Newborn Sleep Schedule & Patterns: What To Expect And How To Cope

everything you need to know about newborn sleep

The first few weeks with your brand-new baby are incredibly exciting but also tiring — especially when you realize that your little newborn sleeps all the time but somehow leaves no time for you to rest.

Newton Baby is here to help you understand newborn sleep patterns (or lack thereof!) and navigate the first few weeks. We’ll discuss newborn sleep safety, sleep patterns (and how to help them create a schedule!), and how to care for yourself during those happy but exhausting first few weeks.

Safe Sleep For Newborns

Before we dive into newborn sleep schedules and patterns, it’s important that we discuss safety. Considering how much newborns sleep, you might wonder how to keep them safe during all those hours they spend snoozing.

Here are a few safe sleep guidelines to follow from day one:

  • Use a firm crib mattress. Soft, fluffy mattresses are not safe for babies.
  • Make sure the mattress is the correct size. Crib mattresses typically come in two sizes: mini and standard. Whichever one you choose, you’ll need to make sure it fits snugly in the crib without too much of a gap between the mattress and the edge of the crib.
  • Keep blankets, toys, pillows, and crib bumpers out of the crib. They’re cute but not safe for baby to sleep with. Outfit the crib with a basic fitted sheet and skip the rest.
  • Share your room, but not your bed. Your baby can sleep in a bassinet in the same room as you, but it’s not safe for them to sleep in bed with you.
  • Put your little one to sleep on their back, not their stomach or side.
  • Use a breathable mattress. Around four months, your little one will learn to roll over. If they roll over onto their stomach at night, a breathable mattress, like Newton’s Crib Mattress, will help reduce the risk of suffocation.

newborn sleep on a breathable crib mattress

Newborn Sleep Patterns: What To Expect

As you’ve probably already discovered first-hand, newborns sleep a lot. In fact, they sleep the majority of the day — somewhere around 16 or 18 hours out of every 24 hours, although this can vary from baby to baby.

With all those hours they’ll spend snoozing, sounds like you’ll have a chance to get some sound sleep, right? Wrong.

Because they need to eat frequently, newborns only sleep a couple of hours at a time (usually not more than four). Talk to your pediatrician about how frequently your newborn should eat. In some cases, you may need to wake your baby for feedings.

The truth about newborn sleep patterns is that they don’t really exist. This is normal, and your job during these first few weeks is simply to feed, change, and dress your baby when they’re not sleeping.

newborn sleep patterns

You might also notice that your newborn seems to confuse daytime and nighttime. While this can be extra tiring for you, it’s normal and will resolve itself when your little one starts to develop their circadian rhythm.

Circadi-what? A circadian rhythm is our body’s internal clock that tells us when it’s time to be awake and when it’s time to sleep.

Fresh out of the womb, your baby doesn’t really have their own circadian rhythm, but they’ll start to develop it around three months (earlier if you’re lucky!). That’s also probably when they’ll begin sleeping for longer stretches at night.

While it won’t happen right away, developing a circadian rhythm and proper sleep patterns is crucial to both your and your little one’s sleep! The good news is there are a few things you can do to give your newborn a nudge in the right direction.

How To Help Your Newborn Develop A Sleep Schedule

1) Don’t Keep Your Baby Up During The Day

Some parents think that keeping their baby awake during the day will help them sleep more at night. However, this doesn’t really work and might even work against you — your baby can become overtired.

If you keep your baby awake when they’re tired, they might just have more trouble sleeping once they finally get to bed. That being said, what you do want to do is include them in the rhythm of a normal day.

2) Include Your Newborn In Daytime Activities

help your newborn sleep by including them in your daily activities

Help your baby start to understand that daytime is for being awake and playing. Let them experience the activity, noise, and natural light of daytime. Play with them during the day and include them in your normal daytime routine.

3) Learn How To Tell When Your Baby Is Sleepy

Once they’ve been awake for a bit, your baby will be ready for another nap. Learn how to tell when they’re sleepy.

Your little one might yawn, rub their eyes, look away, stare blankly, or start fussing. Figure out how to read these cues so you can put your baby down when they’re ready and avoid letting them become overly tired.

4) Create A Bedtime Routine

create a bedtime routine to help your newborn sleep

While it may seem that your newborn has no idea what time of day it is, it’s not too early to start forming a routine. A consistent bedtime routine will help your baby understand that it’s time to wind down. And this will serve you for months (and years) to come!

Your routine might include dressing them in their pajamas, reading a book, singing a song, rocking them, and kissing them goodnight. Find out what works best for your family and stick to it.

5) Put Your Baby To Bed Drowsy

For the first few weeks, your baby will fall asleep anywhere, including in your arms. And who doesn’t want those baby snuggles?

But after a couple of months, help your baby learn how to fall asleep by themselves so they don’t always rely on you go to sleep. When it’s time for bed, put your infant in the crib when they’re drowsy but not yet completely asleep.

6) Reduce Activity At Night

Just as you want to get your baby used to the hustle and bustle of daytime activity, you’ll want to reduce activity at nighttime.

Keep your voice and the lights low when you’re getting them ready for bed. And when they wake up in the middle of the night to eat, keep things dark and quiet.

How To Care For Yourself While Coping With Newborn Sleep

A newborn’s erratic sleep patterns can be tiring for you as a parent. The good news is that, eventually, your baby will start sleeping more at night and creating a consistent sleep schedule.

In the meantime, here are a few ways to cope with the exhaustion of being a brand-new parent.

1) Acknowledge That You’re Going To Be Tired

Even before your little one arrives, come to terms with the fact that you won’t sleep much those first few weeks, or maybe even months. Don’t let the sleepless nights take you by surprise, and remember that this phase will pass.

Look on the bright side and enjoy the newborn days as much as possible!

2) Eat Well

You can’t control how much you’re sleeping right now, but make sure you’re doing whatever else you can to take care of yourself. That includes eating well. After all, being tired is better than being tired and hungry!

3) Rest When Your Baby Sleeps

“Sleep when the baby sleeps” is great advice, but if you can’t fall asleep at the drop of a hat, at least take a rest. Your body will benefit from just a few minutes with your eyes closed, even if you don’t fall asleep.

For extra relaxation and stress relief, put your feet up with Newton Baby’s Weighted Blanket for adults. The weight of this cozy blanket increases serotonin (the “happy chemical”) and decreases anxiety levels so you can get the most out of your precious moments of rest!

weighted blanket for adults

4) Accept Help

Whether it’s cleaning the house or cooking a meal, don’t hesitate to accept or ask for help. Similarly, consider enlisting help for the nighttime feedings so you can get a good night of sleep once in a while.

If you’re breastfeeding, pump so that another caregiver can give your little one a bottle during the night.

5) Help Yourself Fall Asleep

When you finally get the chance for some shut-eye, your body might not wind down quickly. If that’s the case, do what you can to make it as easy as possible for your body to fall asleep.

Sip on calming tea, read a book, avoid screens and caffeine, or take a bath.

newborn sleep tips

In the end, the newborn phase is just that — a phase that will be over soon enough. Enjoy the time you have with them while they’re awake, and when they’re snoozing, make sure they’re sleeping safely on a Newton Baby Crib Mattress.

Finally, take good care of yourself so that you can continue to give your child all the love and care they need!

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