Breastfeeding A to Z

Sleeping

Often the lack of consecutive hours of sleep is the hardest thing to adjust to in parenting.  This lack of consistent sleep is especially difficult in the early weeks.  Your baby on the other hand, gets as much sleep as they need.  They just don’t sleep for long periods of time.  Anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours at a time is all they do.

Newborns average about 16 hours of sleep per day; however, just like anything else babies do developmentally, it comes in ranges, so your baby may sleep less/more than that. (1)  The expression “sleeping like a baby” has nothing to do with how long they sleep in the first few months of their life.  Sleeping 4-5 hours in a row is “sleeping through the night” at around three weeks of age.  Only trouble is–it may not be at night!

Often at five-six weeks of age, your baby will start to have periods in the evening that they seem more irritable or fussy and want their feedings closer together.  What often happens after several hours of increased eating and fussy behavior, is a longer period of sleep.  Most people are willing to endure the fussy period of increased eating, if a longer period of sleep follows.  Initially, the longer stretch of sleep for your baby may not be when you would be sleeping, but often they work in that direction.

If this becomes a pattern for your baby, look for ways that you can be ready to deal with the increased neediness of your baby.  Take a nap earlier in the day, have someone else do dinner, have someone else around to help at non-feeding times or with other children.  Realize this too shall pass.  I just always wondered why it came at the end of the day when your ability to cope was much lower on the scale!  Whatever the reason–it just seems to work that way.

Sleeping through the night, at this point in baby’s development, is still only about 4-5 hours in a row.  Your baby still needs to eat frequently in order to gain weight.

  1. Wilson, WH, Lowdermilk, P, Maternal Child Nursing Care, 3rd edition, St. Louis, MO, Mosby, 2006, p 94.