Newborn sleep patterns: What to expect + when to rest

The best thing you can do—create a bond that will help you \when the time comes to teach healthy sleep habits

Newborn sleep patterns: What to expect + when to rest

If you’re getting ready to or have recently welcomed your bundle of joy in to the world, you have likely heard one (or both) of the following phrases—

”Better get your sleep now because you won’t for the next 2 years”

“Sleep when the baby sleeps, because that’s the only chance you’ll get”

While these statements very well could be true, they aren’t the most encouraging words we would hope for as we embark on Motherhood.

It is no surprise that lack of sleep as a new mom is very real. A recent study from the National Sleep Foundation found that 76% of new parents experience continuous sleep problems (and these are just the ones who reported it!)

But listen—there are so many things to look forward to when becoming a mother, and while sleep deprivation certainly isn’t one of them, it’s time to stop throwing ourselves in this category and start getting the right information around what we can expect and do about this whole sleep thing.

Here are six sleep patterns you can expect from your newborn (0-3 months) and how to handle them

1. For the first 3 months of life, your baby will actually sleep an average of 19-21 hours per day.

Yep, you read that right. Most of her life during this time will be spent adjusting to life outside of the womb, and she likely won’t be able to stay awake for longer than 45 minutes at a time.

What you can do to encourage sleep— Follow your baby’s sleep patterns. Allow her to sleep when she wants, and tend to her needs most of the time when she wakes up. Keep a quiet space for day-time and night-time sleep and try not to worry about creating any type of schedule right now.

2. Expect middle of the night wake-ups.

There are a couple reasons that your newborn baby should NOT be sleeping completely through the night.

#1 Your newborn should be feeding at least every four hours, and potentially every two or three hours if she is a preemie. In addition, if you are breastfeeding, for your milk supply alone you will want to feed every few hours.

#2 Your newborn has not yet developed a 24 hour sleep cycle and she is not able to distinguish the difference between night-time and day-time sleep. Night-time consolidated sleep likely won’t start to fall into place until 8 weeks or so.

So how can you still get consolidated sleep? My recommendation is to have a rotating schedule with your partner that allows you each to take a chunk of time to tend to your newborn throughout the night. The good news is while middle of the night wake ups will happen, your baby’s natural instinct will be to sleep, so in the newborn phase going back to sleep for her will be less of a struggle.

3. Your baby will fall asleep anywhere and everywhere.

The forty-five minute awake window applies here so if you are expecting to be out and about for longer than an hour, you can count on your babe falling asleep wherever you are! While it might not be the most restful sleep, since there will likely be stimulating sights and sounds, there is no need to be home-bound for months simply because you have a newborn.

Best thing to “do”— Just make sure your baby still gets enough rest in a consistent environment that is conducive to healthy sleep.

4. Be prepared to get all of the advice there is.

Ah, unsolicited advice. You are going to hear it all. Why you shouldn’t do this and why you need to do that. It’s going to happen, whether you ask for it or not from family, friends, and most likely strangers. My strong advice to you from a professional standpoint—Take it with a very small grain of salt. Remember that each person who provides you with their opinion around what will work for your baby when it comes to sleep is tied to his/her own experience. Likely you will hear what worked for your neighbor or your sister or your dentist and thus that is what they think you should do as well. Your baby is unique and special and un-like any other baby, and your family dynamic is different than your best friend’s family dynamic, so your baby is not going to respond in the same way as all of these other babies you will hear about. And for the love of Pete, please stay away from social media when seeking advice!

5. The sleep patterns your baby has as a newborn will change over time.

I usually get one of two reactions with this one, either “Oh thank goodness” or “Nooo my baby is a great sleeper now”. Ever heard of the four-month sleep regression? The reason this is so common is because your baby starts to consolidate sleep patterns around three months old, and at four months her 24-hour sleep cycle will start to form. This is due to her circadian rhythm that starts to kick in and teach her the difference between day and night-time sleep, all factors that are not in play during the newborn stage.

The truth is there is nothing you can really do. Yes you can try and implement healthy sleep habits and you can try and avoid sleep regressions like the plague, but your baby is going to naturally develop her own sleep patterns according to her biological clock and I’m afraid you have very little to do with that. The good news is once you get past four months you can start sleep coaching and help move her in the right direction, teaching sleep habits that will stick long-term.

6. Your newborn will need you all the time!

I’m sure this is no surprise, but I can’t stress enough that your love and comfort during this first phase of life is crucial. There is a time and place for sleep teaching and creating an independent sleeper and as a sleep consultant I give you full permission to break all the “rules” right now! Your baby has just entered this big world after living in a very small space-your womb. She is going to be exposed to so many new things and is going to look to her Momma to guide her.

The best thing you can do: Love on your baby and create a bond that will only help you in the future when the time comes to teach healthy sleep habits.

After 4 kids, this is still the best baby gear item I’ve ever purchased

I wouldn't be swooning over the BABYBJÖRN bouncer after eight years and four kids if it didn't work.

I have four kids 8 and under, so you might expect that my house is teeming with baby gear and kid toys.

But it turns out that for me, the more kids I have, the more I simplify our stuff. At this point, I'm down to the absolute essentials, the gear that I can't live without and the toys my kids actually play with. And so when a mama-to-be asks me what things are worth registering for, there are only a few must-haves on my list.

The BABYBJÖRN bouncer seat is on the top of my list—totally worth it and an absolute must-have for any new mama.

