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Newborn Sleep: Expectations for the First Three Months

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Bringing a newborn home creates a steep learning curve for new parents. Understanding your baby’s sleep patterns is just one of the mysteries you’ll need to unravel. A newborn’s sleep cycle is very different from an adult’s or even the sleep pattern of a baby a few months older. Baby sleep stages change quickly. As soon as you think your little one has adjusted to a regular sleep pattern, it can seem to shift overnight. This article covers newborn sleep basics, including nighttime waking, biological sleep patterns and shifts, and what to expect in the first few months after bringing your baby home. 

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Want to know when it’s time for your baby’s next sleep? Track your baby’s sleep, uncover patterns and trends, and ensure your baby is getting the right amount of sleep with Baby Daybook.

What Are Sleep Cycles?

All humans experience regular sleep patterns that change based on age, life experiences, stress, diet, and other environmental and biological factors. Newborn sleep cycles are very different from older baby and child sleep cycles.

For adults, a normal sleep cycle follows four regular sleep patterns: light sleep stage 1, light sleep stage 2, non-REM deep sleep, and REM or vivid dream sleep. Light sleep is the longest stage cycle, and REM is the shortest — babies, however, alternate equally non-REM and REM sleep.

Newborn Sleep Cycles

During the first three months, your baby will sleep anywhere from 11 to 19 hours daily! Newborns have no sense of day or night like older kids and adults, and their biological sleep patterns aren’t attuned to only sleeping at night. Additionally, newborns shouldn’t go more than a few hours without eating. 

Baby sleep tracking with a Baby Daybook App, can help you identify your baby's natural sleep patterns.
Newborn sleep tracking

Your little one won’t follow a regular sleep pattern during the first two months. They will sleep and wake as needed and should feed on demand. During these early months, using an app like the Baby Daybook is helpful. The app syncs to your smartwatch, phone, or tablet so you can keep track of all your little ones’ naps and meals. 

Once your baby is three months old, they will begin developing a circadian rhythm that helps them establish day from night; although they still won’t be able to sleep the whole night through, they should be able to sleep for slightly longer stretches of four to five hours. 

Even once your baby begins experiencing the same sleep cycles as adults, they won’t spend the same amount of time in each stage as adults until about five years old. That’s why toddlers and younger children are often prone to night wakings and early rising. 

Creating a Sleep Schedule

Around two to three months, you can begin developing a sleep schedule for your little one. Their body and brain can adapt to a sleep schedule as they develop from the newborn sleep cycle into a more regular biological sleep pattern.

When creating a sleep schedule, incorporate it into an overall newborn routine that includes eating, sleeping, and wake windows. Your little one will still require a lot of sleep at two to three months old, but you can begin slightly nudging their big bedtime sleep towards a time that allows you to get a good chunk of sleep-eye, too!

Your baby’s sleep schedule will depend on their needs and will likely not be consistent. However, to help your little one get onto a schedule, follow their cues and look for signs of sleepiness. Use the Baby Daybook Sleep Tracker to look for sleep patterns and log their individual sleep cues. You want to put your baby to bed while they are drowsy, not already asleep.

The Baby Daybook App Timeline view displays baby sleep patterns as well as other baby activities recorded using the app.
Baby Sleep Patterns

Sleepiness Signs

  • Yawning
  • Rubbing their eyes
  • Falling asleep while nursing
  • Fussiness 

Additional Sleep Tips

If you’re struggling to get your baby to follow a regular sleep pattern and are experiencing multiple nighttime wakings, here are some sleep tips you can try!

  • Use a white noise machine or play gentle music.
  • Keep the room dimly lit.
  • Avoid talking to your baby when you enter their room at night for diaper changes and feedings.
  • Keep the lights low at nighttime; use a soft nightlight. 
  • Put your baby to bed drowsy but not asleep.
  • Give them a bath or a massage before bed.
  • Create a predictable bedtime routine.
  • Maintain a comfortable temperature in the room; 68-72 degrees Fahrenheit, or 20-22 degrees Celsius, is recommended.
  • Always follow safe sleep habits.

Newborn Sleep Basics

How much and when your baby sleeps will vary from day to day and from baby to baby. So don’t expect your newborn’s sleep pattern to resemble their older siblings or your best friend’s baby. However, even though individual needs vary, some general baby sleep pattern basics exist. 

  • Average total sleep per day: 14–17 hours but not less than 11 hours or more than 19 hours. 
  • Nighttime sleep 8–9 hours, waking up every 2-3 hours to eat.
  • Daily naps total 7–9 hours broken down into 3–5 naps.
AgeNumber of NapsNap DurationNighttime SleepNighttime sleep stretchesAverage Sleep Total
Birth – 1 month5-730 mins – 4 hours8-10 hours30 mins – 4hours14-17 hours
2 months3-530 mins – 3 hours8-9 hours30 mins to 5-6 hours 14-17 hours
3 months3-430 mins – 2 hours8-10 hoursUp to 6 hours14-16 hours

Takeaway

Understanding your baby’s sleep patterns in the first few months is challenging, especially since a newborn’s sleep schedule can change daily. Your baby’s sleep will be sporadic and on demand for the first two months. Around two to three months, you can attempt to implement a sleep schedule following their biological sleep patterns. Remember that night wakings are expected for the first four to five months. However, around two to three months, your baby should be able to sleep in longer stretches, helping you get some much-needed rest. Utilize the Baby Daybook App to track all your baby’s naps, meals, and bedtime sleep and to help create healthy sleep habits!

Download now!
Want to know when it’s time for your baby’s next sleep? Track your baby’s sleep, uncover patterns and trends, and ensure your baby is getting the right amount of sleep with Baby Daybook.

Sources

HealthyChildren.org (2013). Stages of Newborn Sleep. www.healthychildren.org [Accessed February 2024]

Sleep Foundation (2023). How Your Baby’s Sleep Cycle Differs From Your Own. www.sleepfoundation.org [Accessed February 2024]

Sleep Foundation (2023). Stages of Sleep: What Happens in a Sleep Cycle. www.sleepfoundation.org [Accessed February 2024]

Verywell Family (2023). What Is the Ideal Room & Home Temperature for a Newborn? www.verywellfamily.com [Accessed February 2024]

WhatToExpect.com (2022). Getting Baby on a Sleep Schedule. www.whattoexpect.com [Accessed February 2024]

Note: Our writers strive to maintain accuracy and quality in all content produced. However, it’s important to note that the information provided on our blog should not be considered professional medical advice, treatment, or diagnosis. It’s highly recommended to consult a qualified healthcare provider for any medical concerns or questions.

Article by
L. Elizabeth Forry
L. Elizabeth Forry is an Early Childhood Educator with fifteen years of classroom teaching experience. She holds a Master of Science in Early Childhood Education, a Bachelor of Arts in English and Theater, and a Bachelor of Arts in Music. She has taught children in Japan, Washington D.C., Chicago, and suburban Maryland. She is trained as a reading therapist, has a TEFL certification, and has done extensive work with children regarding mental health, social-emotional development, and gender development. She has written curricula for children and educators and has led training sessions for parents and educators on various topics on early childhood development. She is the mother of two boys and resides outside Annapolis, Maryland.
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