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Having a newborn, especially for first-time moms, is literally the hardest job of all time.
Imagine this. You are still in pain from giving birth or C-section, and losing a lot of blood. You are exhausted and you need a good sleep.
But then when you try to sleep, your baby wakes up and cries.
You have no idea what to do, you literally follow what the doctors and nurses tell you. You either feed him, change him, or both.
Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. But at least, you have some professionals around you when you need them. Just ring the bell, and they will show up.
It lasts for around 3 days. Then it’s time for you to go home. And that’s when the scary part happens.
As there is no professional around you, you seek assurance by swimming in between books about newborn sleep schedule, baby routine and try to reconcile your own baby’s schedule to the book. But something is seriously off.
Your baby has nothing to reconcile with the book. The more you look into the book, the more stressed out you feel.
If I tell you to dump your books (at least for the first 2 months of your baby age), would you roll your eyes?
I was in the same shoes. And I’ve gathered information from more than 100 moms all over the Internet (multiple Facebook groups and forums) so that you can see what the reality looks like.
How much does your newborn sleep?
According to a study by Roffwarg, Muzio and Dement in 1966, a normal, full-term newborn sleeps approximately 16 to 18 hours per day. The longest continuous sleep period is 2.5 to 4 hours and the pattern of sleep and wakefulness is irregular.
It’s possible that your newborn sleeps too much, or too little. And one nap will greatly impact the next one and his whole day routine. So every good nap counts!
Newborn sleep schedule for the first 2 weeks
Most newborn babies sleep quite well in the first 2 weeks. Some people call these 2 weeks as the “honeymoon phase”, when your babies basically sleep like babies and let you recover.
However, there are always times when your babies are just different from every other one. Do not panic. Nothing you can do in these first 2 weeks has a long-lasting effect in your baby’s routine so the best thing is to do nothing.
You will need a lot of rest during this time and tough times (might) are ahead. So instead of swimming from books to books and trying to record your newborn sleep schedule, just get your rest. Sleep, take a shower, get a massage or do something for yourself.
Read more: 16 Quick self-care tips for moms.
Try to get your partner to help out as much as possible during this time. As you really need to buckle up after this.
The awake time and sleep time varies between babies. However, a standard sleep schedule still applies.
Below is a standard newborn sleep schedule in the first 2 weeks for babies who wake up at 6:00 AM. If your little one wakes up earlier or later, just add or deduct the time gap into the schedule.
I strongly do not recommend you to spend time tracking your newborn sleep routine in the first 2 weeks. Because he has not developed a pattern yet. And things will change significantly anyway!
In these first weeks, just make sure you recognize your baby hunger cues.
What’s more, you will need to know to prepare for the next period is your newborn day/ night confusion.
After 2 weeks: the ideal newborn sleep schedule that everyone talks about
The ideal newborn sleep schedule after the first 2 weeks is that each nap will last from 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes. And you will see your baby taking 5 to 6 naps with the last nap often being 30 minutes or skipped.
Awake time between naps varies from 45 minutes to 1 hour and 15 minutes. During that time is feeding time, diaper changing and tummy time.
Newborn sleep schedule week 3
After the first 2 weeks, your little one will likely start showing signs of patterns and you will notice something keep repeating itself. Your baby may begin to have a slightly longer awake time around up to 1 hour. Total sleeping time is still very long, around 15 - 16 hours a day.
In week 3, most babies will go for longer naps during the day and stay consistently short sleep at night. This is called day/ night confusion.
The day/ night confusion can last for some time. But starting at week 3, you can introduce some routines into your baby’s schedule so that your little one slowly learns and expects the expected.
A good thing about this time is that, after the first 2 weeks (when you hopefully get some good rest yourself), you also start to learn how to take care of a baby. In general, while many moms suffer from postpartum depression, just know that you are a first-time mom, and you are born with mommy instincts. So have some faith and trust yourself.
The sleep schedule in week 3 can be something like:
Newborn sleep schedule week 4
If your little one responds well to your day/ night confusion fixes, you will likely notice your little one seems to sleep a little bit longer in one of his sleeps at night. More than often, you will wake up having both breasts full of milk even before your baby wakes you up.
