Kids Home > The Newborn Sleep Schedule

To help get through the sleep deprivation that accompanies any newborn, it is important to understand a baby's sleep patterns. Typically, newborns will sleep for most of the time, waking due to hunger every few hours. The amount of time they sleep between feedings will vary based on several factors, such as their temperament and whether they are formula-fed or breastfed.

Understanding the Newborn Sleep Schedule

One of the most common questions new parents have for healthcare providers typically involves their newborn's sleep schedule. Many times, exhausted parents wonder why their baby doesn't sleep well at night or why it takes so long to get their newborn to sleep.
 
When parents are trying to catch up on their own much-needed sleep time, this can seem like an unfairly difficult period. Understanding the patterns of a newborn sleep cycle might help everyone get through this tough time.
 

Why Opposites Attract

Newborn sleep patterns begin forming during the last months of pregnancy, with mostly light sleep in the sixth and seventh months, and deeper sleep emerging by the end of the pregnancy. Unfortunately, the sleep schedule of most newborns is actually the opposite of the parents, sleeping best during the day and being more active and alert at night.
 
This opposite sleep schedule might have been established because of the sleep/waking schedule set during pregnancy. During the day, when mom was up walking and talking, the baby was lulled to sleep by the rocking and white noise of the outside world. Then, when mom went to sleep at night, the stillness actually caused the baby to stir.
 

Establishing a Sleep Schedule for Newborns -- Easier Said Than Done

Newborns generally do not know how to put themselves to sleep. When it is time for bed, many parents find that rocking or feeding a baby will help their babies fall asleep. Establishing a routine at bedtime is a good idea. The trick of it all is to create a routine that will work for you and not against you.
 
At bedtime, try to put your baby down while he or she is sleepy and has not yet fallen asleep. The goal here is to let your baby learn how to fall asleep on their own. If they are only able to fall asleep with your help, you may be creating a pattern that will be grueling for you to keep up, for years to come.
 
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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