Understand the Science of Newborn Sleep

Photography:Alexa Doula Photography

By Elizabeth Pantley

If you know what to expect in the sleep department, you can relax and enjoy your newborn fully. Having realistic expectations right up front can take a lot of pressure off you and your new baby, and help you combat any bad advice thrown your way. So, erase out all the opinions and theories that you’ve heard about newborn babies up to now, and let’s start with a summary of a few important facts:

~ Brand new babies sleep 15 to 18 hours (or more!) out of every 24-hour day. A three-month-old needs about 15 hours of sleep per day.

By six months a baby still needs 14 – 15 hours of sleep each day.

~ A newborn’s many sleep hours are distributed evenly over four to seven (or more!) brief periods – day and night. Through those first few weeks of life, many newborns will sleep 8 to 9 hours throughout the day and another 8 hours throughout the night. 

~ Babies who are premature, sick, or have special needs, can sleep even more hours each day, but they tend to break their sleep up into even shorter spans. 

~ Newborn sleep period lengths are inconsistent and range in length from 20 minutes to five or more hours, gradually working their way towards longer periods of time over the early months. 

~ At first, for your newborn, there is no difference between day and night.

It takes about six to nine weeks for an infant’s biological clock to even begin maturing, and this internal sleep/wake clock doesn’t work smoothly until about four to five months of age. 

~ Newborns awaken very easily because they spend much of their time in the lightest stage of sleep. 

~ Remember, five consecutive hours is considered “sleeping through the night” for a young baby. 

~ Newborn babies have very tiny tummies (about the size of your baby’s tightly closed fist) and they experience rapid growth. They need to be fed every two to four hours – and oftentimes more than that. 

The more facts you know about infant sleep the more realistic your expectations can be. 


Excerpted with permission from The No-Cry Sleep Solution for Newborns by Elizabeth Pantley. For more excerpts and information visit www.nocrysolution.com.

Elizabeth Pantley is a mother of four, grandmother, and author of the bestselling book, The No-Cry Sleep Solution, plus 8 other books in the No-Cry Solution Series which helps mums and dads through all key stages of parenting. Visit her on her website, blog, Instagram or Pinterest

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