Newborn babies spend most of their time asleep. They have not yet developed a set sleep pattern.
Your baby will wake up regularly to be fed. It does not matter if it's day time or night time.
This can be very hard to cope with. It will get easier. Try to sleep when your baby is asleep.
Some babies need more sleep than others.
Newborn babies are too young to follow strict routines. You can start to introduce changes to bedtime at about 3 months old. For example, changing into pyjamas, bath time, stories or singing time.
It often takes a few months for a baby's day to night pattern of waking and sleeping to settle.
How much sleep a newborn baby needs
Your baby will need about 9 to 18 hours of sleep until they are 3 months old. They will sleep an average of about 14 hours.
Do not compare your baby's sleep to others. Some babies sleep for long periods, others for short bursts. They will sleep during the day and night. They might sleep for anything between a few minutes and a few hours at a time.
Newborns do not know the difference between day and night. Their sleep is more likely affected by hunger.
Non-urgent advice: Speak to a GP or public health nurse if:
- your newborn baby has jaundice (yellowing of the skin) and is very sleepy
Waking up for feeds
Newborn babies will wake up to be fed. Your baby will sleep for 1 to 3 hours until their next feed. Their sleep time gets longer as they get older. Their tummy often influences their body clock.
There are times your baby may be unsettled and it is not related to hunger.
Non-urgent advice: Talk to your GP or public health nurse if:
- you are worried that your baby is not getting the right amount of sleep
Putting your baby to sleep
Your baby may go straight to sleep after a feed.
When possible, put your baby down to sleep when they are drowsy but awake. This might help them fall asleep where they will be waking up.
Your baby will be awake for 1 to 2 hours between sleeps.
Settling your baby for sleep
Learn what works best to help your baby fall asleep.
Signs your baby is tired
Your baby will probably be tired if they have been awake for more than 1 hour.
Signs that they are ready to sleep include:
- staring into space
- fussing or grizzling
- arching their back
- they cannot be distracted
- jerky arm or leg movements
Avoid talking loudly or playing with them when they seem sleepy. This may encourage them to stay awake.
Keeping your baby awake
Keeping your baby awake during the day will not help them sleep better at night.
If your baby is overtired, it is much harder for them to get to sleep.
Where your baby should sleep
The safest place for your baby to sleep is in a cot in the same room as you.
Cot death is when a baby who seems healthy dies unexpectedly and suddenly during sleep. It is also called sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
It can happen in a cot, pram, bed, car seat, baby seat or anywhere a baby is sleeping.
Your baby's sleeping position
Always put your baby to sleep on their back with their feet touching the end of the cot.
If your baby always lies with their head in the same position, they might develop a 'flat head'. This is called plagiocephaly.
To help prevent this, make sure they sometimes face left and sometimes face right. You can move their head when they are lying on their back.
Background noises such as music or children playing may not wake your baby but a sudden loud noise might.
Your sleep after having a baby
Your baby's sleep is probably not going to fit in with your sleep pattern. Try to sleep when your baby sleeps.
There are some things you can do that may help.
- If you have a partner, ask for help.
- Ask family and friends for help with chores so you can take a nap.
Breastfeeding and caffeine
If you are breastfeeding, caffeine may affect your baby’s sleep. The recommended limit for breastfeeding mothers is about 200mg of caffeine (about 6 cups of tea or 2 cups of coffee) a day. Try drinking decaffeinated tea and coffee, herbal teas or water instead.