmosphere with darkness and calm, and quiet noises and sounds. 🌙
- If you’re really desperate, and you’re nursing, you can drink tart cherry juice as baby may get some of the melatonin benefits through your milk.
How Long Should You Let Your Newborn Sleep Without Eating?
During the first four weeks of baby’s life, when your body is still establishing its milk supply, you should wake baby to eat every 4-5 hours to ensure your body produces enough milk. Once your milk supply has regulated, you don’t have to wake baby—as long as they are gaining weight and maintaining adequate diaper output. Of course, always talk to your doctor as these are just general guidelines and babies are all unique (and some preemie or underweight children will have different needs.)
Be aware that a breastfeeding baby will often have a slightly different sleep pattern than a formula-fed baby, since formula is processed in baby’s body differently. Breastmilk digests quicker than formula, so expect breastfed babies to wake more often. This is normal; they’re just hungry!
When Do Babies Sleep Through the Night?
Ah, the question of the ages: when do babies sleep through the night? The reality is, every baby is different. Truly, every person is different… there are some adults who claim to have never slept through the night! (Again, try the tart cherry juice for getting better sleep if you’re one of those adults—or kids!)
“Sleeping through the night” is considered to be any stretch of uninterrupted sleep that extends beyond 6 hours.
A stretch of 6–8 uninterrupted hours of sleep is what we’re all working towards. As parents, it is our job to guide and help our children establish a sleep cycle that leads them to sleep through the night. For some children, this will be as early as three months, once they exit the newborn stage. For others, it will be much closer to their first birthday… or beyond. (source)
How Do I Get a Newborn to Sleep Through the Night?
Don’t expect it to happen overnight—it’s a gradual process that will often ebb and flow as your baby develops (source).
It can be a big commitment to gently ease your baby into sleeping through the night. Then again, some babies will accomplish the milestone of sleeping through the night on their own without much of a hiccup. Don’t place your bets either way! Go with the flow, and rest assured that all babies eventually sleep through the night.
In the meantime, here are some things that can help:
1. Spend time outdoors
Get baby outside first thing in the morning—research shows that sunlight helps “set” circadian rhythm. What’s more? Another study found that babies who are exposed to sunlight in the afternoon sleep better at night.
2. Get active
In addition to spending time outdoors, make sure baby gets plenty of “activity” throughout day. Try tummy time, reading, age-appropriate toys, sensory play, and other stimulating activities.
3. Feed on demand
Once your milk supply has regulated, let baby be the guide. Responding to baby’s cues will ensure he/she is satiated. Think of it as filling up baby’s tank. When baby gets more ounces in during the day, she may be less likely to wake up hungry. Bonus: One study suggests infants who were fed on demand performed better on standardized tests later in life.
4. Look for signs of fatigue
You can’t make your baby fall asleep, but you can watch for the following signs that he’s tired and act on those clues:
- Rubbing their eyes
- Crying or acting fussy
- Dazing or spacing out
- Heavy or droopy eyelids
- Tugging on their ears
- Closing fists
- Frowning or looking worried
- Making jerky arm or leg movements, or arching backwards
With a little observation, you’ll get to know your baby’s signs pretty quickly. Once you notice them, don’t delay! This is your opportunity! While they are drowsy, but not yet asleep, settle them into their crib to help them learn to fall asleep on their own.
5. Create a bedtime routine
You can begin segueing your baby into their nighttime routine by following a bedtime routine (babies love consistency!). Different things will work for different babies, but here are a few great ways to get baby bedtime ready:
Do We Need to Follow a Strict Sleep Schedule?
When it comes to your newborn’s sleep pattern, there is no right approach—your baby is unique.
When guiding your child’s sleep schedule, it’s ideal to do just that—guide. Follow your baby’s lead. They can’t speak yet, but they can give you many signs to communicate what they need.
How to Take Care of Yourself When Baby Won’t Sleep
There is nothing like the exhaustion new parents experience. You’re desperate for sleep. It’s hard! But this too shall pass. Right now you may be asking yourself when do babies sleep through the night, but someday your teenager will be glued to his/her bed… and you’ll long for the good old days. 😜
In the meantime, if you’re dealing with exhaustion, put these ideas into action, and hopefully you’ll catch a few more 💤:
- Nap when the baby naps (the dishes really can wait!).
- Consider hiring a postpartum doula.
- Establish a shift schedule with your partner during the night.
- Eat healthy and stay hydrated.
- Exercise—even simple walks with your baby can infuse you with fresh air and a boost in your heart rate
- Practice meditation or calming yoga to keep your stress levels low.
- Remove the temptation of technology from your bedroom so you aren’t distracted when you have an opportunity to sleep.
- Learn about your own sleep cycle so you can maximize the sleep you do get.
- Embrace self-care by doing your favorite activities or scheduling outings with friends.
- Practice safe co-sleeping. Some moms get more sleep this way; others feel they get less. Try it out and see if it works for you.
- Try nursing on your side.
- Ask for help. It takes a Village to raise and child and we all need help. Find a sitter, friend or family. member to relieve you from time to time so you can SLEEP.
And perhaps most of all, don’t stress! Easier said than done, I know. Babies aren’t easy. As they struggle to adjust, you will too. And that’s okay.
How About You?
Do you have any great tips for getting your baby to sleep through the night? We’d love to hear them!