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How Long Should a Newborn Sleep: How Much is Too Much?

sleeping baby

There is no doubt that babies sleep, a lot. In fact, they sleep between 16-17 hours a day. Their sleep cycles are often sporadic, varying from 40 minutes to 3 hours at a time. This can be exhausting for parents as they must wake up when their baby to soothe or feed it. While this stage is difficult, it will get better as babies move out of the newborn stage. Rest assured (no pun intended) that your little one will develop a more developed sleep schedule with most of the dozing happening at night. If you are fortunate enough to have a newborn that sleeps in longer blocks, consult with your doctor to find out when to wake your little one up for feedings and awake time during the day.

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Too Much of a Good Thing?

Parents might wonder if their baby is sleeping too much or not enough. After all, sleep is critical for a child’s health and development. The right amount of sleep is equally important. While it might be tempting to let your newborn sleep for longer stretches of time, this might not be the best option. The youngest babies need to eat every 3-4 hours if bottle-fed and every 2-3 hours if breastfed. If your little one has slept more than four hours at one time, you may need to wake it up for a feeding. This is why it is important to talk to your doctor as, based on your baby’s health, you might be able to let it sleep and wake on its own.

Related Link:  How to Get a Baby to Sleep Through the Night

Bottom line: an infant needs to woken when it is time for it to eat.

The possibility of a baby going too long without nourishment is one of many reasons too much sleep can be detrimental. Longer snooze times can result in an overstimulated baby in the evening, which means no one will be getting any quality sleep. You do not want your child to nap too close to bedtime as it can make going to sleep at night more difficult. Limit daytime naps to 3-4 hours before waking a baby up to eat and play. Well-timed mental stimulation can help establish the next bout of sleep and be an early step in planning a sleep routine. And always create a safe environment for your baby to rest in, especially if it is a sound sleeper.

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For the first year of your child’s life, always put it on its back to sleep. This reduces the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Make sure the crib mattress meets safety standards and is covered with a tight-fitting sheet with no gaps between the sides of the crib and the mattress. Ensure the crib is empty as blankets, pillows, and even stuffed toys can lead to suffocation. While it is recommended that you room share with your baby up to the first year, bed-sharing can be dangerous.


sleeping baby

Unpredictable Sleep Stages

A newborn’s sleep stages are far from predictable, but your baby will give you signs when it is ready for some shuteye. The first signal is drowsiness after being awake for any period. This could be minutes or hours, and a perfect opportunity to put your little one in the crib. The next stage is active sleep, which can involve the twitching of limbs and eyes moving under the lids. If your baby’s breathing is rapid this is normal, with the pace lasting only 10-15 seconds. When the rapid breathing stops, your baby is in light sleep. The final stage, deep sleep, is marked by your baby being very still. And equally difficult to wake if necessary.

Related Link:  Why Do Babies Cry in Their Sleep?

Newborn Sleep Patterns

Adults typically sleep at night and are awake during the day. Newborns sleep in shorter segments during the day and night. The period they are awake is usually brief before falling asleep again. If your baby wakes up on its own, chances are it is hungry or needs to be changed. After a few months, babies can begin to sleep for 4-5 hours at a time. At around six months, this can extend to 5-6 hours at a time and babies are awake for longer stretches during the day. Keep in mind these very young children still need 2-to-3 day naps.

No two babies are the same, and this goes for their sleep cycles. As your child begins to sleep for longer amounts of time, the progression will not be consistent. Be prepared to deal with sleep regression, a baby sleeping for longer stretches for a few months then switching back to waking up more often during the night. This is also likely to happen when a child is sick, distressed, or moving through various developmental stages.

Establishing a Sleep Routine

It is never too early to start planning a sleep routine for your child. Though a newborn’s sleep cycle is unpredictable, that doesn’t mean you can’t be prepared when things become more consistent. One of the reasons for dozing for short periods is because newborn’s stomachs are tiny, and they can only last a few hours between feedings. Take note of this schedule as it is the basis for an optimal sleep routine. And be sure to observe your child’s drowsy moments, using them to encourage sleep.

Related Link:  What to Do When Your Baby Doesn’t Sleep Unless Held

This will also make establishing a bedtime routine easier as you will learn how and when to calm your baby before placing it down to sleep. Studies have shown that babies love routines, so give your little one something to look forward to and associate the time with winding down for sleep. Incorporate activities like bathing, songs, massage, or a bath into the bedtime routine as they will help to soothe. When your baby is drowsy but still conscious, place it in the crib to establish a positive correlation between the crib and sleep.

sleeping baby

CTA: Every wonder why babies smile in their sleep? Find out here.

While new parents are at the mercy of their newborn’s erratic sleep schedule, it will get better with time. As you begin to learn your baby’s signals and patterns, you can start coming up with a schedule that will give you some much-needed sleep and balance your child’s needs. Even if you are lucky enough to have a sound sleeper, your little one needs food as much as it needs sleep. While the thought of an extra hour of sleep might sound appealing for both of you, it can do more harm than good. With the right mix of awake and asleep, take comfort in knowing your baby will have sweet dreams.

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