Newborns and Sleep

One of the most difficult challenges when you have a newborn is getting enough sleep. Newborn babies can't sleep for very long at one time. Their stomachs are too small to hold breast milk or formula for long stretches. Consequently, they usually wake every two hours - day or night - to eat. Learn more about how newborns and growing babies sleep so that you can be prepared for what the future holds!

How Much Do Newborns Sleep?

The good news is that babies need a great deal of sleep. The bad news is that they don't enjoy that sleep in long stretches. Newborns generally need about 16 hours a day of sleep. Their sleep patterns are different than those of adults, however. They go through drowsiness, REM sleep, light sleep, deep sleep and very deep sleep. As they grow, their periods of sleep increase in length, but decrease in the amount they need each day. Even if your baby is enjoying a long stretch of sleeping, many pediatricians recommend that you wake them every three to four hours to eat. Breastfed babies, in addition, may become hungrier sooner than do bottle fed babies and need to nurse every two hours for the first month or so.

Where Should Your Newborn Sleep

If you're getting up every two to three hours throughout the night to feed your baby, it's legitimate to wonder where you should put him to sleep. While the baby is still a newborn, many parents will place a crib or bassinet in their room so that they don't need to walk far to get the baby and to feed him. Some cultures use a cosleeper, so that the baby is sleeping in his own space right near where the parents sleep. Many groups, including The American Academy of Pediatrics and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, do not recommend having a baby sleep with you for any reason. They say that this can pose a safety concern and that there is a higher rate of SIDS in households where the baby sleeps in the parent's bed.

Creating a Routine

It's very helpful for you and your newborn if you create a routine right from the start. Sleep is often based on habit and on what we get accustomed to in our lives. Try to put your baby to sleep in the crib or basinet whenever you can. Once they are a month old, or so, you can try to help them to sleep at a consistent time each night. Try not to get used to getting them to sleep in the stroller or through nursing. They should learn that they sleep in the crib and should learn to sleep without extra aids. This may be impossible in the beginning, but eventually they will be able to go to sleep directly in their cribs without extra aids like nursing or rocking. You can also establish some bedtime routines at a very young age. You might give them a bath, then read a book, then sing a lullaby and then put them in bed. While a very young baby won't understand that these rituals are a signal for sleep, a baby will begin to understand this soon.


Remember to keep your baby as safe as possible while he's sleeping. Don't place anything in the crib or bassinet that could interfere with the baby's breathing. This includes toys, pillows, blankets and more. Make sure your crib meets current safety standards and always put your baby to sleep on his back. SIDS has decreased by more than 50% since parents were encouraged to place their babies to sleep on their backs 15 years ago.