How Much Should a Newborn Sleep?

Is your newborn baby sleeping too much?

One of the most common questions new parents ask is how much a newborn should sleep? This question is often asked alongside other common thoughts, such as “is my newborn eating enough?” The answer in the majority of cases is yes, but the sheer number of hours a newborn sleeps can raise questions for every parent no matter how many children they already have. When you have a baby, your entire outlook at life and the love felt for your child will often leave you questioning whether everything is perfect for your newborn infant.

How much should your baby sleep?

Let’s start at the beginning. Your newborn will be born and spend the next few weeks growing at a fast rate aided by regular feeds and more sleep than you could probably imagine then needing. A baby is usually classed as a newborn from birth until they are six weeks old when they should see a little less sleep needed. So how much a newborn should sleep is not an exact science with each infant sleeping as much as they need. However, we can look at the average and give you a guide to how much a newborn should sleep in general.

A newborn will generally sleep for between 16 and 20 hours a day only waking to eat at regular intervals. You may worry about your newborn sleeping too much but the general rule of thumb regarding sleep is your baby will sleep happily and mostly extremely lightly over the course of most days. How much a newborn should sleep is a question you can answer with the statement, pretty much all the time. A newborn will usually sleep longer than an infant which is a little older and begins to become more active. The average amount of sleep needed includes:

  • Newborn 16-20 hours
  • Six weeks 15-16 hours
  • Four months 9-12 hours plus naps
  • Six months 11 hours plus naps

Sleep patterns

One of the most difficult aspects of understanding how much a newborn should sleep is the fact the sleep cycle of an infant differs a little from that of an adult. There are four stages of sleep which fit into each sleep cycle, made up of:

  • Drowsiness
  • Light sleep
  • Deep sleep
  • Very deep sleep

The first thing to understand is your newborn will spend more time in REM sleep, which stands for Rapid Eye Movement. This is a light form of sleep which is highlighted by a large amount of dreaming and lightness your newborn will experience when sleeping. How much a newborn should sleep is not a question we can answer definitively, but we do know your baby will start out in stage one of drowsiness often highlighted by the falling of eyelids by your infant.

Once drowsiness has passed, your newborn will slip into a light sleep before passing into the next two stages. Your newborn will slip through the other stages of sleep before returning to REM, a stage your newborn will remain in which is why soft noises can wake a baby with ease. This new sleep cycle is something your newborn will need to understand and learn to cope with during the first months of life. In many cases, your newborn may move easily through stages two, three, and four of their sleep cycle before sliding back to stage two, light sleep. May newborns will struggle to remain asleep during these periods over the first few weeks of life.

Newborns sleep and feeding

There are a number of things you will have to consider when your newborn arrives home with you. Firstly, how much a newborn should sleep and when will your newborn need to eat. You may be shocked to discover your newborn will spend much of their time sleeping and eating, and this could be the way they spend their entire life for the first few weeks. Your newborn will generally need to feed every three hours or so, which means your baby may not understand you are hoping to sleep through the night during their first few months. In general, your infant will only sleep through the night when they are close to six months old.

Let’s start with how much a newborn should sleep and eat? Your newborn will sleep in bursts and could remain asleep pretty much all day in the first few weeks apart from when they are feeding. Some newborns will sleep for a burst of 30 to 45 minutes while others will sleep for the entire three hours before they need to feed. Feeding can offer a number of benefits for you as a new parent to an infant as this is often a comforting moment for your baby and aids them in moving from waking to sleep.

Over the course of the first few weeks, you may question how much a newborn should sleep and eat as they do little else. A popular option for most new parents like you is to try and put a child on a schedule as soon as possible, which should include waking the infant to feed before they are so hungry they reach the stage of crying. Your newborn should not begin to use breastfeeding or a bottle as a crutch to aid their sleep as this can cause sleep problems in the coming months and years. A schedule for your newborn should not revolve around how much a newborn should sleep, but should include the same actions taking place. You should try to feed your newborn infant and follow this with a change of diaper to prepare your child for sleep.

Creating the right mood for sleep

It can often be difficult to create the right mood for your child to sleep but you should create the right setting for your infant to sleep. Not only should you be concerned about how much a newborn should sleep, but you should also make sure your infant begins to understand the difference between night and day.

One problem the parents of a newborn face is not allowing a baby to fall asleep in their bed. Many parents do not place their newborn in a crib as soon as they begin to grow drowsy and slide towards the first stages of sleep. You may be concerned about how much a newborn should sleep, but you should also worry about how they are moving into the various stages of sleep. A newborn will often hope to be held or breastfed until they enter the different stages of sleep. This can often cause problems because of the fact your newborn may expect to be held throughout their sleep cycle.

You should also make sure you are following the latest advice about the correct position for your newborn to sleep, which should be with your newborn laying flat on their back. Babies sleeping on their stomach have been proven by various studies to have a greater risk of SIDS, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Making sure your baby is sleeping in the correct way should be just as much of a consideration as understanding how much a newborn should sleep during the first few weeks of life.