As a first-time parent, you may be shocked to discover that your baby, who seems to need you every single time, actually sleeps about 16 hours or more!
Newborns normally sleep for periods of 2–4 hours. Don’t expect your baby to sleep straight overnight — the digestive system of babies is so tiny that they require nourishment every few hours and should be awakened if they haven’t eaten for 4 hours (or more often if your doctor wants to focus on weight gain).
When can you expect your baby to sleep through the night? Most babies sleep through the night (between 6–8 hours) at 3 months of age, but if yours doesn’t, there’s no need to worry. Similar to adults, babies must develop their own sleep patterns and cycles, so if your newborn is gaining weight and appears healthy, there’s no cause for concern if he or she hasn’t slept through the night at 3 months.
It’s crucial to position babies on their backs to sleep in order to minimize the risk of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome). Additional safe sleeping practices include: not using blankets, quilts, sheepskins, stuffed animals, and pillows in the crib or bassinet (these can suffocate a baby); and sharing a bedroom (but not a bed) with the parents for the first 6 months to 1 year. Also, make sure to switch the position of your baby’s head every night (first right, then left, and so on) to prevent the development of a flat spot on one side of the head.
Many newborns have a complicated perception of day and night. They tend to be more awake and alert at night, and sleepier during the day. In order to help them, keep stimulation at night to a minimum. Keep the lights low by using a nightlight. Limit talking and playing with your baby during nighttime. When your baby wakes up during the day, try to keep him or her awake a little longer by talking and playing.
Despite feeling nervous about looking after a newborn, in a few short weeks you’ll develop a routine and be parenting like an expert! If you have any further questions and concerns, ask your doctor to recommend resources that can help you and your baby grow together.