What Should My Newborn's Sleep Habits Be?

Mar 02, 2023
What Should My Newborn's Sleep Habits Be?
If, as a parent, you have trouble recognizing patterns in your newborn’s sleep schedule, you’re not alone. Every baby seems to “try on” several sleep/wake cycles before settling into a normal routine that’s likely tied to their developing tummies.

There’s no simple way to prepare for the sleep habits of a newborn because, quite simply, they don’t have any. Each baby seems to have their pattern (or non-pattern) of waking and sleeping hours that bears little evidence of following day/night circadian rhythms. No matter how opposed these hours are to the parents’ need for sleep, your baby’s sleep habits are most likely just fine, even if it’s a months-long inconvenience. 

If you’re concerned about your newborn’s sleep, or feel that something is out of the ordinary, don’t hesitate to contact the newborn specialists at Abdow Friendship Pediatrics in Rockville, Maryland. When it comes to newborns, there’s no such thing as an insignificant problem, even if a visit simply sets your mind at ease as a parent.

An individual schedule

Your newborn’s sleep schedule is perhaps the first flush of individuality your child displays. It’s too soon to start thinking about establishing a schedule around their tiny, developing stomachs. Hunger strikes quickly, usually every few hours, often interrupting sleep, since it’s the most pressing need. 

You likely won’t notice any patterns within the first month or two. Newborns can sleep anywhere between 16-20 hours a day, waking when they’re hungry and falling asleep soon after. As a rough guideline, newborns sleep for 8-9 hours during the day and an additional 8 hours at night. They’re usually ready to eat again in 3 hours. 

Your child’s early sleep habits may or may not resemble that description. There’s really no consistent pattern between children in the first few weeks. Typically, babies won’t start sleeping through the night until they’re about three months old, but this can begin sooner or much later. 

After the first month, you may begin to recognize your child’s patterns. At that point, you can start to be alert for changes or inconsistencies, which become more obvious over time. 

Alert phases

Over time, sleeping and waking cycles become more defined. Your child’s tummy can hold more food, though they might still be ravenous through growth spurts, requiring more frequent feeding. Patterns emerge in the time they’re awake, moving through three distinct phases.

The quiet alert phase usually occurs upon waking. Your baby is awake but very still, taking in the world around them, perhaps staring at objects. They’ll also respond to motion or sound. They may progress to an active alert phase if they have no immediate needs. In this phase, they’ll become more animated, interacting more with you and the world around them. 

When your child is hungry or in need of a diaper change, they may enter the crying phase directly from the quiet alert phase. Overstimulation happens easily in this phase, so learning the best way to calm your child helps to ease into the feeding stage. They may be too upset to feed once the crying phase begins, so feeding before they start crying is usually the best approach once you recognize patterns in your baby’s sleep habits. 

There’s plenty to learn about caring for a newborn, and often it’s up to your baby to show you their tendencies. Contact us at Abdow Friendship Pediatrics by phone or online, when you have questions or concerns about your child’s care. We’re looking forward to meeting your newborn, so schedule your visit today.