Newborn Sleep Basics

Newborns sleep a lot. On average, your new baby will sleep fourteen to seventeen hours in a twenty-four-hour period. The caveat is they sleep in small stints and should not be allowed to sleep more than four hours at a time. Unfortunately for parents, a newborn’s erratic sleep patterns mean you won’t be getting more than a few hours at a time either. 

As a new parent, you’ll likely receive all types of advice from every direction; tips from your mother-in-law, your best friend who just had a baby six months ago, and your co-worker who is a mom of three. So how do you know what’s normal?

We’re here to help! We’ve organized the need-to-know information, backed by trusted medical and developmental specialists, on newborn sleep habits and tips to help them (and you sleep).

So read on to discover the essential newborn sleep basics!

Infant Sleep Routines


Newborns need between fourteen and seventeen hours of sleep in a twenty-four-hour period. That may seem like a lot of sleep, and it is, but your baby will likely only be sleeping two to three hours at a time. 

In addition to a lot of sleep, your baby needs a lot of calories and should never go more than four hours without eating. If you are breastfeeding, you may even be feeding your baby every other hour initially. 

If you are using formula or pumping breastmilk to bottle feed, you can alternate nighttime feedings with your partner to help you both get longer stretches of rest.

2 to 4 Months

By two months old, your baby should be able to sleep four to five hours at a time. However, before four months old, your baby is not developmentally ready to sleep through the night; and when we say through the night, we mean six hours at a time. 

The best advice is to nap when they nap and try to do the chores and housework when they are awake. 

6 to 8 Months

By six months old, they may be able to sleep up to eight hours in a single stretch. However, that six to eight-hour stretch may not match up with your bedtime.

For example, if you put your five-month-old to bed at 8 PM, expect them to wake up between 2 AM and 4 AM for a feeding. 

After six months, you should be able to wean your baby off the middle of the night feedings allowing for a solid night of sleep.

9 to 12 Months

By nine months, your baby should be sleeping through the night without a middle-of-the-night feeding. However, if your baby is still waking up to be fed, it is a learned habit and not a dietary need. It is also a habit you need to break for the good of both you and your child. 

There are several different theories on sleep training an older infant or toddler, so if you find yourself in this boat, speak with an early childhood professional or your pediatrician for advice. 

Setting Up Healthy Sleep Habits


The first few weeks of parenthood revolve around your baby’s sleeping and eating on-demand schedule. At this point, there is no need to set up a schedule; instead, follow your baby’s cues on when they are ready to eat and sleep.

2 to 4 Months

When your baby is two months old, you can begin to establish a bedtime routine or schedule. At this point in their growth and development, you should begin to see predictable patterns in their sleeping and eating. 

Consider keeping a journal of when they nap, eat and fall asleep in the evening. This information will allow you to create a schedule centered around their current needs. 

At two months old, your baby’s schedule will still vary slightly, but this is the time to establish what bedtime means.

A typical bedtime routine for an infant could be:

  • Bathtime
  • Story
  • Feeding
  • Placed in bed sleepy but not asleep

Two to four months is also the time to move their bassinet away from your bed. Room sharing is considered best until six months old, but the simple act of moving your baby’s bassinet to the other side of the room can decrease nighttime wake-ups.

3 to 6 months

Begin to anticipate your baby’s nap times and place them in their crib before falling asleep. Allowing them to fall asleep in their crib instead of rocking them allows them to self-soothe, an essential developmental milestone. 

You can also do an abbreviated bedtime routine before nap time to signal sleepy time. 

After four months, when your baby begins sleeping for longer stretches at night, try pushing their bedtime back by 15 minutes every few days until you’ve reached a bedtime between 8 and 8:30 PM. Slowly pushing their bedtime back will also allow you longer stretches of sleep at night. 

Creating A Sleep Environment

In addition to establishing a sleep routine, here are some tips on creating a safe and comforting sleep environment.

  • Keep the room’s temperature between 68-70 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Place your baby to sleep on their back on a firm mattress
  • Do not place anything in the crib with your baby
    • Use a swaddle or sleeping pouch to keep your baby warm.
  • Use a fan to create white noise
  • Play gentle music
  • Keep the room dark at night and allow light in during the day

Dos and Donts to help your baby sleep

  • Don’t put cereal or any solid foods in their bottle; it will not help them sleep longer.
  • Do make day time active, fun, and bright.
  • Don’t allow your baby to sleep more than four hours during the day
  • Do slowly spread out nighttime feedings
  • Don’t talk to your baby or make eye contact during night feedings and diaper changes.
    • Your voice and eye contact are stimulants to your baby, which will keep them awake.
  • Don’t try to force your baby to sleep when it is convenient for you
  • Do follow their cues to establish a sleep schedule 

Typical Infant Sleep Schedule

  • Birth – 6 weeks: 14-17 hours of sleep
  • 2 – 3 months: 14-17 hours of sleep (8-10 at night)
  • 4 – 6 months: 12-16 hours of sleep (9-11 at night)
  • 7-12 months: 12-16 hours of sleep (10-12 at night)
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