The term newborn usually refers to a baby’s age from birth to about 2 months of age. During this time, your newborn needs 16 to 20 hours of sleep over a 24 hour period. She’s really only awake 4 to 8 hours total in a 24 hour period. This means she is usually awake in 45 minute to 1 hour increments during the day before she’s back to sleep again.
During the first week of life your baby’s stomach can hold about 1 oz of milk at a feeding. By the 5th week, their stomach capacity has grown to hold 4 oz of food. Knowing this makes it easy to understand that your baby’s sleep will be interrupted frequently with the need to feed that first month of life.
During the day, your newborn’s naps will vary immensely from child to child. Some babies may only be taking 40-minute naps while others may nap 2-3 hours at a time. You may wonder if you should wake your baby for napping “too” much. It’s very rare at this stage for your baby to be able to nap too much.
The opposite is true, the more well-rested your baby is, the easier it is to get her to fall asleep and then stay asleep. Your breastfeeding newborn is getting her melatonin from your milk, which is why it’s difficult for her to confuse night and day. If your baby is up for hours at night, it’s because something is bothering her. This could either be hunger, gas or being too tired.
Waking Up Baby
My general guideline is that I only wake a baby during the day if it’s been more than 3 hours since her last feed. I want her to receive regular feeds during the day to help set her up for some longer stretches of night time sleep.
From birth to about 4 weeks your newborn really does “sleep like a baby.” She’ll wake up, take 30-40 minutes to eat, and then fall right back asleep. Sometime around 4 weeks of age this starts to change and she’s able to stay awake a little longer between daytime nap periods.
During the day, try to get her back asleep between 45 minutes and 1 hour of waking either for the day or from her last nap. Catching her “sleep window” will make it easier to get her to fall asleep and stay asleep. Being overtired, staying awake too long between naps, can cause babies to be more fussy. Being overtired can sometimes mimic colic. It’s much easier to prevent the fussies with timing, than trying to calm a fussy baby down. Prevention with timing is the key to easier put downs!
About the Author: Dr. Sarah Mitchell
A chiropractor by training, Dr. Sarah Mitchell found her true passion when her own son just would not sleep. Now she empowers tired parents to teach their little ones to sleep as a sleep consultant at Helping Babies Sleep. She offers DIY online classes, virtual consultations and home visits for expecting parents and children up to 3.5 years of age.
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