Bringing home a newborn baby is one of the most exciting times for families. However, they can also be stressful as newborn sleep cycles often don’t mesh well with those of active parents.
Are you a parent with a newborn with questions about newborn sleep? We put together this guide of things every parent should know about newborn sleep.
Related: How Long Should a Newborn Sleep: How Much is Too Much?
How Much Do Newborns Need to Sleep?
One of the first questions that new parents want to know is how much their newborn should sleep every day. Here’s what the experts have to say:
Newborn to Three Months Old
- Recommended Total Amount of Sleep Per Day: 14-17 hours
- Acceptable Amount of Sleep Per Day: No less than 11 hours and not over 19 hours
- Sleep at Night: 8-9 hours total, waking up 2-3 hours for a feeding
- Daily Naps: 7-9 hour total, with 3-5 naps
Four to Eleven Months Old
- Recommended Total Amount of Sleep Per Day: 12-15 hours
- Acceptable Amount of Sleep Per Day: No less than 10 hours and not over 18 hours
- Sleep at Night: 8-10 hours total
- Daily Naps: 4-5 hours, with 2-3 naps
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Newborn Sleep Basics
As a new parent, there’s much to learn about how newborn babies sleep. Here are some basics to remember when coping with your newborn’s sleep patterns.
Newborns Need to Eat All Day and Night
Newborn babies must eat once every two to four hours, even during overnight hours. Their tummies are small and can’t hold very much in them. It’s essential to try and learn the difference between their cries when hungry and their other cries. Then, you can feed them quickly and promptly go back to sleep.
Newborns Need a Lot of Sleep
Your newborn baby will sleep between 14 to 17 hours out of every 24 hours. There’s no actual pattern to when they will sleep, but they will probably wake up for 30 minutes to an hour and then nap for 15 minutes to three hours in a row.
Newborns Often Confuse Night and Day
Your newborn lived in darkness and was used to sleeping all day. It will take them a little time to adjust to life outside the womb, and by the end of the first month, they should stop confusing night and day when they start producing melatonin.
Newborns Make a Lot of Noise When They Sleep
It’s not unusual for newborns to breathe irregularly, including weird noises and short pauses between breaths which can be stressful for new parents. Their normal breathing rate is between 40-60 breaths a minute when awake and 30-40 a minute when sleeping.
They might take rapid, shallow breaths and then pause before breathing again. This irregular breathing is the developing breathing-control center in their brain getting up and running correctly.
Newborns Sleep Restlessly
Newborns squirm around a lot when they sleep. That’s because approximately half of their sleep is in REM cycles. This sleep cycle is when they sleep lightly, dreaming, moving around, and maybe whimpering.
Their sleeping patterns will change as they get older with deeper sleep and less REM sleep.
Your Sleep Habits Impact Your Newborn
Well-rested parents are better at getting newborns to regularize their sleep patterns. Unfortunately, the more tired you are, the more difficult it will be to calm your newborn down and get them to sleep.
Related: White Noise for Babies: Can It Help Your Baby Sleep?
Ways to Get Your Newborn to Sleep
You know that your newborn needs to sleep. Now the question is, how? Here are some tips to help your newborn fall asleep safely and quickly.
Follow Safe Sleep Practices
Place your newborn flat on their back on a firm mattress in their bassinet, crib, or playpen without loose blankets, bedding, pillows, crib bumpers, or stuffed animals.
It’s also recommended that room-sharing with the newborn, but not in the same bed, until they are at least six months old. Safe sleep practices help prevent suffocation and overheating and reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
Newborns prefer to sleep in snug, comfy spaces. Swaddling your newborn or putting them in a sleep sack will make them feel more secure and might help them sleep longer. However, it’s important to stop swaddling when they are three or four months old, as they can roll over and wiggle out of the blanket.
Use a White Noise Machine
While most adults love silence when they sleep, newborns are used to hearing noises like your heartbeat or stomach rumblings. So soft music, the humming of a fan, a white noise machine, or an app can be very soothing for newborns.
Dim the Lighting
Newborns can sleep anywhere, but try dimming the lighting and giving them a dark place to sleep. It will also help them associate darkness with sleep and help them sleep through the night.
Monitor the Temperature In The Room
Typically between 68 and 72 degrees is the suitable temperature range for your newborn to fall asleep. Too hot, and they can overheat, making them too sweaty to sleep and increasing the risk of SIDS.
Too cold, they can catch a chill and shiver, making them too uncomfortable to sleep.
Be Patient With Their Whimpers
Newborns are restless, noisy little sleepers. Please resist the urge to go and pick them up over the slightest stirring but wait until you know they are ready for feeding or other attention.
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Knowing Is How Your Newborn Sleeps is Half of the Battle
For new parents, knowing how your newborn sleep can go a long way to keeping you sane after repeated sleepless nights.
When you understand your newborn is a naturally loud, restless, chaotic sleeper that needs to sleep most of the day and be fed around the clock. You at least know what to expect.
A cozy, comfortable environment is a great way to help them fall and stay asleep.
In the beginning, if your newborn is well-rested and happy, you shouldn’t have to worry about their sleep patterns and habits.
Be comfortable knowing that, eventually, in a few months, their sleep patterns will change to something more regular, and things will get easier.Related: Baby Waking Up Every Hour? Here's What to Do!