Congratulations! You’ve brought your new little one home! You might have already noticed that your newborn sleeps most of the time: usually around 14 to 17 hours in a 24-hour period.
But even though babies sleep a lot, parents and caregivers are still exhausted.
Your baby will probably interrupt your sleep every hour or so for a meal or a diaper change. Some babies also prefer being more active and playful at night than during the day.
Babies normally wake up ravenous for a feed every few hours. Even if they don’t wake up on their own, you’ll have to wake them up to eat every 2–3 hours until they’re above their birth weight.
New little ones have stomachs the size of an acorn. This means they get full quickly, but must feed every 1 to 3 hours — even if this means summoning you from sleep in the middle of the night!
Newborns typically split their 14–17 hours of sleep between daytime and nighttime sleep, though in small chunks of time. Babies don’t typically sleep longer stretches until about 3 to 6 months old.
When you bring your newborn home, they’ll take turns sleeping and waking up ready to feed. A newborn baby might sleep for 1 1/2 to 3 hours and then wake up hungry.
Your little one may also need an equal number of diaper changes. Your best bet is to try to get some shut-eye while they’re snoozing, no matter what time of the day it is.
Your baby’s sleep patterns will change as they grow, week by week.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that infants 4 to 12 months old should get between 12 and 16 hours of sleep in a 24-hour period.
- If your baby is a fresh newborn, 3 months or under, they shouldn’t have less than 11 hours of sleep and not more than 19 hours of sleep in a 24-hour period.
- Babies 4 to 11 months shouldn’t get less than 10 hours of sleep and not more than 18 hours of sleep in a 24-hour period.
If your baby is lethargic, excessively sleepy, or appears to have no energy, they might seem drowsy, sluggish, or cranky, even when they’re awake. Or, they might not respond much when you try to wake them.
A lethargic baby may not seem interested in feeding or seem too tired to feed. This can sometimes indicate illness or inadequate milk transfer.
Causes of lethargy in newborns may include:
- not feeding properly
- low blood sugar
- being overheated
- being too cold
Babies can be lethargic for a number of reasons, some more serious than others. Let your doctor know right away if your baby seems sleepier, irritable, or less alert than normal.
Dehydration can happen to babies, children, and adults. Newborn babies might get dehydrated if they haven’t learned how to swallow milk or formula properly yet. Causes of dehydration include:
- poor feeding
- not being fed enough
- spitting up too much
Look for other symptoms of dehydration like:
- less than 6 wet diapers per day
- crying without tears
- dry mouth
- dry skin
- sunken eyes
- listlessness and lethargy
How often your baby wakes up hungry depends on what they drink and how much they drink.
Some kinds of formula are heavier than breast milk. Breast milk is digested more easily, so sometimes breastfed babies want to be fed more frequently.
Additionally, if your newborn baby is drinking more than 1–2 ounces of food at a time, they may not want to eat as often.
A newborn will usually wake up automatically about every 1 to 3 hours for a feed. This is because they have small stomachs and get hungry quickly.
A newborn is also still getting the hang of how to suck and swallow milk. In fact, most newborn babies lose weight in the first week or so after birth.
If your newborn baby doesn’t yet weigh more than they did at birth and is sleeping for longer than 3 hours a stretch, you’ll need to gently nudge them awake for a feeding.
Talk to your doctor about when it’s okay to let your baby sleep without waking them for a feeding.
Some babies may need help to fall asleep even when they’re very sleepy! Your baby may also have trouble soothing themself back to sleep when they wake up in the middle of a nap.
Watch baby for their tell-tale signs that they’re ready for a snooze, so you can help them fall asleep faster and better.
Here are some tips to help baby sleep safely and comfortably:
- Gently rock or sway your baby to sleep.
- Swaddle your baby (only until they start to show signs of learning to roll).
- Give baby a soother or pacifier.
- Lay your baby on their back.
- Make sure your baby’s face doesn’t get covered by clothing or a blanket.
- Remove any extra pillows, blankets, and toys from the crib.
- Make sure baby isn’t dressed too warmly.
- Make sure baby’s room isn’t too cold or drafty.
- Give your baby a quiet room to sleep in.
- Make sure the room is dark enough and avoid turning a bright light on.
- Put your baby’s bassinet or crib beside your bed.
- Do not put baby to sleep in your bed.
- Make sure other children aren’t sleeping in the same room.
Newborn babies need a lot of sleep, day and night. They’ll often wake up for feedings or a diaper change and fall right back asleep.
After a few months, as your baby gets bigger and older, they’ll stay awake longer but still need plenty of sleep.
Let your pediatrician know if your baby is sleeping less than 11 hours or longer than 19 hours. If your baby isn’t feeding well or is having trouble gaining weight, you might have to wake them up for more feedings.
Ask your doctor if you should wake your baby up or wait until they wake to feed them.
As long as your newborn baby is feeding well and gaining weight, let them sleep to their heart’s content! Just be sure to catch some Zzz’s while you can!