Newborn babies spend most of their time asleep. They haven't yet developed a set sleep pattern.
Your newborn baby will wake up regularly to be fed. It doesn't 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.
From birth, some babies need more or less sleep than other babies.
Newborn babies are too young to follow strict routines. You can start to introduce changes to bedtime at around 3 months of age. For example, changing into pyjamas, bath time, stories or singing time.
It often takes several months for a baby's day to night pattern of waking and sleeping to become settled.
How much sleep a newborn baby needs
Your baby will need about 9 to 18 hours of sleep until they are 3 months old. The average they will sleep is about 14.5 hours.
Your baby is unique and may sleep differently to other babies. 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 to a few hours at a time.
Newborn babies don’t know the difference between day and night. Their sleep is more likely controlled by their tummies.
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 influences their body clock.
If their tummy is full, they will sleep. If they are hungry, they will wake.
If you are worried that your baby is not getting the right amount of sleep, talk to your GP or public health nurse
Putting your baby to sleep
Your baby may go straight to sleep after a feed.
When possible, put your baby down to sleep 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.
Signs your newborn baby is tired
A newborn baby will probably be tired if they have been awake for 1 to 1.5 hours.
There are signs that will tell you when they're ready to sleep. Avoid stimulating your baby, such as talking loudly or playing with them.
Some of the signs are:
- staring into space
- fussing or grizzling
- arching back
- can't be distracted
- jerky arm or legs movements
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
Cot death or sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) is the sudden and unexpected death of a baby who seems healthy during sleep.
It can happen in a cot, pram, bed, car seat, baby seat or anywhere a baby is sleeping.
The safest place for your baby to sleep is in a cot in the same room as you.
Background noises such as music or children playing may not wake them but a sudden loud noise might.
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.
You can help prevent this when putting your baby down to sleep on their back. When they are lying flat, you can alternate their head position so that sometimes they face left and sometimes they face right.
Coping with disturbed newborn sleep
Your baby's sleep pattern is probably not going to fit in with your sleep pattern. Try to sleep when your baby sleeps.
Some things 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 6 cups of tea or 2 cups of coffee a day. For filtered coffee, you should only have one cup a day.