It's 3am and your boobs are aching like crazy.
Baby was supposed to be fed at 2am but they were so peaceful and cosy that you let baby sleep for longer so that you could enjoy some blissful slumber time too...
Only, now you're wide awake thinking... how much are newborns supposed to sleep? Will one missed feed hurt?
No-one at the hospital told you before you left and no parenting books told you the answer either...
Now a million questions are running through your head:
Are they sleeping too much? Will they get hungry? Did they sleep too little during the day? Were they overstimulated by my friends visiting? Are they sick?
Ah! Your 3am sleep deprived brain it too exhausted for this!
Well, worry no more! Because here's all you need to know about how much are newborns supposed to sleep! So grab a cup of coffee, make yourself comfy and let's begin...
How many hours of sleep does a newborn need?
So, how much sleep do newborns actually need?
The National Sleep Foundation says that newborn babies need, on average, 14-17 hours of sleep every 24 hours.
This roughly equates to 8 hours of sleep during the day with the rest taken throughout the night.
However, this does vary widely from baby to baby with some newborns sleeping as little as 11 hours and others up to 20 hours a day.
Getting to grips with your newborn’s sleep patterns is tough in the early weeks but know that most babies will sleep through the night (i.e. 5 - 6 hours or more) by 4 months old.
If you are concerned about your newborn's sleep then keep a sleep journal for a couple of days. You may find that your baby is sleeping more or less than you think.
How many hours a day should a newborn be awake?
Along with how much are newborns supposed to sleep, you should know how much they need to be awake!
To begin with, your newborn will wake up every 2-4 hours both night and day, but in time, they will wake for longer periods between feeds during the day and hopefully return to sleep quickly at night.
During the day they will be able to stay awake from 30 to 90 minutes at a time but this will vary from baby to baby and from day to day.
Added up, your newborn will be awake for a total of 6-10 hours a day.
Can newborns sleep too much?
Ever heard the phrase: "Too much of a good thing"?
Put simply, YES newborns can sleep too much...
And it’s really NOT GOOD for them to.
Some newborns are especially sleepy in the early days and weeks, but in order for them to gain weight, they need to eat frequently.
It is, therefore, important that you do not let your baby sleep for too long between feeds.
Breastfed babies should not sleep for longer than 2-3 hours between feeds and bottle-fed babies should not be going any longer than 3-4 hours.
If your baby is sleeping a lot during the day they will be more awake at night.
This day-night confusion can be fixed by making sure you wake your baby for feeds regularly during the day and encourage them to stay awake after the feed by playing gently with them.
Should I let my newborn sleep all day?
NO, you should not your newborn baby sleep all day.
Waking your newborn to feed, burp and then play with them for a short while during the day is essential in teaching them the difference between night and day.
The early days and weeks of looking after a newborn are exhausting and although it may be tempting to leave your baby to sleep to give you a break, in the long run, it will only delay their ability to sleep for longer at night once they are able.
You also need to ensure they are having enough food to maintain their healthy development.
Therefore, I would encourage you to ensure your baby wakes regularly for feeds and that you play with them after each daytime feed for a short while.
What if baby is sleeping when they are due a feed?
As a rule, you should NOT let your newborn sleep for longer than 4 hours without a feed... even at night.
Not only does your newborn need the nourishment to gain weight, if you are breastfeeding, delaying feeding for longer than 4 hours may disrupt your milk supply too.
So if your little one is asleep when their next feed is due, then you should definitely wake them up.
Breastfed babies will wake for feeds every 2-3 hours and bottle-fed babies will wake every 3-4 hours.
When do newborns start sleeping more?
Newborns start sleeping more at night around 4 months old.
However, once your baby has reached a certain weight, your paediatrician will give you the go-ahead to let your baby sleep for longer periods between feeds.
It is important to remember that newborns do not have a sense of night and day and as their tummies cannot take on a huge amount of milk at one time, your newborn baby will and should, wake frequently to be fed both night and day.
Each feed is usually followed by a short period of being awake depending on the amount of stimulation around.
In order to encourage your newborn to sleep more at night, you should keep nighttime feeds low key.
