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How Long Do Newborns Sleep?

How Long Do Newborns Sleep?

When a baby takes an unusually long nap or a block of night time sleep, every new parent rejoices (more rest for you!) However, the extra snooze time might make you wonder or even be concerned - can a baby sleep too much?

Babies, especially newborns, need a lot of rest. However, newborn sleep cycles are irregular and brief, and they rarely sleep for more than a few hours at a time. You probably know how many hours of daytime and nighttime sleep your baby gets as she gets older and her sleep habits become more normal.

Here's a short rundown on how much sleep your baby , whether newborn or older, should get:

  • Newborns 0 to 3 months: Preemies can get 14 to 17 hours of sleep in a 24-hour span, but up to 22 hours is considered common. Sleep occurs in bursts during the day and night, often for just an hour or two at a time. 
  • Older babies 4 to 12 months: Sleeping for 12 to 16 hours in a 24-hour cycle is common. Daytime naps can account for at least two to three hours of this time. Babies eventually begin to sleep for longer periods of time at night. A four-month-old may sleep for six or eight hours at night, while a six-month-old may sleep for ten or eleven hours. Your baby will sleep between 10 and 12 hours at night as they approach their first birthday.

A sleep stretch that is slightly longer than your baby's average is not uncommon for both age groups and deciding what to do about this may be difficult: should you wake your baby and risk them being irritable? Or should you let your little one sleep and risk missing a meal or not being exhausted at bedtime? Here's what you should be aware of…

Can a baby sleep too much?

Yes, a baby will sleep too long - whether it's a newborn or an older child. However, an infant who sleeps all day is more likely to be a concern than an older baby who sleeps excessively, which normally occurs only when she is sick or has had an especially busy day.

Because newborns have small stomachs, they need to eat regularly in order to get the nutrients they need. Even though it's tempting to leave a sleeping baby alone, if your little one isn't waking up on their own to eat often enough, you might sometimes need to wake them.

For the first two or three weeks, keep a close eye on the clock and wake your baby when it's time to feed. Breastfed babies should eat every two to four hours, while formula-fed babies should eat every three to four hours. Allowing your baby to sleep for more than two to four hours at a time when breastfeeding puts them at risk of not having enough food. It can also trigger a decrease in your supply.

However, you won't have to worry about waking your baby to feed him or her for long. If a newborn’s weight gain pattern is developing well, your pediatrician can send you the green light to wait for overnight feedings until your baby wakes up (which hopefully will mean a little more sleep for you at night!).

Should I wake my baby during the day?

You won't have to worry about waking up your older child to eat. However, you may need to limit their daytime sleep to no more than four hours. More naps can make it difficult for your little one to fall asleep at night or cause your baby to wake up through the night or very early in the morning.

There is an exception to the rule when your child is sick. It's normal for your child's body to need more rest when they are fighting an infection, so don't put too much pressure on your baby to keep to their regular schedule. If your sick baby has to sleep earlier or for longer than normal, this is perfectly normal and is essential for their recovery.

If your sick baby has been sleeping for more than three or four hours, you might need to wake them up, check their temperature and offer them fluids or food to avoid dehydration - if your baby has a fever, is vomiting or has diarrhoea. 

Older babies will eventually benefit from no daytime nap and to reach this milestone they’ll probably need just a brief 10 minute nap every day for a couple of weeks to see them through until bedtime. Without a power nap you might find they’ll just not be able to last until their usual bedtime. I used to give our two an early bath to distract them from their tiredness and draw it out for as long as possible!

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