From birth to 3 months of age your baby will be sleeping a lot, and it is never too soon to start establishing the important routines and sleeping patterns that will become an important part of you and your baby’s life. During the first few weeks of your baby’s life you can expect her to sleep up to 17 hours per day, but she will only stay asleep for a few hours at a time. As a new parent you can expect to have major changes in your sleeping schedule, as you will need to wake often throughout the night for feeding, comforting, and diaper changes. But soon you’ll adjust and you’ll be able to handle the regular nighttime wakeups that may become common.
When you can expect your baby to sleep longer
At around the age of 6 to 8 weeks your baby will start to sleep for longer periods of time in the evening, but she will wake up regularly to feed in the evenings. Her sleep cycle will also change from having longer REM sleep cycles to longer periods of deep sleep instead of REM sleep. Your baby may start sleeping for long periods of 8 to 12 hours at a very young age of 6 weeks, but this is not common. Most babies will need to be at least 5 or 6 months old before they are able to sleep for this long.
Why newborns sleep in short intervals
Newborn babies have a shorter sleep cycle than adults, so they spend much more of their sleep cycle in REM sleep. REM sleep is thought to be necessary to the rapid development that babies have from the time of birth, and this type of sleep also happens to be much more easily disrupted. As a result your baby will wake up regularly during the first 6-8 weeks, but the awakenings will gradually start to slow down. You should start researching sleep training methods for your baby, but you will not want to start any type of sleep training until she is at least a few months old unless your pediatrician recommends otherwise.
Help your baby with day/night confusion
Day/night confusion is going to be a problem for your baby for a while, as she will not be able to distinguish daytime from nighttime for up to 6 weeks. You can help her with this transition by ensuring that she gets more activity during daylight hours. In general keep the days upbeat and full of activities and once the sun goes down minimize activity and focus more on relaxing, winding down and sleeping. You can also start establishing nighttime routines as early as 6 weeks.
Use white noise and swaddle your baby
White noise has shown to be very important for newborn babies, and helps to mimic the sounds in the womb. You can use a noise machine or a CD or a fan to mimic the whooshing and other loud noises that your baby heard in the womb. Swaddling also mimics the enclosed and comforting feeling of the womb, and you should learn a good swaddling technique which will help your baby fall asleep faster and for longer periods.