How Long Should Your Newborn Sleep

Every parent knows that sleep deprivation is just part of the package of having a newborn baby – but don’t worry, the special moments you spend with your baby in their first few weeks will make it all worth it. We’ve broken down newborn sleep patterns below to give you a rough idea of what to expect during the first 3 months.

Firstly, how much sleep does your baby need, well the short answer is A LOT! Your newborn baby will spend the majority of time sleeping and the rest of their time eating – this is particularly true in the first few weeks after birth. As a newborn, your baby will sleep up to 18 hours for every 24-hour period. As your baby grows they’ll need less and less sleep each day.

So, let’s break it down into the first 6 weeks and then the 2-3 month period as these can often be very different. In the first six weeks your newborn baby’s sleep patterns look irregular and erratic, this is the true newborn stage.

Up to six weeks it is normal that little ones are unable to stay awake beyond 35-40 minutes at a time. This means that they are essentially awake to be fed, changed, a little cuddle and then it’s time to nap again! As your baby gets a little older, the time they can cope with being awake will start to get longer.

Baby Sleep Schedule: 0-6 Weeks

The biggest challenge is feeling like you’re in a constant eat-sleep-poop cycle. This is usually the most exhausting stage for parents despite baby sleeping so many hours, mainly because you’ll only ever get a few hours of sleep at a time.

During this time focus on making sure your baby gets lots of sleep, love and care – this is what’s most important in this phase. Feed baby on demand whenever your baby needs it, which will be often as their tiny stomachs can only hold so much, so expect to feed any time they wake up!

Your day should start around…. 7AM
Total hours of sleep (in 24 hours) 15-18 hours
Naps 3-5 naps, each 15 mins – 3 hours long
Time awake between naps 45 minutes to 2 hours
Longest stretch of nighttime sleep 3 to 6 hours
Bedtime should be around…. 8 to 10PM

Top Tip: All newborns are born with a number of reflexes, one of these is the Moro reflex, also known as the startle reflex. You may have noticed your baby suddenly startling while sleeping. There is no way to prevent the Moro reflex from occurring – in fact, it’s actually healthy for your baby to have a Moro reflex, as it shows their little nervous system is properly developing.

However, this can be particularly troublesome during sleep time, as it may wake your baby up from sound sleep. Your baby is still getting used to the outside world which is very different compared to the tight space inside your womb.

Try drawing your baby’s arms and legs closer to their bodies and wrap them in a swaddle, which restricts their movements and helps draw their extended limbs back. Swaddling also helps recreate the womb environment, which can help soothe babies while experiencing this startle reflex.

Baby Sleep Schedule: 2-3 Months

Your newborn’s sleep pattern is starting to emerge into a true pattern. He’s probably able to stay awake a little longer between naps, and you’re starting to get an idea of your baby’s sleep cycle and when to put him down for a nap. Even at 3 months old, the total time your baby can stay awake for without becoming overstimulated or overtired is only 1.5 hours.

Remember, this is the time spent awake from the end of one nap to the start of another and will include time for a full feed! This is a big jump from the quick 45 minutes at 6 weeks of age. It can often be helpful to set an alarm when your baby wakes up from their nap to help remind you of when to put him down for his next one.  

Your day should start around…. 6 to 6:30AM
Total hours of sleep (in 24 hours) 14-16 hours
Naps 3-4 naps, each 30 mins – 3 hours long
Time awake between naps 45 minutes to 2 hours
Longest stretch of nighttime sleep 3 to 6 hours
Bedtime should be around…. 8 to 10PM

Top Tip: This is the time to start implementing a bedtime routine. You’ve probably already found things that help soothe your baby, this could be a bedtime bath, baby massage, swaddling, story. Try out different calming activities and develop a routine that helps relax your baby and prepare him for sleep. Having a consistent bedtime routine will benefit both of you and is important for healthy sleep habits.

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Written by

Katie Hilton
Katie Hilton graduated from Staffordshire University with an RN Dip HE in Adult Nursing. She then went on to gain her BSc Hons Midwifery. Katie worked as a Midwife in Wolverhampton, Staffordshire and Cambridge before relocating to Vancouver in Canada. Katie spent this time working as a Registered Perinatal Nurse at a busy downtown hospital splitting her time between Labour Delivery Postpartum and the Neonatal Unit. On returning to the UK Katie continued to work as a Midwife, predominately in Labour & Delivery before completing her MSc SCPHN Health Visitor at the University of Wolverhampton. Throughout her career, Katie has gained a wide myriad of experience in all areas of obstetrics, child and family health.