As a new parent, you may be surprised to learn that your newborn, who seems to need you every minute of the day, actually sleeps about 16 hours or more!
Newborns typically sleep for periods of 2–4 hours. Don’t expect yours to sleep through the night — the digestive system of babies is so small that they need nourishment every few hours and should be awakened if they haven’t been fed for 4 hours (or more often if your doctor is concerned about weight gain).
When can you expect your baby to sleep through the night? Many babies sleep through the night (between 6–8 hours) at 3 months of age, but if yours doesn’t, it’s not a cause for concern. Like adults, babies must develop their own sleep patterns and cycles, so if your newborn is gaining weight and appears healthy, don’t despair if he or she hasn’t slept through the night at 3 months.
It’s important to always place babies on their backs to sleep to reduce the risk of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome). Other safe sleeping practices include: not using blankets, quilts, sheepskins, stuffed animals, and pillows in the crib or bassinet (these can suffocate a baby); and sharing a bedroom (but not a bed) with the parents for the first 6 months to 1 year. Also be sure to alternate the position of your baby’s head from night to night (first right, then left, and so on) to prevent the development of a flat spot on one side of the head.
Many newborns have their days and nights „mixed up.” They tend to be more awake and alert at night, and more sleepy during the day. One way to help them is to keep stimulation at night to a minimum. Keep the lights low, such as by using a nightlight. Reserve talking and playing with your baby for the daytime. When your baby wakes up during the day, try to keep him or her awake a little longer by talking and playing.
Even though you may feel anxious about handling a newborn, in a few short weeks you’ll develop a routine and be parenting like a pro!
If you have questions or concerns, ask your doctor to recommend resources that can help you and your baby grow together.