7 Reasons why your newborn may be sleeping more than usual
Most babies will occasionally sleep for longer than normal and this is nothing to be concerned about.
HOWEVER, if your baby is consistently sleeping through feeds and their daily sleep is regularly 19 hours or more, then it is advisable to look for an underlying cause.
There are some very simple reasons why your baby may be sleeping more than usual such as:
- They have a cold,
- They have a minor infection,
- There has been a disruption to their routine,
- Baby has received some immunizations,
- Baby is going through a growth spurt,
- They are not getting enough to eat,
- They have jaundice. Some newborns suffer from newborn jaundice which causes a yellowing of the skin and this can make them lethargic and reluctant to feed.
When to talk to a doctor
Being a new parent is filled with uncertainty and it is perfectly normal to worry about your baby.
However, if you are at all concerned about your little one's sleep patterns then consult your paediatrician or medical professional for advice.
Signs that something may be wrong and should be reported to your doctor are:
- Baby is unresponsive and lethargic.
- Baby has not regained their birth weight after 2 weeks.
- They are not gaining weight consistently at 6- 8 weeks.
- They are producing fewer than 4 wet nappies a day.
- Baby is agitated after a feed.
Keeping a journal for baby’s sleep patterns, eating habits and any illnesses/medical visits will be a valuable asset to any medical professionals if baby is sleeping too much.
What can we do if baby is sleeping too much?
If your newborn is sleeping too much, fortunately, there are plenty of things you can do to tweak your baby’s routine and to help them stay awake for longer periods during the day!
- Make distinct difference between day and night feeds.
- Develop a calming evening ‘bedtime’ routine with bath, book, feed, bed. (This isn’t a full bedtime routine, you’ll just be sowing the seeds to wind down the energy levels at the end of the day)
- Provide short periods of stimulating play after daytime feeds.
- Get outdoors and go for regular walks to expose your baby to natural daylight.
- Ensure feeds are regular by waking your baby to be fed appropriately.
- Ensure your baby is fully awake during the day for their feed by tickling their toes or applying a damp cloth to their forehead and cheeks.
Suggested Further Reading
Here are a few more articles that I highly recommend reading to learn more about newborn baby sleep and feeding patterns to help you understand this daunting beginning to newborn life.
- Is It OK For My Baby To Miss A Feed?
- How To Get a Newborn to Sleep at Night
- When Do Breastfed Babies Sleep Through The Night?
- Why Do Babies Fight Sleep?
- What To Do When Baby Won’t Sleep Unless Held
- How Do You Dress A Baby For Sleep?
- Breastfeeding 101: Master the Precious Art of Feeding Baby
I hope you find these insightful and helpful.
If there's a topic I haven't covered that you'd like advice for, please just drop me an email at [email protected] and let me know. I'll be happy to help!
You can also visit my Parenting Toolbox to find all of my top product recommendations for all things baby sleep related. From cribs and swaddles to white noise machines and night lights, it will instantly streamline your research without compromising on safety, quality and style.
How much are newborns supposed to sleep recap
Managing newborn sleep is a steep learning curve for new parents and this is not made any easier by the fact that all babies are different!
Getting to know your baby takes time, but you will soon learn your little ones likes and dislikes.
You will learn what engages them, how they like to be held and what times of day they are more likely to be awake than others.
Trust your instincts and take your time.
It will help to remember that babies are normally 4 months old before they start to sleep longer at night and 6 months of age before the circadian rhythm is fully developed, so be prepared for some bumps in the road until then.
Try to avoid letting baby sleep for longer than 3-4 hours at a time and ensure baby is getting regular and full feeds as often as possible.
If you stick to these basic rules then you and your newborn baby will get into a healthy schedule and be on track to establishing a healthy sleep routine in no time.
- Don’t let your baby sleep for longer than 3-4 hours during the day.
- Make a clear difference between day and nighttime feeds.
- Get outdoors every day.
- Create a calming bedtime routine by 4-6 weeks old.
- Consult a doctor if you are at all concerned.
So, how much are newborns supposed to sleep? On average, between 14-17 hours of sleep every 24 hours.
And as always, with love and support, Happy Parenting.