However, be aware that in week 4, your baby will likely go through a growth spurt, where he perceives the world differently than before. He can notice colors, patterns and faces.
With much more information to receive, your baby might take a bit of time to be able to sleep and he can easily get overstimulated.
Many babies also go through the “witching hours”, where they just cry a lot, especially at night, for no particular reasons. There is really nothing you can do for a quick fix in witching hours, but your baby needs extra soothing and caring to pass that time. Good news is that witching hours also fade after some time.
You will also notice that generally, your baby tends to wake up early in the morning, which turns you into a night owl and a morning person at the same time.
The idea sleep schedule will look something like:
Newborn sleep schedule week 5
Not much has changed after 1 week. In week 5, your baby still likely goes through a growth spurt or startle reflex which makes him sleep more or less in each nap. But the total sleeping hour in a day is still somewhere 15 to 16 hours.
However, don’t panic when your baby seems to only sleep 13 to 14 hours a day. Some babies just get drowsy and sleep a little during feeding, which affects their need for a long nap throughout the day. Below is an example schedule, however, it always varies from one baby to the next and it is not yet the right time to stick firmly on any schedule yet.
Remember that your baby is growing every day and he can see things and hear things better, so everyday's a new journey for him. If you don’t watch out for tiredness signs, you might have an overtired baby which is even harder to put to sleep.
Read more: Signs your baby is overtired.
Newborn sleep schedule week 6
Your baby will tend to go toward a day with 4 to 5 naps with total sleeping hours from 13 - 15 hours. In this week, many babies also go through another growth spurt and become much more alert and social.
This is when the fussiness peaks and it will be quite harder to soothe them to sleep. Something you can try introducing at week 6 is a pacifier or swaddle. You will also want to turn down your white noise, if you are using it in past weeks as your baby can hear a lot better now and too loud white noise can be bad for his hearing.
Newborn sleep schedule week 7
Here’s when many moms already got the hang of taking care of a newborn baby. And when the fussiness reduces in week 7, you can finally feel like a human again.
In week 7, your baby will have a clearer sign of a schedule. Some babies even start to stretch their night sleep up to 5 hours (even though they will require to be fed during these 5 hours). As your baby now can drink more milk, some of the naps can stretch longer, up to 2 hours or even 3 hours.
An ideal newborn sleep schedule in week 7 will be something like:
Newborn sleep schedule week 8
A lot of changes can happen in week 8. Many babies can sleep longer at night and day/ night confusion starts to fade away.
You can start to see earlier bedtimes because your baby has longer nighttime sleep. Total sleeping hours are around 12 - 15 hours a day with 3 - 4 hours of nap during the day. Some babies cut down the final 30-minute nap during the day before their bedtimes.
A sample sleep schedule in week 8 is as:
The actual newborn sleep schedule that you realize
In the ideal world where every piece of the puzzle falls into their places, a schedule works wonders. However, around 40% of the time, the ideal world doesn’t exist.
I’ve gathered experiences from more than 100 moms, where I found out that about 60% of their newborn actually follow (more or less) the standard routine, where their babies sleep for around 1 hour to 2 hour naps throughout the day, and sleep from 2 to 4 hours naps during the night.
However, the remaining 40% find the sleep quite trickier.
The first common thing among those 40 moms is that there is little to no sleep schedule.
So ditch the ideal newborn sleep schedule above. Their babies keep waking up during their “supposedly” nap time and unless being fed or cluster fed, nothing they can do to put them back to sleep.
Some babies are extremely fussy. You can try rocking, pacifiers, swaddles, feeding, etc. and still, nothing works to bring your baby to sleep. Your baby might just go to sleep and wake up on his own demand with little to no schedule or pattern.
This craziness can last until he turns 3 month old. And the fussiness and dependence gradually fade away. Be strong, mothers!
However, even though you might not see the sweetness of infancy in the first 3 months, your baby still needs around 13 - 16 hours of sleep a day (remember to count the drowsy and every 15 minute naps he takes while being fed). If he sleeps less than that throughout the day, make sure you ask a doctor right away.
Reasons why the ideal newborn sleep schedule doesn’t fit in reality
There are a lot of reasons when a standard newborn sleep schedule goes wrong in reality. However, more often than not, it happens when there are 1 or more below reasons that affect your baby’s sleep schedule.
