Everyone needs sleep but some need it more than others. At the top of the sleep‐need list are newborns who generally spend more time asleep than awake. It’s a pity that this can’t be said about their sleep‐deprived parents. Getting enough sleep is important for newborn babies as it supports their healthy growth and development, and allows them a break from all the new sounds and experiences.

How much sleep does my newborn need?

Newborn babies will generally sleep between 10.5‐18 hours a day, but as all new parents will discover, it will be sporadic. Our circadian rhythm or "sleep‐wake cycle" takes time to develop, which is why newborns have such irregular sleep schedules. Sleep in newborns will occur around the clock for several hours at a time and will interact with their need to be
fed, changed or comforted. While all this unpredictability can be tiring, it’s a necessary phase for development and won’t last long. By around three to six months of age many infants will have a settled into a regular sleep‐wake pattern, but may still need care and attention through the night.

What are some sleep tips for my newborn?

  • Learn their sleep signs – Newborns express their need for sleep in different ways. They may fuss, cry, rub their eyes, clench their fists or pull on their ears. If you spot these or other signs of sleepiness try putting them down to sleep to stop them from becoming overtired.
  • Encourage night time sleep – While a newborn doesn’t distinguish between day and night you can start teaching them the difference. Newborn babies can be encouraged to sleep less during the day by exposing them to light and noise and interacting with them as much as you can. As night time approaches, keep their environment quieter and dimmer and with less activity. It might also be helpful to start a night time routine with a bath, massage and/or soft music.
  • Practise sleep safety – It’s recommended to put your baby to sleep on their back, make sure their face isn’t covered and their cot is free of toys and other items.
  • Let go of any expectations – Your baby will have their own pattern of sleeping and waking and it’s unlikely to be like any other baby you know.
  • Be prepared at night time – Set out clean nappies and wipes before you go to bed so you’re not searching for them in the middle of the night.
  • Try to sleep when your baby sleeps – As it’s important to look after yourself as well and sleep when you can.

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