Newborn Sleep

A brand new baby will sleep much of the time, waking every few hours for feedings. Many new parents have a lot of questions about how long and how often a newborn should sleep.

Because newborns have such a small stomach they should be waking to be fed every 2-3 hours. How often your baby eats depends on what their nutritional needs are and what they are being fed. It is best to talk to your provider to see if you need to wake your baby for more feedings.

When your baby wakes they will go through a quiet alert phase where they are taking in their environment. Then they will move into an active alter phase where they will start showing hunger cues.

If the baby is not fed when they start showing hunger cues they may move into a crying phase. Babies can be overstimulated during the crying phase. Holding your baby close or swaddling, shushing, and quieting the environment can help to calm the baby.

Once your baby has been fed, they often are ready to sleep again. You can help your baby sleep by knowing the signs that they are ready to sleep, teaching them how to fall asleep on their own, and creating a safe sleep environment.

What are the signs of sleep readiness?

  • Rubbing eyes
  • Yawning
  • Looking away
  • Fussing

Most newborns will fall asleep while nursing. This is OK. Older babies can be placed in their crib when they are drowsy but not asleep. This way they can learn to fall asleep on their own. Soft music or a noise machine can help sooth them to sleep.

Image Credit: 123rf Stock Photos


Swaddling is a great way for small babies to feel safe and secure. It reminds them of the womb by keeping their arms and legs from flailing. You can even purchase a special swaddling blanket with vlecro to make it easy.

Precautions with swaddling:

  • Don’t swaddle if your baby can roll over on their own
  • Make sure your baby can move their hips and legs
  • Make sure there is no fabric near their mouth/ nose
  • Use thinner fabric in warmer weather

Watch for changes in your baby’s sleep pattern. If your baby has been sleeping consistently, and suddenly is waking more often, there may be a problem. Or your baby may be going through a growth spurt and need to eat more often. Some sleep disturbances are simply due to changes in development or because of overstimulation.


Lancaster Doulas helps babies and families sleep in: Lancaster, York, Harrisburg, Dauphin, and Berks County

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.