sleeping baby

Newborn sleep patterns, how many hours should a baby sleep?

Newborn sleep patterns and Learning your baby sleep pattern will help you to pick up on your baby’s sleep cues and make it easier for your baby to drift off into a lovely sleep.

I believe that sleep encourages sleep and a well rested baby will feed well, enjoy playtime and thrive in his early weeks.

So lets start by explaining how does a newborn baby sleep and Newborn sleep patterns.

The average newborn baby sleeps for up to 18 hours a day compared to an adults recommended 8 hours a night. He will only sleep for small amounts of time, about 3 to 4 hours at a time, day and night.

This is because his tummy can only hold enough milk to sustain him for this amount of time before he wakes hungry and needs feeding again. If you are breastfeeding or your baby is small then this amount of time may be shorter to begin with while you wait for your body to increase its milk supply and while baby and his tummy grows bigger.

As your baby gets older his daytime naps will go down in time and his night time sleep should become longer.

Here is a guide to Newborn sleep patterns,  all babies need slightly different amounts of sleep so this is a rough guide to your baby’s age and how much sleep he should have.

How many hours should a baby sleep

Night sleep ( hours)
Day sleep ( hours)
Total sleep (hours)
Newborn-2months8-9 ( hours)7-9 ( 3-5 naps )15-20 ( hours )
2-4 months9-10 ( hours )4-5 ( 3-4 naps )13-15 ( hours )
4-6 months10 ( hours )4-5 ( 2-3 naps )13-15 ( hours )
6-9 months10-11 ( hours )3-4 ( 2 naps )14 ( hours )
9-12 months10-12 ( hours )2-3 ( 2 naps )14 ( hours )
12-18 months11-12 ( hours )2-3 ( 1-2 naps)11-14 ( hours )
Baby sleeping, Newborn sleep patterns and sleep cycle of your baby

Your baby’s sleep cycle is also different from your own. You will have a sleep cycle of about 90 minutes and drift into a deep sleep first, entering light R.E.M sleep before going back into deep sleep.

Your baby will have a sleep cycle of about 45 to 60 minutes and will spend most of his sleep in Rapid Eye Movement sleep, known as R.E.M sleep. This is much lighter sleep and he may be more easily disturbed. You may notice that he moves about in his sleep and wriggles often. His eyes will flutter under his closed eye lids and his breathing will become irregular.

These Newborn sleep patterns are good for his brain as R.E.M sleep helps the brain development in your baby. This is because it stays active while in this period of sleep. Your baby’s brain will also use this time to process his day and learn to understand what has happened during his waking hours.

Your baby’s brain will gradually mature and will begin to spend more time in deep sleep and less in R.E.M sleep. This brain maturity will vary from baby to baby but will happen somewhere between 6 to 12 months.

So how early will a baby sleep through the night? Many babies do sleep through the night earlier than 6 months and you may get many full nights sleep by the time baby is about 8 to 12 weeks old.

Baby sleeping, good sleep habits

I always encourage my parents to begin helping their baby develop good sleep habits from day one.  This is easier to do if you can pick up on your baby’s sleep cues, recognise when he is tired and act on them.

There are many sleep cues that you can look out for that will signal he is tired. Acting on them quickly, especially in a sensitive baby will make life for both of you much easier.

Baby sleep cues, Newborn sleep patterns, signs that your baby is tired and almost ready for sleep are:

yawns and stretches

becomes wriggly and fretful

stares into space with no focus

rubs eyes ( after 6 weeks of age)

turns his face away from people and toys

tries to bury his head in your chest or armpit

cries at the slightest thing

If you see any of these signs in your baby then acting on them quickly will give your baby the best chance of getting himself to sleep on his own

Newborn sleep patterns The size and weight of your baby

It is not necessarily the size and weight of your baby that decides whether your little munchkin will sleep through the night by about 12 weeks.

Now I was always told that a 10 lb/4.5kg baby can drink enough milk in the day to get him through the night! and in some cases this is true. I have also had much smaller babies go all night without being pushed to do so. I have even had one little girl who went from 7pm to 7am by 10 weeks! and it was all her doing.

I have also had much bigger or hungrier babies who needed more milk to sustain then and still needed a night feed for many weeks. If your newborn arrived at 9 lbs plus then you cannot expect them to go all night when they reach the 10lb/4.5kg weight as they will probably still be under 1 month old.

Each child is very different and if you are following some of my baby sleeping tips then you are doing all you can to get your baby sleeping through the night as soon as they are ready too.

I hope my newborn sleep patterns page has helped you understand how your baby sleeps.

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