The newborn stage can be very challenging for parents, and often the hardest part is the sleep deprivation that parents face. New parents may be desperate to know how often newborns will wake up, and for how long. Lucille Packard's Children's Hospital of Stanford explains that on average, babies won't sleep through the night until around three months old, or when the baby hits 12 or 13 pounds.
1. Days and Nights
Many newborns don't distinguish between night and day and maintain the same schedule of waking and sleeping 24 hours a day. Other babies actually have day and night confused and sleep for longer periods during the day than they do at night, which can be difficult for parents.
2. Frequency of Wakings
Newborns usually wake up to eat, and they need to eat frequently, as their stomachs are small and can only hold a small amount at a time. The Mayo Clinic states that newborns generally need between 8 and 12 feedings per day, which translates into waking for feedings on average of every 2 to 3 hours. Of course, every baby is different and some newborns seem to wake every 90 minutes, while others sleep 4 or 5 hours straight their first night home from the hospital.
3. Waking a Newborn
Some doctors recommend waking a newborn to eat on a schedule, for instance, every 3 hours. Others say just leave well enough alone and let a sleeping baby be. If your baby was premature, has health issues, or isn't gaining weight at an appropriate level, it might be necessary to wake her to eat. If your doctor says it's okay, just leave your newborn alone if she's sleeping, only waking her if she sleeps longer than 5 or so hours during the night. Follow your doctor's guidance.
4. Good Sleep Habits
While you probably won't be getting much unbroken sleep for the first few months of your child's life, it's never too early to start developing good sleep habits. For example, keep your newborn's room dark, quiet and cool at night. When he wakes for feedings, try to feed and change him without turning on overhead lights, just use a nightlight if possible so he doesn't fully wake. Don't make 2 a.m. playtime, just feed, change and put him back to bed quietly so he learns to think nighttime is just boring and doesn't have stimulation that will keep him awake.