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How much sleep a newborn baby needs

Newborn babies spend most of their time asleep. They haven't yet developed a set sleep pattern.

Their sleep is divided equally throughout the day and night.

Your baby wakes for feeds and sleeps for 2 to 3 hours until their next feed. Their tummy influences their body clock.

If their tummy is full, they will sleep. If they are hungry, they will wake.

Your baby will need about 9 to 18 hours sleep until they are 3 months old.

The average they will sleep is about 14.5 hours. They will sleep across the day and night for anything between a few minutes to a few hours at a time. They may go straight to sleep after a feed.

If you have concerns that your baby is not getting the right amount of sleep, talk to your GP or public health nurse

Where your baby should sleep

The safest place for your baby to sleep is in a cot in the same room as you. Their risk of cot death is lower than babies who sleep in a separate room.

Cot death or sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) is the sudden and unexpected death of a baby who seems healthy during sleep.

Read about cot death and sleep safety for your baby

When placing their cot:

  • keep the cot in your room for at least the first 6 months
  • do not place your baby’s cot below a window or against an outer wall - this avoids a draft
  • do not place the cot next to a radiator or heater
  • do not hang ribbons and bits of strings from toys over your baby’s cot

The bedroom should be dark. Use blackout blinds if necessary. Make sure the blind cords are safe.

Avoid electronic toys in the cot. This is because your baby may associate them with sleep. They can also disrupt sleep during the night.

Your baby's sleeping position

In their cot, always put your baby to sleep on their back. Their face should always be upwards. Their feet should be towards the end of the cot.

As long as they are on their back, it is okay if your baby's head is turned slightly to the side. But you should change their head position each time they sleep.

Newborn babies are not strong enough to turn their head for the first few weeks of life. But changing their side each time encourages your baby to move their head to the left and right. They will naturally turn towards the bright side of the room.

This also helps your baby’s head and neck muscles to develop strength on both sides. It will help to develop the shape of your baby’s head. This also helps prevent the baby from developing flat head syndrome (plagiocephaly).

Do not let your baby sleep while lying on their tummy. Babies who sleep on their tummies have a higher risk of cot death.

During the day, you can give your baby some ‘tummy time’.

Safe sleep practices and cot death

Cot death can happen in a cot, pram, bed, car seat, baby seat or anywhere a baby is sleeping.

It is unknown why some healthy babies die suddenly and unexpectedly in their sleep.

Because of this, it is very important to be aware of sleep safety for your baby. Some steps you can take to reduce the risk include:

  • placing your baby on their back to sleep in their own cot
  • pointing their feet towards the foot or the end of the cot
  • keeping their head uncovered and don't use too many clothes
  • using only blankets or a sleeveless sleeping bag in the cot
  • not having pillows, cushions, sleep positioners or any other item in the cot
  • keeping the cot in your room for the first 6 months
  • making sure the room temperature is between 16°C to 20°C (degrees Celsius)
  • not smoking and keeping your baby away from smoking

Related topic

Safe sleep practices for your newborn

Page last reviewed: 04/12/2018
Next review due: 04/12/2021