how much does a newborn sleep the first week?

The first week with a newborn baby is filled with wonder, joy, and, often, a lot of sleepless nights.

Knowing what to expect when it comes to a newborn’s sleep patterns can help parents be prepared during this unique but challenging time.

This article provides an overview of newborn sleep in the earliest days of life.

What Are Newborn Sleep Patterns Like?

In the first week of life outside the womb, a newborn’s sleep is quite different from an older baby or adult. Here’s what you can expect:

Frequent Daytime Sleeping

It’s entirely normal for a newborn to sleep 16 to 20 hours per day in total, with sleep periods lasting between 30 minutes and 4 hours at a time.

They fall asleep quickly and can conk out almost anywhere. Don’t be surprised if your little one nods off while feeding or being held. Frequent napping is vital during this critical developmental window.

Sleeps in Stretches, Both Day and Night

Newborns have very tiny tummies, so they need to eat frequently. This results in sleep periods between feedings happening in stretches rather than long, uninterrupted periods overnight.

Don’t fret if your baby isn’t sleeping for more than 4 hours straight—their little bodies are rigid at work!

Difficulty Settling In and Falling Asleep

Brand new to the outside world, some babies have trouble soothing themselves to sleep without being rocked, comforted, swaddled, or fed.

You may have to employ different calming techniques to help lull your little one into dreamland during those early days. Have patience; the learning curve is steep!

No Concept of Day vs. Night

Melatonin production in newborns takes up to 3 months to fully develop. This means they have no circadian rhythm guiding sleep patterns yet.

Without understanding light and dark, your newborn may stay awake more at night at first. This, too, shall pass!

How Much Should a Newborn Sleep? Expected Totals

While every baby is different, there are general sleep guidelines that can help you determine if your child is getting adequate shut-eye:

Age RangeTotal Hours of Sleep Per 24 Hours
Birth to 6 weeks14 to 17 hours
6 weeks to 4 months12 to 16 hours
4 months to 9 months11 to 14 hours

As shown, in the earliest newborn period of the first 6 weeks, aim for your little bundle of joy to sleep an average of 14 to 17 hours per day. This includes both nighttime sleep and daytime napping.

If your baby is consistently sleeping less than 12 hours in 24 hours by week one, chat with your pediatrician to rule out any feeding or medical issues.

How Long Do Newborns Sleep at Night?

Don’t expect your tiny one to sleep “through the night” (defined as an uninterrupted 6 to 8-hour stretch) during the first couple of months.

Here’s a look at the average nighttime sleep totals according to age:

Age RangeNighttime Sleep Stretch
Newborn to 3 months2 to 4 hours
3 to 6 months3 to 6 hours
9 to 12 months6 to 8 hours

As you can see, it takes time for a baby to build up to longer nightly sleep stretches. Have patience during those frequent night wakings early on. Stay hopeful that more extended rest is around the corner.

What Affects Newborn Sleep?

There are many factors during week one that can impact the quantity and quality of your newborn’s sleep. Being aware of these common influences is helpful for both night and day:


With tiny tummies, newborns need to be fed as often as every 1-3 hours. Frequent hunger is guaranteed to result in frequent wakings overnight! Be prepared with a game plan for night feeds.

Discomfort or Pain

Anything physically distressing can interrupt your baby’s sleep, from soiled diapers to stomach problems. If the baby seems uncomfortable, address possible sources of pain promptly.

Difficulty Self-Soothing

Brand new to the outside world, your little one has likely not yet mastered self-soothing techniques to drift back to sleep alone.

You may have to employ swaddling, pacifiers, white noise, or comfort feeding to help them get back to dreamland.

Excess Stimulation

When overstimulated, some babies have trouble winding down. Avoid loud noises, excessive handling, overheating, and other stimulating forces before nap time. A calm environment is critical for quality sleep.

Day/Night Confusion

As previously mentioned, newborns don’t know light from dark. Make efforts to differentiate night from day in terms of activity levels, lighting, and feedings to help influence their 24-hour clock.

Be attuned to what factors seem to impact your baby’s sleep in the earliest weeks. Once patterns emerge, you can employ better sleep tactics.

Tips for Helping a Newborn Sleep More Soundly

While much is out of your control when it comes to newborn sleep, there are some things parents can try to help encourage longer, better-quality sleep during the first week:

Swaddle Snugly

Swaddling provides comforting confinement that reminds the baby of the tight quarters inside the womb. Make sure to stop swaddling as soon as signs of attempting to roll over appear.

Shush, Side, or Swing

The 5 S’s of sleep place emphasis on shushing, side-lying position, swinging motions, sucking, and swaddling to activate the calming reflex. Employ these when trying to soothe the baby to sleep.

Maintain the Peace

Shield newborns from bright lights, loud noises, excessive stimulation, and unnecessary handling in the evenings to allow sleep to come more quickly. Keep the environment dull, quiet, and dark for quality zzz’s.

Pay Attention to Wake Windows

When newborns are awake, refrain from trying to rush them back to sleep. But also avoid keeping them up for too long. After 45 minutes to 1.5 hours awake, start sleep initiation cues.

Give Paced Night Feeds

To help establish the difference between night and day, keep night feeds quiet, dark, and efficient. Avoid stimulation and play. Change diapers after, not before, for less disruption.

Changes to Expect with Newborn Sleep Patterns

The quality and duration of newborn sleep continue to change as babies develop. Here’s a quick overview of coming milestones:

AgeSleep Pattern Changes
6-8 weeksSleep cycles become more identifiable with more extended periods of REM sleep
3-4 monthsCircadian rhythms start developing, with more alertness during daytime
4-6 monthsMelatonin production allows longer sleep stretches at night
9 monthsSeparation anxiety can disrupt sleep

As you pass the one-week mark, the baby’s sleep will gradually become more consistent and consolidated based on these developmental changes. Hang in there during the rollercoaster first week!

When to Call the Doctor About Newborn Sleep Issues

While the first week of a newborn’s sleep is often erratic, reach out for medical advice if you observe any of the following:

  • Your baby sleeps for shorter stretches with each passing night
  • Little to no sleep for 24 hours
  • Inconsolable crying for over 3 hours per day, 3 days a week
  • Difficulty rousing baby from sleep

Bring any worrisome sleep issues promptly to your pediatrician’s attention for tips and reassurance. Don’t hesitate to use their after-hours nurse line, either.

Conclusion: Understanding Newborn Sleep Patterns in Week One

Preparing mentally for the realities of newborn sleep during the first pivotal week home together makes this transition a little easier on parents.

Remember, frequent wakings for food and comfort are developmentally normal. Employ relaxing techniques to ease your baby back to sleep during night wakings. Pay attention to any factors influencing quality daytime naps, too.

While exhaustion can understandably set in, remind yourself this season is fleeting. Trust that longer sleep stretches are around the corner as your baby’s needs change.

For now, cherish the snuggles, stay patient, and get rest whenever possible—this too shall pass! You’ve got this, parents.

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