How Many Hours A Day Do Newborns Sleep?

Understanding Newborn Sleep Patterns

Newborns generally sleep for about 14 to 17 hours a day. This sleep is divided into multiple short stretches, commonly ranging from 2 to 4 hours each. These frequent sleep periods are a normal part of newborn development and necessary for their growth and health.

Why Do Newborns Sleep So Much?

Newborns need a lot of sleep because their bodies and brains are growing and developing at an incredibly rapid pace. Sleep is essential for their physical growth, as well as for brain development and cognitive function. During sleep, newborns’ bodies release growth hormones, which are crucial for muscle and tissue development. Additionally, sleep aids in brain maturation, supporting the formation of neural pathways that will later be crucial for learning and memory.

The Role of Circadian Rhythms

Newborns do not have established circadian rhythms, which are the natural, internal processes that guide the sleep-wake cycle. These rhythms are influenced by external cues like light and darkness. Because newborns are not yet tuned to these cues, they do not follow the typical day-night schedule that older children and adults do. Instead, their sleep-wake cycles are driven by their need for food and comfort, leading to multiple naps throughout both day and night.

Breastfeeding and Sleep

Frequent feeding, particularly breastfeeding, also contributes to the segmented sleep patterns in newborns. Breast milk is digested more quickly than formula, which means that breastfed newborns often wake more frequently to eat. These frequent feedings provide essential nutrients that support growth and development but also disrupt longer sleep stretches.

Developmental Milestones and Sleep

As newborns grow, their sleep patterns begin to shift. Around three months of age, many infants start to show signs of developing a more regular sleep schedule, with longer stretches of sleep at night. This gradual regulation is often associated with the development of circadian rhythms and an increased ability to self-soothe.

Common Sleep Challenges

Newborns might face several sleep challenges, including:

– **Night wakings**: Most newborns wake frequently during the night, which can be challenging for parents. These wakings are typically due to hunger, discomfort, or the need for a diaper change.
– **Day-night confusion**: Some newborns have their days and nights mixed up, sleeping more during the day and being more awake at night.
– **Short sleep cycles**: It’s normal for newborns to have shorter sleep cycles, waking up every few hours.

These challenges usually improve as the baby grows and can be managed with a consistent sleep routine and environment.

Creating a Sleep-Conducive Environment

A peaceful and nurturing sleep environment can significantly aid in establishing better sleep patterns for a newborn. Here are some key considerations:

Room Conditions

Keep the room dim and quiet. Soft, low lighting and minimal noise help in preparing the infant for sleep and can encourage longer sleep stretches. Also, try to maintain a moderate room temperature, neither too hot nor too cold, as this can affect comfort and, consequently, sleep quality.


Swaddling can help newborns feel secure and may prolong sleep by preventing the startle reflex from waking them. Ensure that the swaddle is snug but not too tight to allow for hip movement, and always place the baby on their back to sleep.

White Noise

Using a white noise machine or a fan on low can create a consistent background sound that helps mask household noises and can be soothing for a newborn. This steady sound mimics the constant noise they experienced in the womb, providing a comforting auditory backdrop.

The Importance of Safe Sleep Practices

Ensuring safe sleep is paramount. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) provides several guidelines to reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and other sleep-related hazards:

Back to Sleep

Always place your baby on their back to sleep, during every sleep period—naps and nighttime alike. This position significantly reduces the risk of SIDS.

Firm Sleep Surface

Use a firm sleep surface, like a mattress in a safety-approved crib, covered with a fitted sheet. Avoid soft bedding, including blankets, pillows, and stuffed animals, which can pose suffocation risks.

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Room Sharing

The AAP recommends room sharing without bed-sharing. Having the baby sleep in the same room as the parents for at least the first six months can decrease the risk of SIDS by as much as 50%. However, babies should have their own sleep space, such as a crib or bassinet.


Offering a pacifier during naps and bedtime can also reduce the risk of SIDS. If you’re breastfeeding, it’s recommended to wait until breastfeeding is established before introducing a pacifier, which is usually around three to four weeks.

