Your newborn is programmed to sleep differently from you. Here’s what you need to know about how and when newborn babies sleep.
When newborns sleep
Newborns will usually sleep for around 16 hours in every 24.
A newborn doesn’t know that people sleep at night. Your newborn sleeps in short bursts through the day and night, in blocks of up to four hours.
When newborns are awake, they’re usually feeding. After feeding, your baby will probably want to go back to sleep. This means that ‘playtime’ at this age is very short.
Newborn sleep cycles
Every time newborns sleep, they go through a cycle of deep sleep and light sleep. A newborn sleep cycle takes about 40 minutes.
At the end of each cycle of deep and light sleep, newborns wake up for a little while. When your newborn baby wakes, he might grizzle, groan or cry. He might also fidget and squirm going from deep to light sleep, and back again. If your baby wakes at the end of a sleep cycle, you might need to help him settle for the next sleep cycle.
Premature babies have trouble getting into deep sleep, and sleep lightly for around 80% of their sleep time. Full-term newborns sleep deeply half the time.
Read our article on sleep
for more information on normal sleep patterns at every age. And our article on the patting settling technique
has ideas for helping your baby learn to settle.
At night: newborn sleep and waking
In the first few months, it’s common for newborns to wake 2-3 times a night for feeds.
If your baby is premature or low birth weight, your paediatrician or child and family health nurse might recommend that you let her sleep for only a certain amount of time at night before you wake her for a feed.
Between one and three months, your baby will probably start waking less often and have a longer period of sleep at night.
By the time your baby is around three months old, your baby might have started to settle into a sleep pattern of around 4-5 hours at night. But up until six months of age, many babies still need feeds at night and help to settle.