In fact, since I first splurged on my first BABYBJÖRN bouncer eight years ago (it definitely felt like a splurge at the time, but the five star reviews were really compelling), the bouncer seat has become the most-used product in our house for baby's first year.

We've actually invested in a second one so that we didn't have to keep moving ours from the bedroom to the living room when we change locations.

BABYBJÖRN bouncer bliss

baby bjorn bouncer

The utility of the seat might seem counterintuitive—it has no mechanical parts, so your baby is instead gently bounced by her own movements. In a world where many baby products are touted for their ability to mechanically rock baby to sleep, I get that many moms might not find the "no-motion" bouncer that compelling. But it turns out that the seat is quite reactive to baby's little kicks, and it has helped my kids to learn how to self-soothe.


Lightweight + compact:

The BABYBJÖRN bouncer is super lightweight, and it also folds flat in a second. Because of those features, we've frequently stored it under the couch, in a suitcase or in the back of the car. It folds completely flat, which I love.

Entertainment zone:

Is the toy bar worth it? The toy bar is totally worth it. Not only is the toy bar adorable, but it's one of the first toys that my babies actually play with once they discover the world beyond my boobs. The toys spin and are close to eye level so they have frequently kept my baby entertained while I cook or take a quick shower.

Great style:

This is not a small detail to me–the BABYBJÖRN bouncer is seriously stylish. I am done with baby gear and toys that make my house look like a theme park. The elegant European design honestly just looks good in my living room and I appreciate that parents can enjoy it as much as baby.

It's adjustable:

With three height settings that let you prop baby up to be entertained, or lay back to rest, we get years of use. And the bouncer can actually be adjusted for bigger kids and used from newborn to toddler age. It's that good.

It just works:

I wouldn't be swooning over the BABYBJÖRN bouncer after eight years and four kids if it didn't work. But I have used the seat as a safe space to put baby while I've worked (I once rocked my baby in it with my foot while I reported on a breaking news story for the Washington Post), and as a cozy spot for my second child to lay while his big brother played nearby. It's held up for almost a decade with almost-constant use.

So for me, looking back on what I thought was a splurge eight years ago, was actually one of the best investments in baby gear I ever made.

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.


Time-saving formula tips our editors swear by

Less time making bottles, more time snuggling.

As a new parent, it can feel like feeding your baby is a full-time job—with a very demanding nightshift. Add in the additional steps it takes to prepare a bottle of formula and, well… we don't blame you if you're eager to save some time when you can. After all, that means more time for snuggling your baby or practicing your own well-deserved self-care.

Here's the upside: Many, many formula-feeding mamas before you have experienced the same thing, and they've developed some excellent tricks that can help you mix up a bottle in record time. Here are the best time-saving formula tips from editors here at Motherly.

1. Use room temperature water

The top suggestion that came up time and time again was to introduce bottles with room temperature water from the beginning. That way, you can make a bottle whenever you need it without worrying about warming up water—which is a total lifesaver when you have to make a bottle on the go or in the middle of the night.

2. Buy online to save shopping time

You'll need a lot of formula throughout the first year and beyond—so finding a brand like Comforts, which offers high-quality infant formula at lower prices, will help you save a substantial amount of money. Not to mention, you can order online or find the formula on shelves during your standard shopping trip—and that'll save you so much time and effort as well.

3. Pre-measure nighttime bottles

The middle of the night is the last time you'll want to spend precious minutes mixing up a bottle. Instead, our editors suggest measuring out the correct amount of powder formula into a bottle and putting the necessary portion of water on your bedside table. That way, all you have to do is roll over and combine the water and formula in the bottle before feeding your baby. Sounds so much better than hiking all the way to the kitchen and back at 3 am, right?

4. Divide serving sizes for outings

Before leaving the house with your baby, divvy up any portions of formula and water that you may need during your outing. Then, when your baby is hungry, just combine the pre-measured water and powder serving in the bottle. Our editors confirm this is much easier than trying to portion out the right amount of water or formula while riding in the car.

5. Memorize the mental math

Soon enough, you'll be able to prepare a bottle in your sleep. But, especially in the beginning or when increasing your baby's serving, the mental math can take a bit of time. If #mombrain makes it tough to commit the measurements to memory, write up a cheat sheet for yourself or anyone else who will prepare your baby's bottle.

6. Warm up chilled formula with water

If you're the savvy kind of mom who prepares and refrigerates bottles for the day in advance, you'll probably want to bring it up to room temperature before serving. Rather than purchase a bottle warmer, our editors say the old-fashioned method works incredibly well: Just plunge the sealed bottle in a bowl of warm water for a few minutes and—voila!—it's ready to serve.

Another great tip? Shop the Comforts line on to find premium baby products for a fraction of competitors' prices. Or, follow @comfortsforbaby for more information!

This article was sponsored by The Kroger Co. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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It's science: Why your baby stops crying when you stand up

A fascinating study explains why.

When your baby is crying, it feels nearly instinctual to stand up to rock, sway and soothe them. That's because standing up to calm babies is instinctual—driven by centuries of positive feedback from calmed babies, researchers have found.

"Infants under 6 months of age carried by a walking mother immediately stopped voluntary movement and crying and exhibited a rapid heart rate decrease, compared with holding by a sitting mother," say authors of a 2013 study published in Current Biology.

Even more striking: This coordinated set of actions—the mother standing and the baby calming—is observed in other mammal species, too. Using pharmacologic and genetic interventions with mice, the authors say, "We identified strikingly similar responses in mouse pups as defined by immobility and diminished ultrasonic vocalizations and heart rate."

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