Bringing Up Baby

Newborns and their Sleep

October 12, 2021 Ashley Season 2 Episode 4
Bringing Up Baby
Newborns and their Sleep
Show Notes

When babies are first born, they need time to adjust.

While your baby was in the womb, you were feeding them constantly, they were sleeping when they needed/wanted to, and they were physically attached to you. 

So, think of this time right after they’re born and for the next few months as them getting used to not needing you every single second of the every day… but as someone helping to keep them fed and rested, you’ll have to see yourself as having to almost constantly continue to meet your baby’s needs in the beginning. 

For today’s episode, we’re going to dissect some of my best tips to help you through the newborn phase, especially when it comes to helping your little one get their best sleep!

The National Sleep Foundation states that on average, newborns need about 14-17hrs of sleep in a 24hr period but by no means is this sleep organized in any sort of way.  What is driving their sleep-wake cycles isn’t their circadian rhythm, but rather their growth/hunger/feeding needs are in the driver’s seat at this point in time. 

When talking about your average, “healthy” newborn, they’ll often go home from the hospital slightly under their birth weight and this is completely normal.. But they are expected to get back up to their birth weight by 2-weeks of age, then they need to double it by 4-6 months and triple it by a year! This is the fastest growing time in their extra-uterine lives - even faster then when they’ll go through puberty! 

So, babies need to be fed frequently to meet their growth demands and this undoubtedly impact YOUR sleep needs, which can be really tough. When you’re only getting a couple of 1-2 or maybe a 3hr stretch of sleep all night long, it can make those days feel a lot longer and tougher than we’d all like them to be.

Your newborn’s sleep may seem a bit erratic and often unpredictable, but this is normal in those first few months as they adjust and work on gaining that weight they need. 

Luckily, there are still some things you can do to help your newborn get their best sleep possible and even help them to regulate it a bit more efficiently… so, let’s get into those, shall we?! 

  1. Help them fall asleep. Because baby sleep is relatively disorganized, you have to help them work it out! Feeding, holding, bouncing, swaying, rocking or walking with them are all common, proven, and natural ways to help babies fall asleep.
  2. Encourage regular napping.  Newborns under about 6 weeks of age usually need to sleep every 45 minutes to an hour. For babies over 6 weeks of age you might aim for closer to 1-1.5hrs of awake time between naps during the day. If you find this to be a struggle, listen this next tip:
  3. Wear your baby. Use a carrier, wrap or sling to wear your baby if you can
  4. Sleep on-demand. Let them sleep when they want, however long they want
  5. Sleep when they sleep (at least once a day)

Even if you’re already thinking you might like your little one to be more of an independent sleeper later on when they’re capable of learning that skill, wearing/holding them and helping them sleep now WILL NOT ruin this dream of yours. You all just need some sleep right now, there’s a time and a place for practicing and working on those skills later on if need be. Dr.

- Harvey Karp is a pediatrician and writer of The Happiest Baby on the Block
- Follow Ashley on Instagram and Facebook @birth_baby_sleep
- Birth Baby Sleep Education and Support Services: