15 Newborn Baby Sleep and Feeding Tips

Newborn Baby Sleep Feeding Tips
Newborn babies are so wonderful, aren’t they? They’re all soft, new skin and sweet-smelling heads and tiny, adorable features. I remember each one of my children (now 7, 6, and 3) as newborns, and each of them just broke my heart with their cuteness when they were tiny.

But caring for a newborn? Trying to figure out feedings and naps and swaddling and all the things that go along with parenting a new baby?

That usually doesn’t feel so wonderful. In fact, if you’re a new parent, it may feel totally overwhelming!

Whether you’re a brand-new, first-time parent who’s completely befuddled by your baby, or whether you’re a “seasoned veteran” parent who’s expecting another baby and just needs a refresher course in newborn care – we can help. Keep reading for our top 15 newborn baby sleep and feeding tips! (And don’t forget, you can download our newborn free guide, 15 Baby Sleep Facts New Parents Need To Know!)

15 Newborn Baby Sleep and Feeding Tips

1. Swaddle Your Newborn Full disclosure: swaddling is generally a great way to help newborns sleep longer and more soundly, but not all babies like to be swaddled. You may need to try different swaddling techniques, until you find one that works with your baby’s temperament – or, you may need to scrap swaddling altogether! Of course, whatever you do, remember that safety comes first, with swaddling – never put a swaddled baby face-down in the crib, never co-sleep with a swaddled baby, and make sure that your swaddle is tight enough that the blankets won’t come loose, but not so tight that it interferes with hip movement or breathing.

2. Wear Your Newborn Baby Baby-wearing – when done safely – is a fantastic way to not only bond with your baby, but to also improve sleep. Even the fussiest, most colicky babies generally calm down when held snugly against mom or dad’s body! Wearing your baby can also be a great way to deal with reflux symptoms. (Keep reading for more info about reflux.)

3. Your Newborn Baby’s Colic If your baby is fussy all the time and just won’t settle, you may wonder if colic is to blame. It’s important to remember that periods of crying are normal in the newborn stage. But if that crying is intense and lasts for hours on end, then you may be dealing with colic.

4. Newborn Baby Fussiness It’s important to remember that not all fussiness is due to colic. It’s normal for newborns to have fussy spells – and fussy times of day, for that matter. In fact, many newborns are fussy in later afternoon and early evening. This is generally referred to as “The Witching Hour”.

5. Room-Sharing and Co-Sleeping With Your Newborn Baby Many of us in the western world have been conditioned to believe that babies sleep in cribs, alone, in a separate room. And while that sleeping arrangement may work just fine for some families, many other families find that the inconvenience of having to walk down the hall for every night feeding and diaper change is more trouble than it’s worth. Room-sharing can be a great solution – simply sleep your newborn near your bed in a portable crib or bassinet. You can even use a product like the Arm’s Reach Co-Sleeper if you want to make nighttime nursing easy. Co-sleeping is a popular option for many families, too, since it makes breastfeeding super easy at night. Just be aware that co-sleeping absolutely must be done safely, if you intend to co-sleep with your newborn.

6. Your Newborn Baby’s Routine Gentle but consistent daily routines are GREAT for encouraging better sleep. The Eat-Sleep-Play routine (or the E.A.S.Y. routine, if you’re a Baby Whisperer fan) is great for newborns, as it helps gently guide sleep and feeding times. Remember, your routines don’t need to be driven by the clock – instead, use your baby’s sleep and feeding cues to shape your routines.

7. Newborn Baby Massage A bath may not be the most relaxing activity you can do with your baby, but baby massage is a VERY relaxing activity! Baby massage has been shown to help babies (and parents!) relax, and to promote better sleep.

8. Fresh Air and Sunlight What do fresh air and sunshine have to do with sleep? Plenty, actually. Did you know that exposing your baby to sunlight can go a long way towards helping re-set her circadian rhythms and to correct day/night confusion? It can – more on that in a moment! And fresh air helps, too – studies show that a daily dose of fresh air (like the kind you’d get from a brisk, 20 minute walk) really does help babies sleep better and longer.

9. Your Newborn Baby’s Day/Night Confusion Babies don’t spring from the womb understanding the difference between night and day – in fact, many newborns have their days and nights completely mixed up! If your baby sleeps all day and is up all night, you can take steps to correct this day/night confusion. Try feeding and playing with your baby in a brightly-lit room during the day, and then keep the room very dark and your interactions minimal at night.

10. Newborn Baby Awake Time Speaking of day/night confusion – one way to help your newborn sir out days and nights is to keep your baby awake for a short time between daytime feedings. However, be sure that your newborn’s wake time is on the short side – aim for 45 or so in the first 6 weeks after birth.

11. Growth Spurts Your baby will go through many growth spurts in the first year of life, but a number of those happen during the newborn stage. It’s key to know approximately when these growth spurts will happen; it’s also key to feed your baby often during these times. It may feel like all your baby does is eat and sleep during a growth spurt, but that’s normal! You can read more about newborn growth spurts here.

12. Reflux Many babies spit up occasionally, but true reflux is something altogether worse – burning stomach acid and constant vomiting make sleep almost impossible! Fortunately, there are ways you can treat reflux at home, and can work to help you newborn sleep better even when reflux symptoms are bad. Read more about newborn reflux here.

13. Breastfeeding Breastfeeding is a great way to feed your baby, but many new moms find that breastfeeding is tougher than they’d anticipated. But you really can breastfeed your baby AND work towards better, longer sleep!

14. Sleep Associations Many of the strategies and techniques you will use to help your newborn sleep in the early weeks and months after birth may very well become negative sleep associations. If you rock or hold or swing or feed your newborn to sleep, pretty soon, she’ll NEED you to do those things at nap time and bedtime – and each time she wakes early. Sleep coaching is simply the process of gently helping your baby learn a new way to sleep – one that doesn’t involve you. However, don’t let the fact that your newborn may form sleep associations make you nervous – we usually recommend that you do whatever you have to do to help your bay sleep in the first two months or so after birth. Then, once you feel comfortable and your baby seems ready, you can slowly begin working towards more independent sleep. For instance, you can try putting your baby down slightly awake for the first morning nap – that’s a step in the right direction.

15. 3/4 Month Sleep Regression Why are we including a link to the 4 month regression in a newborn-focused article? Simple – this is the first big sleep regression a baby goes through, and it usually jumps up and bites parents in the backsides, in our experience! Most parents are floored by this regression – just as they get baby sleeping well at night and napping better, BAM. Baby is fussy as all get out, sleep falls apart, and mom and dad are left wondering what on earth happened. But don’t worry – we’ve helped thousands of parents with this sleep regression, so we know a thing or two about it!

Newborn Sleep Help That Works – Guaranteed!

Being the parent of a newborn is simultaneously the most difficult and the most wonderful thing on earth, isn’t it? But all of us at The Baby Sleep Site® know first-hand how exhausting and overwhelming it can be to try and help your newborn sleep well. Yes, newborns are supposed to wake around the clock for feeds, but that doesn’t mean you can’t gently encourage better, deeper sleep from your baby. And we can help with that! Connect with a consultant today, and she will craft a newborn-focused Personalized Sleep Plan™ specifically for your baby, that aligns with your unique situation and challenges, and with your parenting goals.
 
Browse our list of consultation package options here.

Once you make your choice and purchase, you will immediately receive an e-mail with your Helpdesk login information. You’ll be able to login and start your Family Sleep History form right away – it’s that simple!

Want more information about how personalized help works? Check out our FAQ page here, and get answers. You can also take a tour of the Helpdesk.

Have sleep or feeding questions about your newborn? Ask, and we’ll answer!

 
Essential Keys to Newborn Sleep Essential Keys to Your Newborn’s Sleep is THE newborn sleep book that will help you to not only improve your newborn’s sleep using gentle, sleep-inducing routines – it will also answer your feeding and newborn care questions. You can even buy a bundle package that includes the e-book AND a Personalized Sleep Plan™ PLUS a follow-up email to use for further support!
 

bss_email_featprod_memberspic-CROPPEDOr, join our Members Area packed with exclusive content and resources: e-Books, assessments, detailed case studies, expert advice, peer support, and more. It actually costs less to join than buying products separately! As a member, you’ll also enjoy a weekly chat with an expert sleep consultant. And the best part – members receive 20% off all sleep consultation services!

Can’t decide which product or service is right for you? Visit our Getting Started Page for help.

7 Gentle, Natural Ways To Help Your Newborn Baby Sleep Better

 
7 Ways To Gently Naturally Help Your Newborn Baby Sleep

Fact: newborns and young infants aren’t usually the best sleepers, what with the waking every few hours to eat and all. That’s why the phrase ‘sleeping like a baby’ is so misleading, in my opinion! ;)

Understandably, parents often become very interested in how to help their newborns sleep pretty soon after delivery. The thing is, newborns and young babies aren’t ready for sleep coaching (we usually advise waiting on that until baby is at least 4 months old and have moved past the 4 month sleep regression).

Don’t let that make you feel hopeless, though – just because your newborn is too young for sleep coaching doesn’t mean you’re destined to endure months of sleeplessness. There are steps you can take to naturally, gently encourage your newborn to sleep better.

And that’s what we’re looking at today! Below are 7 ways you can naturally and gently promote better sleep for your newborn. Let’s take a look!

7 Ways To Gently, Naturally Encourage Your Newborn Baby To Sleep Better (and Longer!)

  1. Go for a walk with your baby. Turns out your grandmother was right – fresh air really does help children sleep better! Once your baby is a few weeks old, you can start incorporating a daily walk, or some time spent sitting outdoors. This will go far towards helping improve sleep at night and during naps.
  2. Give infant massage a try. We’ve written before about the benefits of infant massage in improving baby sleep, but we’ll say it again – infant massage is an easy and natural way to help your newborn relax, which in turn can help promote better sleep. Not only that, but infant massage can improve digestion (great for colicky newborns), strengthen the mother-child bond, and even aid growth and development!
  3. Keep days bright and nights dark. Newborns aren’t born knowing that days are for playing and nights are for sleeping – in fact, many newborns have their days and nights mixed up, and sleep for long stretches during the day while being up every hour at night! You can gently, naturally correct this by making sure that your baby is exposed to sunlight during the day (not direct sunlight, but rather filtered sunlight in a bright, sunny room). In addition, work to keep nights dark – keep the room dim during diaper changes and feedings, for example. Over time, this will help re-set your newborn’s circadian rhythms and guide her towards sleeping long stretches at night and napping during the day.
  4. Cluster feed in the evening. It’s perfectly natural for newborns and young babies to ‘tank up’ on feeds in the evening, and to feed more frequently than they do during the the rest of the day. While cluster feeding can feel overwhelming for mom and dad (especially for mom, if she’s nursing – she may feel like she needs to camp out on the couch for hours every night!), many experts agree that cluster feeding is a natural part of the newborn stage. In fact, many agree that newborns do this as a way to get in a longer stretch of sleep at night- many babies will sleep their longest stretch of the day after cluster feeding! So if you’re looking to promote longer, better nighttime sleep, cluster feeding is a good strategy.
  5. Keep baby close. We don’t mean simply holding or wearing your baby (more on that in a moment). Keep baby close at night, too – consider sharing a room with your baby, and having your baby sleep near your bed in a bassinet or small crib. There are lots of benefits to having your newborn nearby at night – it can make middle of the night feedings more convenient, for one. But research indicates that room-sharing is more than convenient; babies who room-share and sleep close to mom have actually been shown to sleep better. They tend to cry less and sleep longer. They also tend to have slightly lower rates of SIDS. For these reasons, the AAP actually recommends room-sharing as the best sleeping arrangements for babies. Of course, room-sharing isn’t for everyone; there are definite pros and cons to sharing a room with your baby. As always, we recommend you find a sleeping arrangement that works best for your unique situation.
  6. Strive for adequate daytime naps. If your newborn or young baby is up every hour, all night long, then you’ve no doubt toyed with the idea of keeping him up more during the day, in the hopes that it will encourage him to sleep better at night. Be wary of this line of thinking – generally, babies who don’t nap well during the day actually sleep worse at night, because they are overtired! Yes, it’s important that your newborn have some awake time during the day (this helps correct any newborn day/night confusion). However, your newborn’s awake time should be relatively short (no more than 45-60 minutes, generally), and your newborn should take plenty of naps during the day.
  7. Carry/wear your baby. Nothing is more soothing for baby than being held close to mom or dad. Consequently, most newborns sleep best when they are in mom’s or dad’s arms, or held snugly in a baby sling. This is especially true for colicky babies – baby wearing is a great way to soothe colic! Remember that holding your baby, or wearing her around the house, certainly are not permanent sleep solutions. Rather, these are short-term strategies that will help maximize your baby’s (and your) sleep during those first few months after birth.

Need Newborn Sleep Help? You Came To The Right Place – Check Out These Resources!

Essential Keys to Newborn SleepNeed help encouraging your newborn to sleep better, and to sleep longer stretches at night and during the day? We have a great resource designed to do just that. Check out Essential Keys to Your Newborn’s Sleep, the latest e-Book from The Baby Sleep Site®. Available in PDF format as well as a variety of e-reader formats, Essential Keys to Your Newborn’s Sleep is the tired parents’ #1 newborn resource. Developed by Nicole and Miriam (a lactation consultant, nurse, and Baby Sleep Site® sleep consultant), Essential Keys lays out everything you need to know about helping your baby to sleep better right from the start. It also includes information on feeding (both breast and bottle), baby communication, bonding with baby, daily routines, sample sleep schedules, and more. Download your copy today!
 
bss_email_featprod_memberspic-CROPPEDOr, join our Members Area packed with exclusive content and resources: e-Books, assessments, detailed case studies, expert advice, peer support, and more. It actually costs less to join than buying products separately! As a member, you’ll also enjoy a weekly chat with an expert sleep consultant, as well as access to ALL our newborn resources. And the best part – members receive 20% off all sleep consultation services!
 

Interested in personalized, one-on-one help for your newborn? Why not consider one of our personalized sleep consulting packages? Our consultations allow you to work directly with one of our expert sleep consultants, and to get a Personalized Sleep Plan™ that will work for your family.

First, browse our extensive list of package options and select the one that looks best for your situation.
 
Browse our list of consultation package options here.
 

Once you make your choice and purchase, you will immediately receive an e-mail with your Helpdesk login information. You’ll be able to login and start your Family Sleep History form right away – it’s that simple!

Have questions about how to help your newborn sleep well? Ask, and we’ll answer! Want to offer sleep tips with other parents? Share them below, in the comments section!

Are Probiotics A Cure For Your Baby’s Colic?

Can Probiotics Cure Colic?One of our priorities here at The Baby Sleep Site® (aside from doing everything we can to help your baby sleep!) is to stay on top of current sleep-related research and best practice recommendations. Nicole and our team of sleep consultants really are sleep experts, but there’s a reason for that – they keep up with what’s happening in the field of sleep research!

Well, last week, one of our consultants forwarded a new and interesting article on to the rest of us. This article, from NPR’s health blog, poses the question, “Can probiotics help soothe colicky babies?”

Given that colic can lead to lots of nighttime waking, we were all ears! So what’s the scoop? Can probiotics help colicky babies? Or is this just another ‘cure’ that’s not actually a cure, like melatonin supplements?

Let’s take a look!

What Are Probiotics, And How Do They Help Newborns And Young Babies?

Simply put, probiotics (also known as ‘lactobacillus‘) are good bacteria. This is the type of bacteria found in the human digestive system – it’s the bacteria that helps us digest our food properly, and that prevents things like diarrhea and constipation.

What does this have to do with newborns and young babies? Well, as it turns out, many people (from parents to doctors and medical researchers) believe that colic symptoms are due largely to baby tummy troubles, like gas and bloating for example. The theory is that colicky babies in particular struggle with stomach problems, and that’s where the long bouts of inconsolable crying come from.

It follows, then, that giving newborns and young babies a dose of probiotics would help ease their tummy troubles, and would thereby reduce (or maybe even eliminate) their colicky symptoms.

This seems logical – but is it true? Does it actually work?

Are Probiotics A Cure For Colic?

Here’s the short answer – maybe.

Here’s the longer explanation. According to the NPR blog article, several studies (mostly done in Europe) have shown a link between probiotics and reduced colic symptoms. So it does seem that there’s some connection between the two. Even more interesting, though, is a recent study published by the JAMA Pediatrics, which indicates that probiotics may actually be useful in preventing colic.

Yes, you read that right — it might be possible to actually prevent colic. To put it lightly – wow!!

How does it work? Well, the theory is that offering probiotics actually helps a baby’s digestive system develop properly, which can in turn prevent chronic tummy issues, like gas and indigestion. Prevent those, and you can possibly prevent colic. From the article:

“There are a number of effects that we know probiotics can have,” says Dr. Robert Shulman, a professor of pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine. For example, probiotics may affect the immune system, improve the lining of the intestine and influence the balance of bacteria living in the digestive system, Shulman says.

