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What to Expect for Newborn Baby Sleep Patterns

Here are some practical ways you can help your new baby establish healthy sleep patterns and routines.


All newborns sleep a lot, but not always when you would like them to and they don’t naturally seem to have a pattern. It’s likely you will need to be up at least 4 or 5 times during the night with your new baby. Your baby’s circadian rhythm - the correct response to light and dark over a 24-hour period - is not yet developed, which causes them to wake during the night. At this point, they also have tiny tummies that need filling frequently.  

How much a newborn sleep?

A newborn will spend between 12 and 18 hours sleeping each day, during the first few weeks of their lives. Even though they are sleeping a lot of the day, they aren’t able to sleep more than three hours at a stretch and will be away for at least an hour or two between feeding and their next nap.

During the first month of life babies spend more time in REM (rapid eye movement) sleep than adults which is why their sleep cycles are so short. REM sleep is extremely important for brain development, but it’s a very light sleep and is easily disturbed. This is another reason your little one may wake frequently.   

How nap sessions should my newborn have in a day?

On average newborns (up to one month old) will need three day time naps. These naps should last anywhere between an hour to three hours in length. You can expect roughly the same pattern at night, but don’t be too concerned if your baby doesn’t quite fit this schedule. Just like adults, babies, are all different and their sleep patterns will vary. As long as your baby is averaging between 12 to 18 hours of total sleep in a full day, their bodies and brains will have the time they need to develop and grow.

What your baby doesn’t have a sleep pattern?

When your baby is a newborn, it’s not worth stressing about a sleep pattern for your baby.  There are a few things you can do, even at this early stage, to make an impact towards a healthy sleeping pattern for the future.

a mom trying to get her newborn baby to sleep

Recognize when your baby is tired

Identifying the signs that indicate your baby is ready for a nap will save you the frustration of trying to convince an overtired baby to sleep. 

It won’t be long and you will be able to spot the signs of tiredness with your baby, but for now when you notice your little one doing any of the following- know it’s time to lay them down in their crib to see if they will fall asleep:

  • Rubbing their eyes
  • Tugging or pulling on their ears
  • General fussiness 
  • “zoning out” and staring into space
  • Trying to avoid people, toys, or light by turning away
  • Burying their face into you
  • Yawning and stretching

Train your little one on the difference between night and day

Although your baby’s circadian rhythm has not yet kicked in, you can make an impact on helping them know the difference between night and day. 

When it’s day time: 

  • Change your baby’s diaper and clothing when they wake for the day.
  • Keep the room as light as possible- open the curtains and turn on the room lights.   
  • Talk and play as much as you can to stimulate your baby. 
  • Have other’s around or get in the car and visit other people. 
  • Entertain them with a song or a good “talk” during feeding times.
  • Don’t “turn down” the volume of the house- vacuum, do the dishes, run the laundry, and play the radio. 

When it’s bedtime:

  • Cut down on the stimulation.
  • Changing your baby into pajamas - maybe even give him a soothing bath followed by a relaxing baby massage. 
  • Shut off the lights and close the curtains. 
  • Keep the noise down as much as possible, and feed your little one in silence if you can in order to prepare him for bedtime. 
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