Acknowledging the right reason which disturbs your baby's sleep is crucial.
Read more: Common reasons your baby doesn’t sleep well. And here’s how to find out.
Your baby might have reflux or GERD, which causes him to throw up everything that he has eaten. GERD is painful and an empty belly will make your baby hungry and shorten his nap.
What you can do to help: do not put your newborn to sleep right after feeding. Burp your baby frequently while putting him upright for 30 minutes after feeding. Avoid tummy time right after feeding as well. Talk to a doctor to see if a prescription is needed.
While it is not really the same as reflux, gas is also a cause for trouble sleeping. Your baby swallows a lot of air during feeding so it will be painful if there is too much air in his stomach.
What you can do to help: burp frequently.
According to the NHS, “Colic is when a baby cries a lot but there's no obvious cause. It's a common problem that should get better by around 3 or 4 months of age.”
If your baby has colic, it is unlikely that a sleep schedule can appear during the first 2 months.
Your baby sleeps during feeding
For babies, especially breastfed babies, the feeding time is the precious bonding time with their moms, where they feel warmest, safest and most relaxed.
Holding your baby gives him the comfort of familiarity and love. When it comes to holding and feeding your baby, that’s the time he gets drowsy easily.
Very often, you will find your baby snoozing in your arms when you are feeding him even though your baby just woke up from a nap.
While I am not talking about the efficiency of this feeding nap, this drowsy time affects his sleep schedule. As your baby is constantly half-asleep, he will have a hard time falling asleep tightly.
Your baby is overtired
When your baby is overtired, it will take him some time to be calm and then go to sleep. Unlike adults who can collapse on bed in seconds when being exhausted, when babies get overtired, they will need you to calm and soothe them before they can relax and go to sleep.
Make sure you watch out for overtiredness signs, so that you can start the nap routine to put your little one to sleep.
If your baby doesn’t follow any sleep schedule, don’t panic.
Sometimes it takes much more sacrifice from you to give him the sleeping time he needs. I am talking about rocking him during naps, putting him to sleep on your stomach, etc.
Remember, you are not alone. In my research, there is at least 40% of moms who are like you, who must sacrifice greatly to increase their babies’ sleeping time.
Your baby is overstimulated
With the new overwhelming information, games and interesting activities every day, your baby can easily get overstimulated. He might be too excited to go to sleep or even show sleeping signs.
However, you should not keep your baby up for too long (not more than 2 to 3 hours maximum during the first 2 months). Even though there is no sign of sleepiness, start the nap routine and try to put him to sleep.
Your baby is sick
When your baby is sick, ditch everything. No schedule, no milk tracking. Just follow his needs, give him what he wants and hope for the best.
Should you track your newborn sleep schedule
In the first 2 weeks, I recommend you to just try to recover as much as you can. Don’t think about starting a routine or any schedule because things will fall apart anyway.
After that, when you notice things are falling into patterns, you can start tracking your newborn sleep schedule.
However, tracking can be problematic and cause more stress.
It is a great reassurance when you track and see things are going in the right direction. However, when it isn’t, it is not pretty.
You will get stressed out when you count your baby’s total sleeping hour and feel like your baby is not sleeping enough. You will feel like you are damaging your baby’s brain and development for not being able to put him to sleep long enough.
I only recommend tracking when you see that your baby naturally gets into a schedule. Otherwise, just follow your own instinct and trust yourself.
If your baby is not constantly crying the whole time, if he is gaining weight like he should, if he is happy and content, you are doing things right.
Do not over complicate life.
Track your newborn sleep schedule with this printable
Make sure you bookmark this page and go back to check the schedule anytime you need to, but if you need to have a print out, you can download the sample sleep schedule by week and also a printable to track your newborn sleep.
A sleep schedule is a perfect example of the simple world where everything goes right. However, when it doesn’t (and most likely it will happen every here and there), do not panic.
Sometimes, things will just take time to fix. If your baby is happy and healthy, eats well and gains weight, you are going the right way.
When you are going astray, your baby will let you know. Follow his lead and remember you are not alone.