But don’t rush out and buy every probiotic on the shelf just yet — this research is still very much in its infancy (no pun intended!), and Shulman cautions that much more research needs to be done before any broad, sweeping recommendations can be made. This means that, if you have a colicky baby at home, you will need to discuss any probiotic supplements with your baby’s healthcare provider first, before offering them.

Tips From The Baby Sleep Site® Sleep Consultants

This is all interesting stuff (especially to those of us who are Baby Sleep Site employees, and who are therefore obsessed with sleep!) But does it really work? And how can you put this information to work at home?

I asked our sleep consultants to share their own personal experiences with colic remedies, to see if probiotics proved useful for them. Here’s what they had to say:

  • Shaye’s daughter had colic, but the probiotics that Shaye gave her didn’t help much. As it turns out, Shaye’s little one didn’t have simple colic and actually needed medication to control her symptoms.
  • Miriam tried probiotics with one of her babies, but didn’t like them, and didn’t think they were effective. She says Colic Calm™ was a better solution for her family.
  • Sarah (one of our newest sleep consultants – check out her bio!) found probiotics extremely helpful in controlling her daughter’s colic. She had a pediatrician recommend them early on, and as she puts it, “I haven’t looked back!”

Of course, there’s no telling exactly what will work best for your colicky baby – you won’t know until you try various remedies. Just be sure not to offer any probiotics to your baby or toddler without first speaking to your healthcare provider.

Okay, parents – share your tips! How did you cope / are you coping with a colicky baby? Share your wisdom with us!

  • Need more sleep training resources? We have a ton! Browse our list of e-books and e-book packages, designed to help your baby or toddler better sleeping and napping habits. We even have a book that’s designed just for newborns, and focuses on gentle methods to shift sleep! These are perfect solutions for parents who want to sleep train on their own, but need more information.
  • Want 5 free e-Books, plus a weekly chat with a consultant? Join our Members Area packed with exclusive content and resources: e-Books, assessments, detailed case studies, expert advice, peer support, and teleseminars. It actually costs less to join than buying products separately! And as a member, you have access to a once-a-week chat with one of our expert sleep consultants – ideal for those times when you need some expert advice!.
  • Need Personalized Help? For those looking for a more customized solution for your unique situation with support along the way, please consider one-on-one baby and toddler sleep consultations, where you will receive a Personalized Sleep Plan™ you can feel good about! Sometimes it’s not that you can’t make a plan. Sometimes you’re just too tired to.

4 Newborn Baby Items You Should Never Pay Full Price For (and 2 That You Should)

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Baby Items To Buy New and UsedWhen I was pregnant with my first child, I have a clear memory of walking into my local Babies-R-Us, ready to register for cute baby gear and feeling so excited. And then the nice checkout girl handed me the list of ‘must-have’ registry items. And there were eighty-two things on it.

EIGHTY-TWO. Seriously — how can such a tiny person need so many things?!

Well, in all honesty, your newborn doesn’t need quite that much stuff. But if you’re having a baby, you will need to buy some baby gear. And if you’re anything like me, you’ll want to focus on buying the things that you need at the lowest price possible.

But which newborn items can you afford to skimp on, and which should you buy new? Let’s take a look!

4 Newborn Baby Items You Should Never* Pay Full Price For

  • CLOTHING: This is one thing you can trust other people to buy for you – people love to shower new parents with cute baby outfits! Need more clothing? Hit up yard sales, thrift stores, and consignment stores. Or, even better, see if you can work out a borrowing arrangement with a friend. I did this, with a friend who had a little girl exactly 1 year older than my little girl. She loaned me clothes, and at the end of the season, I’d return everything back to her PLUS I’d add in any outfits or accessories that I’d picked up along the way. It was a great arrangement for both of us.
  • BEDDING: You know the cute (and pricey) bedding sets they sell in stores? Here’s a secret: you don’t need most of the stuff included. The quilts and comforters aren’t safe to put in the crib (they present a SIDS risk); same is true of the bumper pads. The crib skirt is nice, but non-essential. All you really need are a few good-quality crib sheets.
  • TOYS: Again – so cute, but too expensive! And your baby will outgrow many these fairly quickly. Remember, too, that your baby may end up being more interested in the box the toy came in than in the toy itself – another reason not to spend big bucks on these! Friends and family will buy these for you, too, and you can scour yard sales, thrift stores, and consignment stores to get them used. Borrowing from friends also works well. If you borrow or buy used, though, be sure to check the CPSC list of recalled items, to be sure what you’re buying is safe.
  • EQUIPMENT: By equipment, I mean things like bouncy seats, swings, high-chairs, baby bathtubs, etc. Lots of these things can be really useful during the newborn and early infant stages, but your baby will outgrown them pretty fast, so it’s better not to spend a fortune on these. Better to let others buy them for you, or to buy them used. Borrowing is great, too. (Again — when buying used or borrowing, check the CPSC recalls.) We have friends who have 4 children, and every time they had a new baby, they would borrow our baby swing. It was a great arrangement – it saved them money, and we didn’t have to let the baby swing sit in our basement, taking up space and collecting dust.
  • *You don’t need to pay full price for these things, but needing and wanting are two different things! I fully recognize that shopping (especially for a baby) is fun. So if you want to buy some of these things brand-new, and you have the money to do it – then go crazy, my friend! ;)

