Women's  Healthcare Topics is a website about pregnancy and your newborn baby.

Newborn Baby's Sleep Schedules

Reviewed by James Brann, M.D.

When will my Baby Sleep through the Night?

This article is about your baby's sleeping habits.

If you are hoping that your newborn will start sleeping through the night shortly after birth, you might be hoping for too much too soon.

The good news is that most newborns sleep as many as 16 hours per day... the bad news is that they don't sleep all of those hours at the same time. In fact, most newborns sleep for relatively short periods at a time.

Unlike adults who prefer eight hours of sleep at a stretch most newborns are content to sleep for just 1 to 3 hour intervals.

Newborn Sleep Patterns: What to Expect

So how often and how much can you expect your newborn to sleep? The answer is "it varies." Most newborns will sleep as much as they need to. Many will nod off at a moments notice then wake again abruptly only a few moments later.

While it is true that some newborns are 'natural' sleepers, most need a great deal of help establishing a sleep schedule during the first 12 weeks of life.

It is important to note that newborns are not born with the ability to distinguish between night and day, so some may be up more during the evening than during the day. This can be exhausting for parents, particularly if they have other children in the home they need to tend to during the day.

Fortunately you can help your newborn learn the difference by ensuring that you reduce stimulation during the evenings as much as possible and interact with your newborn as much as possible during the daylight hours. Eventually they will figure out that nighttime is for sleeping.

Most adults spend a large majority of the night in light sleep referred to as REM sleep. During this time it isn't uncommon to wake momentarily and fall back asleep. Babies however are not born knowing how to get themselves back to sleep, and they have more light sleep cycles than adults, thus there is more opportunity for their sleep to be disrupted, and it will take them time to learn how to get back to sleep on their own. Most babies need help falling asleep during the first few weeks.

When Will My Baby Sleep Through the Night?

Some babies will start sleeping through the night at six weeks. Others will wake up two to three times per night until they are at least 12 months of age or more. How long your baby sleeps truly depends on your baby's personality and sleep preferences. It is important to note that "sleeping through the night" generally means that your baby will sleep a solid stretch of 4-6 hours, not 8-10 as most adults are accustomed to.

If possible, you can attempt to move your baby into their own crib as soon as possible to help them learn how to fall asleep on their own.

Fortunately by about three months of age or when your baby is at least 12 pounds they will start sleeping for longer stretches. If your baby does not start showing signs of developing a regular sleep pattern by about 12 weeks of age, talk to your healthcare provider or pediatrician about your concerns.

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