It's been three weeks since your bundle of joy has been in your life, and though some semblance of routine may be starting to emerge (feed, sleep, poop, repeat), it's natural to wonder if your baby will ever get onto a sleep schedule. The good news is, your little one is beginning to distinguish day from night at this age. Bad news is, they're still going to need to eat every few hours, even at night. We know you're exhausted and wonder if you (or your child) will ever sleep through the night. You will! But not quite yet.
The newborn days are hard and we're here to help. We've put together a handy schedule showing how much the average three three-week-old sleeps, plus some tips on these early days of sleeping.
Related: Baby Feeding Guides & Schedules
How much sleep does a three-week-old baby need?
Your baby is still sleeping a lot: a newborn at this age should get 14-17 hours of sleep per 24 hours, according to the National Sleep Foundation.
"At three weeks old, there is no major change in your baby's sleep from previous weeks," says founder of My Sweet Sleeper Rachel Mitchell, a certified pediatric and maternity sleep consultant. "However, your baby is likely starting to take in more during feeds, which can help promote longer stretches of sleep at night."
It's during this time that feeding habits may change. "You may also ask your pediatrician around this time if you can stop waking up your baby at night to feed and wait until they wake you," says Mitchell. "Once you get the green light to do this, if you notice your baby is still waking every couple hours at night, ensure they are getting full feeds every three hours during the day and consider offering a dream feed between 10 and 11 p.m."
However, baby still needs you. "Remember in this stage that your baby needs you to help them self-regulate. Your baby is not yet ready to learn independent soothing skills and so it is important that you respond to your baby quickly when they start crying. Stirring or fussing is normal and doesn't necessarily need an immediate response, but hard crying should be capped at just a few minutes. While you can't work on independent soothing yet, you can focus on the four key areas of foundations which are nutrition, sleep environment, routine, and awake windows."
Three-week-old baby sleep schedule
With all those zzz's you may wonder how you'll have time for anything else. We've put together a sample schedule so you can visualize what one 24-hour period with a three-week-old baby may look like. (Note: this is meant to be a rough guide of what you can expect; it's not meant to be a sleep schedule to attempt to put your baby on.)
Wake windows for a three-week-old
A wake window is the period of time a baby can stay awake in between snoozes without getting overtired. Newborn babies can't self-regulate their own sleep patterns and can become overtired instead of simply just falling asleep, so wake windows are crucial in making sure your little one is as happy as can be. At this age, 60-90 minutes are the longest a newborn baby will be able to stay awake, according to Mitchell.
Related: One-month-old baby milestones
Sleep tips for newborns
- Always place your baby on their back to sleep, not on the stomach or side. This helps to reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and Sudden Unexplained Infant Death (SUID). The American Academy of Pediatrics initiated the "Back to Sleep" movement in 1992, and rates of SIDS/SUID have decreased dramatically since.
- Do not put anything else in the crib or bassinet. Keep plush toys, pillows, blankets, loose sheets, and bumpers out of your baby's crib or bassinet for similar reasons as above.
- Avoid overheating. Even though they're itty-bitty babies, you can dress them according to the room's temperature. Don't over-swaddle or over-layer their clothing.
- Try a pacifier. "You can also introduce the swaddle and pacifier at this stage to help promote sleep once the feeding relationship has been established," Mitchell says. If they reject it, that's OK. If it falls out, that's OK.
- Use a white noise machine. Whether your house is quiet as a mouse, or you've got other kids running around making noise, a white noise machine can help your baby feel soothed (and possibly tune out) in their surroundings. Mitchell also says it "will help replicate that sound your baby heard frequently in the womb."
- Snuggle it up. Your newborn wants your cuddles as much as you want to give them—especially if they're fussy. Swaddle them up snugly, then rock them until they quiet down. There's no such thing as holding a newborn too much (for safety reasons, don't fall asleep with them in your arms).
A version of this story was published August 24, 2021. It has been updated.