Contributing Expert: Irene Freeman, MD
This post is part of our newborn health and wellness series. For more information from our pediatric experts, visit our Newborn Resources page.
Parents of newborns have a lot of questions when it comes to newborn sleep. Lurie Children's pediatricians answer some of the most common ones they often hear from new parents.
Newborns usually sleep 16 to 17 hours a day. By the time they are four months old, they usually sleep 12 to 16 hours. However, there is a wide variation from baby to baby.
Ultimately, you can’t force a baby to sleep, so think instead about encouraging longer stretches of being asleep, rather than total sleep. A three-hour stretch of sleeping for a two-week-old baby is a great accomplishment!
As long as a baby is growing normally and is developing normally, there's no such thing as too much sleep.
Try to observe what schedule naturally develops and reinforce the parts that work for the whole family. For example, if going to bed at 9 p.m. works and your baby sleeps great, then keep that sacred and set that as bedtime. This delivers subtle messages to your baby about what is normal.
There are various methods for getting your newborn on a schedule. Before the age of about two weeks, it’s challenging. But after that, you can start to shape days and nights a bit.
A popular schedule is eat/play/sleep. First, you feed your baby. Then you engage with them via tummy time, playing and cooing, or reading. And then you put them down for a nap. This repeats throughout the day. Eat/play/sleep is merely one method; you’ll find the rhythm that works for your family.
An overly warm room may be a risk factor for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Avoid turning the temperature to warmer than what is generally comfortable for an adult.
Dress your baby for sleep one layer more than how you dress for sleep. For example, a onesie and a sleeper. In the summer, you might dress them in a thinner sleeper; in the winter, you might use one made from thicker fabric. But avoid overdressing, and never use blankets in the crib.
You should put your baby down to sleep on their back, for both naps and nighttime sleep. They should be on a firm sleep surface, such as a crib mattress that’s been safety-approved. The mattress should have a tight fitted sheet. Don’t put any pillows, blankets or stuffed animals in the crib, and don't use bumpers around the crib.
Though it feels natural and varies by culture, it’s not recommended that babies share a bed with parents. Adult mattresses are generally too soft, and there are blankets and pillows around. There is also the danger of the baby’s airways becoming blocked if a parent rolls too close to them.
Also, you shouldn’t smoke in a house with a newborn, and don’t allow anyone else to smoke around your newborn.
A newborn’s main achievement is developing sleep associations and learning to sleep without being held. How you get there depends on your family’s routines and even the amount of space you have in your home. There are pros and cons either way.
For example, if you use a bassinet for the first months of life, your baby will get comfortable there. They will eventually have to make a new adjustment to the crib, so that could be more difficult.
On the other hand, if your newborn is sharing a room with a sibling, putting them in a crib in that room may not work for your family. And your bedroom may not be large enough for a crib. A bassinet may be the best solution.
Whatever works for you and your baby — and is safe — is ultimately the best motto!
Newborns can make a lot of noise. They are not the best roommates! They have small nostrils, which makes their breathing noisy. They often snore and make little grunts. Some parents will say it sounds like their baby is making pig noises. As long as your baby is sleeping through their own noises, none of it is usually cause for concern.
Brand new babies don’t tend to move much when they sleep. They also don’t have full control of their limbs. As they get a bit older, they start to be able to move more. By four months old, many babies will be able to roll over. By six months, they can usually roll both ways (over and back again).
In addition to expert specialty care, Lurie Children’s offers several primary care locations around the Chicago area for your child's healthcare needs — from infancy through childhood and adolescence. Learn more about our primary care services.