Newborn sleeping routines can be puzzling to new parents. As your baby gets used to life outside the womb, they might have trouble adjusting to a daily routine.
You might wonder if they’re sleeping too much, or too little. Here’s a look at what to expect from your newborn’s sleep patterns in their first few weeks of life.
In the comfort of the womb, your baby spent a lot of time sleeping. They were surrounded by warmth, and lulled by your voice.
Once born, your baby might sleep for most of the day.
Newborns have small stomachs, so they get full quickly. Whether you’re breast-feeding or formula-feeding, being held close and comfortably enhances their sleepiness. This can cause them to fall asleep before they’re full. As a result, they might wake up often to eat.
But if your baby sleeps for long stretches, and it seems they’re doing so at the expense of getting up to eat, what then?
After an initial post-birth drop in weight, expect your newborn to settle into a feeding routine. They’ll gain back the weight, and most babies grow steadily from then onward.
You can monitor your baby’s growth progress by keeping track of their feedings and dirty diapers. Your pediatrician will also weigh them at each checkup.
Over 24 hours, most babies need approximately 25 ounces of breast milk. That volume will stay fairly constant for the first six months of life, except during growth spurts. You should see your baby’s weight increase, while the number of feedings per day will decrease. They’ll get stronger, and their stomach will get bigger.
Formula-fed babies have a slower rate of feeding than breast-fed babies. They stay full longer, so they’ll feed less often.
Some babies are better sleepers than others. They might not wake up for meals in favor of sleep, though. You’ll need to be extra careful during the first couple of weeks and assess their progress.
Keep an eye on your baby’s diapers. Their urine shouldn’t be too yellow (darker yellow is a sign that baby isn’t drinking enough), and there should be an adequate number of stools of the right color. Mustard in color and seedy texture are normal.
A baby who doesn’t sleep enough will be clingy and whiny. Or, they might be hyper and hard to soothe. A sleepy baby doesn’t have these issues, but can make parents antsy by sleeping too soundly.
It takes at least six months for a baby to establish their own circadian rhythm. But if yours seems to be oblivious to any differences between night and day, a bit of help might be just what they need to get used to feeding at regular intervals and thriving.
If you’re dealing with an overly sleepy baby, you’ll first need to make sure there are no medical issues causing them to sleep all the time.
Jaundice, infections, and any medical procedures, such as circumcision, can make your baby sleepier than usual.
Your pediatrician will check if your baby is gaining enough weight. If not, you might need to wake them up to eat every three hours (or more) depending on your doctor’s recommendations.
Here are some things you can try to promote regular sleeping (and feeding) schedules:
- Take your baby out for walks during the day so they will be exposed to natural light.
- Develop a calming evening routine that includes a bath, massage, and nursing.
- Try removing some layers of clothing so they’ll be less warm and wake up when it’s time to feed.
- Try touching their face with a wet washcloth, or lift them up to burp before moving them to the other breast.
- Too much stimulation during the day can make your baby overtired. They might fall asleep despite being hungry.
You can also try to monitor their rapid eye movement (REM) sleep stage. This is the light sleep stage.
During REM, you should be able to wake up your baby more easily than when they move to a deep sleep stage. But keep in mind that light and deep sleep stages alternate more often in babies than they do in adults.
If your baby is gaining weight steadily after a few weeks, but still sleeping a lot, try to relax. Accept the fact that you might simply be dealing with a good sleeper. Try to enjoy it while it lasts. You should catch up on your sleep, too.
“For the first two or three weeks after birth, most babies do little but eat and sleep. But they should be waking up for at least 8 to 12 feedings per 24 hours. After three weeks, sleep patterns are more variable, with some babies sleeping longer stretches than others.”
— Karen Gill, MD, FAAP