First of all congratulations on your new bundle of joy! I’m sure you can’t wait to get to know your baby.
In these early days, part of getting to know more about your baby is understanding your newborns sleep schedule. This is so important because it will either make or break you during this postpartum period.
For the next few months you may not know whether you are coming or going because your own sleep pattern will be turned completely upside down.
You can make this process easier by fully understanding how your baby sleeps in order that you can also sleep along side your baby.
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Is there really such a thing as a newborns sleep schedule?
Your newborns sleep pattern will inevitably change as they start to grow but pretty much there is a general pattern of sleep for all newborn babies especially in the early days.
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How much sleep is normal for a newborn?
Newborns tend to sleep in varying blocks of time. Generally speaking your newborn will probably sleep for about 18 hours to begin with.
Whilst that may sound amazing and you are probably wondering what all new moms are usually complaining about.
You have to understand that those 18 hours are far from continuous.
A newborn baby has a very small stomach therefore they have to wake frequently to feed. The good news is that a lot of the time your baby will be able to feed whilst they are asleep.
The bad news it that you will have to wake up to feed your baby.
Your newborns sleep schedule will be erratic to say the least in the beginning but as time goes on things should begin to settle down in your favour.
On average a newborn baby will sleep something like this:
Age Sleep Duration
0 – 3 months 15 – 18 hours
3 – 6 months 12 – 15 hours
6 – 12 months 10 – 14 hours
How many hours a day should a newborn be awake?
As already mentioned your newborn will pretty much sleep all day. For the 6 or so hours when they are awake they will probably be feeding or pooping.
I always like to make new moms aware of the fact that in the beginning your baby will go through a sleep, feed, poop cycle.
When I had my firstborn I wasn’t aware of this and if I’m honest it kinda freaked me out a little bit.
There was a particular day, my son was just a couple of days old and this is no exaggeration, he pooped about 8-10 times in a row.
My husband and myself were on the verge of flipping a coin as to who would do the next diaper change because it was as if he was never going to stop.
Literally I would feed him, a minute or so later he would poop. I would change him, he would feed and fall asleep then poop again. It was like a crazy cycle that I just couldn’t understand.
How was I going to break this cycle? because every time I fed him he would poop. I couldn’t not breastfeed my newborn baby so I just stayed in this cycle.
Eventually it did stop 8-10 diapers later but it was no fun at 2am in the morning that’s for sure!
At the time I was starting to get really concerned because I had never heard of it before.
Once it settled down and I did a bit of research, I found that it was in fact quite normal for a newborn whilst their stomachs adjust to the milk intake.
This is to say that although these 6 hours your baby may be awake it won’t necessarily be a time where you can just sit and play with your baby.
It might be that you only have time for a quick bath and a change of clothes for your baby.
How long should you let your newborn sleep without eating?
This is a bit down to personal choice. Some people like to try and get their newborn into a sleep pattern straight away and will therefore wake their baby to feed.
Others prefer to leave baby to sleep until they are ready to wake up themselves.
Personally I am of the second group of thinkers. It could partly be because I like to sleep so therefore the longer my baby sleeps the longer I can sleep as well. Or it could be that I think a sleeping baby is a happy baby.
To be honest I think my logic is a mix or the two things. I feel that if your baby is hungry they will wake out of their sleep to eat or you will will start to see lots of movement meaning that they are hungry.
If you are safely bedsharing (there are ways to do this safely) then you can feed you baby whilst they aren’t still asleep and they will happily continue to sleep.
I know some people don’t agree with bedsharing and that is perfectly fine. You should only do what you are comfortable with. I have done it with all of my children and I think that is what saved my sanity.
To be fair though I am a very light sleeper and at some point I will usually try to put my baby back in their cot at sometime during the night. I never do it if I am over tired.
Whichever method you choose to do, start your baby in an early newborn sleep schedule or leave your baby to sleep until they self wake.
Just make sure that you are comfortable with your decision and that it won’t cause you too much distress.
The early postpartum days can be brutal so do what makes sense for you
How do you get a newborn on a sleep schedule?
There will never be a perfect science on how to get your newborn into a sleep schedule. Every baby will do things differently.
If there was a perfect science behind it, it would pretty much involve trying to teach your baby the difference between day and night.
There are different ways that you can do this. You can make sure the house is dark and quiet after a particular time. You can also get your baby to associate bath time with bedtime.
These are great ways to sleep train your child if you want to do that.
As your newborn grows they will naturally learn the difference between daytime and nighttime themselves.
As their stomachs begin to hold more food they will wake less during the nights and give you more sleep time.
Your baby will also learn to self soothe somewhat so when they do wake they will learn to put themself back to sleep without too much fuss.
In order to understand your newborns sleep schedule you have to remember:
1. Not to overstimulate your baby by playing with them too much or keeping them awake longer than necessary.
2. Your baby will spend about 50% of their sleep time in REM (Rapid Eye Movement) which is a very light sleep.
3. By the time your baby reaches 3/4 months their sleep pattern should much more closely resemble yours.
One final note to remember as well is that when you hear a mom saying “my baby slept though the night from 1 day old” it doesn’t necessarily mean that they did.
Most babies will sleep well but still wake up for milk then go back to bed. When my firstborn would wake during the night, he sometimes stayed awake for 30 minutes after feeding before he went back to sleep. It was awful.
My lastborn was different. He would need to be in bed by 7pm and would sleep though until about 7am but he still woke up for feeds inbetween.
When he did wake up he would dreamfeed, meaning he would feed whilst asleep. It was a Godsend for me!
Don’t get too discouraged about trying to understand your newborns sleep schedule.
There’s not a whole lot you can do about it so just sleep when your baby does and remember to enjoy your postpartum time because it goes very quickly.
If you want to learn more about delivering your baby and those first few days at home with your newborn then I would highly recommend you take the online prenatal course by Pulling Curls.
The course is very detailed and will teach you everything you need to know about you and your new baby and what happens once your contractions start.
There is nothing worse than going into labor and feeling like you are not in control of what is going on around you. You can check out the course here.
The best thing about the prenatal class is that you can take it online in the comfort of your own home. (You don’t even have to get dressed if you don’t want too!)
In the mean time feel free to drop me a comment below if you have any questions!