Authored By: Dr. Venkata Sriram Gutta

Consultant Pediatrician & Neonatologist


Newborn Sleep 

Sleep patterns in newborn babies is different from that of children in that they usually sleep for most of the time in a day. Often this will be hard for the new parents to know what normal sleep pattern of their newborn baby is and how long a baby will sleep.

How are sleep patterns in newborn?

Newborn baby sleep for most of the time in a 24hour period and wakes up in between for feeding every few hours. There will not be any fixed schedule for the newborn sleep and their day and nights are little confusing.

Most of the newborn babies sleep for about 16 to 18hours duration in a 24hour period. They sleep mostly in the day time and will be awake during night time. This could be probably due to sleep pattern during the stay in their mother’s womb. They usually start to learn the day and night rhythm by about 6 to 8weeks of age.

But the sleep patterns can vary and some babies may not sleep during night time through their initial few months. Newborn baby will wake up for feeds atleast once in every 2 to 3 hours. Parents need to closely watch for the changes that happen in the sleep patterns of the newborn as their sleep duration will gradually decrease and awake period increases through their first year of life.

How can we identify the sleep readiness of the newborn baby?

The following signs can help you to know the readiness for sleep.

  • Fussiness
  • Excessive Yawning
  • Not interested in the surroundings
  • Redness of the eyes

What are the different alert phases in a newborn?

Newborns also differ in their alertness as well.

Quiet & alert phase: Phase where the baby is awake, not crying, calm and interested in the surrounding.

Active & alert phase: Phase where the baby is active and attentive to sounds.

Crying phase: This follows active and alert phase. Baby can be easily over stimulated, and cries out loudly. Baby can be held and swaddled to calm down.

How can you help the baby to fall asleep?

When the newborn baby shows signs of sleep readiness, they can be held in your arms, make the environment comfortable, calm and quiet. Swaddling also help them to feel safe and help in falling asleep. 

What sleep positions are best for a baby?

Putting the baby on his or her back is safest. Prone position (placing baby on tummy) and side sleeping positions has an increased risk of sudden infant death (SIDS) as per research.

What are the things to keep in mind while making a newborn sleep?

As per American Academy of Paediatrics (AAP) recommendations on infant bedding:

  • Baby should be placed on his or her back on a firm surface
  • Avoid pillows, soft toys, comforters in the baby’s bed
  • Tuck a thin blanket only upto baby’s chest
  • Baby’s face should remain uncovered.

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