You’re having a baby. Congratulations. Get ready for some sleepless nights. We’ve all heard that one before, right? From the time you find out that you are pregnant until the time you send your son or daughter off to college and beyond, life becomes a series of challenges centered on your child. There are, of course, immediate changes and challenges that you can expect right from the time you bring your swaddled little bundle of joy home from the hospital. Of these, perhaps the most difficult thing about having a baby, especially for first time parents, is the loss of sleep that occurs as a result of a newborn’s sleep schedule.
Newborn infants sleep. A lot. Most newborn babies sleep anywhere between fourteen and eighteen hours each day, with the average newborn sleeping about sixteen hours per day. However, because babies tend to sleep for shorter periods than adults do, it might not seem like your baby is sleeping that much.
Most newborns will sleep from two to four hours at a time. Bottle fed babies will tend to sleep a bit longer than breast fed babies. The reason for this is simple. Baby formula takes longer for babies to digest than breast milk. The main reason babies wake up is because they are hungry. Typically, newborns will need to eat every two to four hours. Of course, there are other reasons newborns wake up, such as needing a diaper change, being too hot or cold, or simply being ready to be awake, but the first thing to take care of, in most cases, is feeding baby when she wakes up.
Expect the two to four hour sleep schedule for the first three months or so, with sleep times gradually beginning to increase after that, as baby is able to eat more at each feeding and, especially, after baby begins to eat some solid foods. The best things parents can do for themselves during this time is to make sure to take naps when baby is sleeping and agree to take turns taking care of baby when she is awake. Even if you exclusively breast feed your baby, Dad can take over baby care after she has been fed, allowing Mom to get a little rest.