When Do Newborns Start Sleeping More?

As new parents can attest, the sleep patterns of newborns are anything but predictable. However, most newborns start to develop a more regular sleep routine and begin sleeping for longer stretches when they reach around 3 to 4 months of age. At this point, many babies start to sleep for “longer” periods at night, which might mean stretches of 4-6 hours. It’s important to keep in mind that “sleeping through the night,” at this early stage, doesn’t mean eight hours of uninterrupted sleep like an adult would expect.

Understanding Newborn Sleep Patterns

First Weeks After Birth

During the first weeks of a newborn’s life, sleep is distributed evenly between day and night. Newborns typically sleep about 14-17 hours over a 24-hour period in stretches of 2-3 hours at a time. This erratic sleep schedule is because their internal clocks, or circadian rhythms, aren’t fully developed. Additionally, newborns have small stomachs and need to wake up frequently to eat, whether they are breastfed or formula-fed.

Development of Circadian Rhythms

As the weeks go by, babies start to develop their circadian rhythms. Exposure to natural light during the day and the dark at night helps to regulate these patterns and encourage longer sleep periods during the night. It’s also a phase when babies start giving their parents slightly longer breaks, as some might begin to “cluster feed” in the evenings and potentially “tank up” before a longer first stretch of night sleep.

Factors That Affect Newborn Sleep

Individual Differences

Each baby is unique, and there is a wide range of what is considered ‘normal.’ Some newborns may begin to have longer sleep periods at a younger age, while others might take a bit longer to adjust. Genetic factors, the infant’s temperament, and the environment can all play a part in how quickly a newborn will start sleeping more.

Feeding and Sleep

The type of feeding also has implications for sleep duration. Breastfed babies might wake more frequently than formula-fed babies because breastmilk is digested more rapidly than formula, necessitating more frequent feedings. However, both breastfed and formula-fed infants are capable of sleeping for prolonged stretches as they grow and their stomach capacity increases.

Health and Development

Babies who are born prematurely or have certain medical conditions may have different sleep patterns compared to full-term healthy infants. Their development, including that of sleep patterns, may take a little longer to resemble those of full-term babies.

How Parents Can Encourage Better Sleep

Establishing a Routine

Consistency is critical when it comes to infant sleep. Establishing a calming bedtime routine can signal to your baby that it’s time to wind down. This routine might include a warm bath, soft music, or a gentle massage. Consistent bedtime and wake-up times are also helpful, even though your baby may not adhere to the schedule right away.

Creating a Sleep-Conducive Environment

The sleep environment is vital for promoting longer sleep periods. A quiet, dark room with a comfortable temperature can make a significant difference. Some parents find that using white noise machines helps to soothe babies and drown out household or street noise.

Understanding Sleep Cues

Babies give certain signals when they’re tired, such as rubbing their eyes, yawning, or becoming fussy. Learning to recognize and respond to these sleep cues promptly can help in getting your baby to sleep before they become overtired, which can make it harder for them to fall asleep and stay asleep.

Sleep Training

While it’s generally advised to wait until after the 4- to 6-month range before starting formal sleep training techniques, some elements of sleep training can be gently introduced early on. This might involve putting your baby down drowsy but awake to encourage self-settling skills, a key component of sleeping for longer periods. However, every family is unique, and it’s important to consider what works best for your household and parenting style.

When to Seek Help

While a lot of patience and time is required before babies start having more substantial sleep periods, there are occasions when seeking help is appropriate. If your baby frequently seems tired during the day, has difficulty breathing while sleeping, or is unusually fussy, it may be wise to consult a pediatrician to discuss these concerns. They can offer guidance and rule out any underlying health issues that might disrupt sleep.

Finishing Thoughts

The journey to a full night’s sleep for newborns and their parents is often filled with trials and requires considerable patience. Understanding the natural development of sleep patterns and taking proactive steps to encourage good sleep habits can make this process smoother. It’s beneficial to remember that while the path to restful nights may be nonlinear and challenging, with time, most babies (and consequently, their sleep-deprived caregivers) will find a rhythm that permits longer stretches of sleep. Keep in mind that every baby is different, and there is no one-size-fits-all answer to sleep concerns. Good bonding with your child, paying attention to their needs, and maintaining a supportive, healthy environment will contribute greatly to establishing sleep patterns that work for your family.

Author

  • 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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