2 Newborn Baby Items You Should Probably Buy New

  • CRIB: Buying a used crib, or borrowing one from a friend, can be dicey. That’s because in 2011, the CPSC issued new regulations for crib manufacturers. Cribs sold prior to these new regulations most likely don’t comply with new safety standards, and therefore aren’t considered safe. For instance, most older cribs have drop-sides, and those are big no-no’s by today’s standards.

    Be careful, too, of buying or borrowing a newer used crib – even if it does meet safety standards, there’s no way for you to know if it’s been assembled properly. The only way to ensure proper assembly is to buy a new crib and then assemble it yourself.

  • CAR SEAT: I’m a bit of a cheapskate, but this is one item I was happy to pay full price for. Why? Because used car seats are most likely missing the original manufacturer instructions, and could very well be missing important pieces and parts. And if the car seat has ever been in a serious accident (something you can’t verify, if you buy it used), then its quality is compromised. It’s best to go with a new model, so that you can be sure you have proper installation instructions and all necessary installation equipment, and so that you know the car seat is in perfect working order.

So – what do you think of our list? Any items you’d add or change? Chime in, and help parents of newborns know how to get the most bang for their buck!

Expecting a baby, or have a new baby at home? Then I’ll bet it’s safe to say you’re not sleeping very well right now! Want to change that? We can help!

  • Need more sleep training resources? We have a ton! Browse our list of e-books and e-book packages, designed to help your baby, toddler, or newborn develop better sleeping habits. We even have a book that’s designed just for parents who want to work on naps! These are perfect solutions for parents who want to sleep train on their own, but need more information.
  • Want 5 free e-books, and access to a weekly expert chat? Join our Members Area packed with exclusive content and resources: e-Books, assessments, detailed case studies, expert advice, peer support, and teleseminars. It actually costs less to join than buying products separately! And as a member, you have access to a once-a-week chat with one of our expert sleep consultants – ideal for those times when you need some expert advice!.
  • Need Personalized Help? For those looking for a more customized solution for your unique situation with support along the way, please consider one-on-one baby and toddler sleep consultations, where you will receive a Personalized Sleep Plan™ you can feel good about! Sometimes it’s not that you can’t make a plan. Sometimes you’re just too tired to.

What You Should Know About Newborn Baby Sleeping Patterns

Newborn Baby Sleep PatternsBefore I had children, I remember thinking (based on my very limited experience with babies!) that newborns slept all the time. Most of the newborns I’d see would be fast asleep in their strollers, in their carseats, in their slings, or in their moms’ arms, at any given time of day.

When I had a newborn of my own at home, however, I learned that my observation was only partly true. Yes, newborns do sleep a lot – but they don’t sleep for long!!

What’s that about, anyway? Why are newborns light sleepers? Why do they wake so frequently?

Why Does Your Newborn Baby Wake Frequently?

If you’ve done any reading on newborn sleep, then you know that newborns do, in fact, sleep a lot. On average, newborns sleep anywhere from 14-17 hours in a 24-hour period — that’s a lot of sleep! But here’s the thing – that sleep happens in short, 2-4 hour chunks around the clock. In this way, newborn sleep is far more fragmented than adult sleep – or even older baby and toddler sleep.

Why is newborn sleep so fragmented? Well, in part, it has to do with your newborn’s drive to eat. Remember, your newborn is growing at a phenomenal rate – she will double her birthweight in the first 4-5 months of life! It’s no wonder, then, that she needs to feed every few hours. Her tummy is small, and her calorie needs are quite high.

But hunger isn’t the only driving force behind your newborn’s frequent waking.

Your Newborn Baby’s Sleep Cycles Explained

The truth is, your newborn’s sleeping patterns are very different from yours. We adults tend to have longer sleep cycles – ours last anywhere from 90 – 100 minutes. And the majority of our sleep cycles are spent in deep sleep, with only a small percentage spent in more active, REM sleep.

But things are very different for your newborn. For one thing, your newborn’s sleep cycles are much shorter – they are only about 50 minutes long. That’s almost half as long as yours! And it’s not just sleep cycle length that’s different. Newborns spend way more time in active sleep than we adults do, and way less in deep sleep. In fact, it’s estimated that newborns spend about 75% of their sleep time in active sleep, compared to 20% for adults.

Short Cycles + Lots of Active Sleep = A Newborn Baby Who Wakes Up A Lot

Here’s how all these scientific facts fit together. It’s during the transition from one sleep cycle to the next that a person is most likely to wake up briefly. This is true for children and adults alike. If you think about it, this makes sense – you probably wake sometimes in the middle of the night, for no apparent reason, and then roll over and go back to sleep. That’s most likely because your brain was moving from one sleep cycle to the next. The same thing happens to your newborn.

But here’s the thing – your newborn goes through many more sleep cycles each night than you do. While we adults may have 4 or 5 sleep cycles in a given night, your newborn has up to twice that many. That means double the chances of waking up between cycles.

And we have to take all that active sleep into account, too. Active sleep tends to be lighter sleep – when we are in active, REM sleep, we are dreaming, and tend to stir and move more frequently. We are also much more prone to being woken up during active sleep. The same is true for your newborn – during lighter sleep, your newborn is more vulnerable to being awoken.

So when you add these two facts together – the fact that your newborn goes through many more sleep cycles each night, and the fact that newborns spend the majority of their sleep time in light, active sleep – and then you add in the round-the-clock need for food, it’s easier to understand why your newborn wakes often.

Why Are Your Newborn Baby’s Sleeping Patterns So Different?

We know the ‘what’ behind newborn sleeping patterns, but what about the why? Why do our newborns have many short sleep cycles, and why do they spend so much time in active sleep?

As it turns out, your newborn’s sleeping patterns are designed to keep your little one healthy and safe. The fact that your newborn spends lots of time in active sleep ensures that she will wake up to feed; it may also help to protect babies from SIDS. Some researchers have also indicated that the long amounts of time newborns spend in active sleep is crucial to their brain development.

What Does This Mean For You?

Well, it clearly means that if you have a sleepless newborn on your hands, that is completely normal! For the first 8-12 weeks of life, babies really do need to wake every few hours in order to eat, and they need to have more active sleep so that their brains develop normally.

But of course, the newborn stage is short-lived – by 4 months or so, most babies are ready to start having a long stretch of sleep at night. And by about 9 months of age, most babies are either sleeping through the night or are down to just one nighttime feeding. So yes – it does get better!

Don’t let all this talk about how normal night wakings are make you think that there’s nothing you can do to maximize your newborn’s nighttime sleep, however. While you can’t expect a newborn to sleep through the night, there are gentle, safe things you can do to help maximize your newborn’s sleep.

Questions about your newborn’s sleeping patterns? Tips to share on how to improve newborn sleep? Share ‘em below, in the comments!

  • Need more sleep training resources? We have a ton! Browse our list of e-books and e-book packages, designed to help your baby or toddler better sleeping and napping habits. We even have a book that’s designed just for newborns, and focuses on gentle methods to shift sleep! These are perfect solutions for parents who want to sleep train on their own, but need more information.
  • Want 5 free e-Books, plus a weekly chat with a consultant? Join our Members Area packed with exclusive content and resources: e-Books, assessments, detailed case studies, expert advice, peer support, and teleseminars. It actually costs less to join than buying products separately! And as a member, you have access to a once-a-week chat with one of our expert sleep consultants – ideal for those times when you need some expert advice!.
  • Need Personalized Help? For those looking for a more customized solution for your unique situation with support along the way, please consider one-on-one baby and toddler sleep consultations, where you will receive a Personalized Sleep Plan™ you can feel good about! Sometimes it’s not that you can’t make a plan. Sometimes you’re just too tired to.