Smoke-Free Environment

Keeping the baby’s sleep environment free of smoke is crucial, as exposure to smoke is a significant risk factor for SIDS.

Feeding and Sleep

Feeding schedules are closely linked to sleep patterns in newborns. Whether breastfeeding, formula-feeding, or a combination of the two, the nutritional needs of newborns directly influence how often they wake up and sleep.


Breastfed babies typically feed every 2 to 3 hours. This frequency helps establish milk supply and provides the necessary nutrients for rapid growth. However, it also means more frequent night wakings, especially in the early weeks.

Formula Feeding

Formula-fed babies may go slightly longer between feedings, roughly every 3 to 4 hours. This is because formula is digested more slowly than breast milk. As a result, formula-fed babies may start to sleep for longer stretches a bit earlier than their breastfed counterparts.

Growth Spurts

During growth spurts, newborns may cluster feed, meaning they feed more frequently than usual. These spurts typically occur around 2 weeks, 6 weeks, 3 months, and 6 months of age. While this can temporarily disrupt sleep patterns, it’s a normal part of development and helps ensure the baby is getting enough calories for growth.

The Role of Soothing Techniques

Soothing techniques can help newborns settle and transition to sleep more smoothly. Here are some effective methods:

Rhythmic Movement

Newborns find rhythmic movements, like gentle rocking or swaying, to be calming. This mimics the motion they experienced in the womb. Rocking chairs, baby swings, or simply swaying while holding the baby can serve this purpose.

Skin-to-Skin Contact

Holding your newborn close, with their bare skin against yours, is comforting. Skin-to-skin contact can stabilize the baby’s heart rate, breathing, and temperature, all of which contribute to a sense of security and can facilitate sleep.


Feeding can also serve as a soothing activity. Many newborns fall asleep while nursing or after a bottle. While it’s good to sometimes put the baby to bed while drowsy but still awake, feeding to sleep is natural and common at this stage.


As mentioned earlier, pacifiers not only reduce the risk of SIDS but also provide comfort and help some babies settle more easily.

Monitoring Sleep Patterns

Paying attention to your newborn’s sleep patterns can help you understand their individual needs and make necessary adjustments to their routines.

Sleep Diary

Keeping a sleep diary can be helpful. Track when and how long your baby sleeps, feeds, and is awake. Over time, patterns will emerge, making it easier to anticipate and plan for future sleep periods.

Observing Sleep Cues

Newborns often give cues when they are tired, such as yawning, rubbing their eyes, or fussiness. By recognizing these signs, you can preemptively begin the soothing process, which can make it easier for the baby to fall and stay asleep.

Adjusting Routines

If you notice that certain activities or environments make it harder for your baby to settle down or stay asleep, consider making adjustments. For example, if a bath seems to overstimulate rather than relax your baby, try scheduling it earlier in the day instead of right before bedtime.

Parental Self-Care

Caring for a newborn’s sleep needs can be exhausting for parents. Here are some strategies to manage your own sleep and well-being:

Sleep When the Baby Sleeps

While it’s often repeated advice, sleeping when the baby sleeps can make a substantial difference. Even short naps during the day can help mitigate the effects of fragmented nights.

Sharing Responsibilities

If possible, share nighttime responsibilities with a partner or another caregiver. Taking turns to feed, change, and soothe the baby at night can prevent extreme sleep deprivation for any one person.

Accepting Help

Don’t hesitate to accept help from friends and family. Even if it’s just an hour for someone else to rock the baby so you can nap, it can be tremendously rejuvenating.

Finishing Thoughts

Understanding how many hours a day a newborn sleeps and the


  • Aiden Lawrence

    I'm Aiden Lawrence, a certified Sleep Science Coach and senior editor of GoodSleepHub, proud parent of two amazing kids, and a pet lover with a cat and a dog. Join me as we explore the world of sweet dreams and comfy pillows. Let's make bedtime the highlight of your day!

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