Find out everything you need to know about your baby's sleep in the early weeks.
When you find out you’re going to be a parent, one of the first things people might say to you is ‘Goodbye to your lie-ins’. And, we're sorry to say this, they’re probably right.
But how much sleep will you get with a newborn? Here’s what you need to know about your baby's sleep.
How long do newborn babies sleep for?
Babies need to sleep a lot in the first few weeks, but it might not feel like that as their sleep will be in short, random bursts. Some babies might only sleep for a total of 10 hours out of 24, whereas others might sleep up to 20 hours out of 24 – either is perfectly normal (BASIS, no date).
Why does my baby keep waking up at night?
We know it's exhausting for new parents but night waking is completely normal for babies. Especially in the early months.
Most babies actually can’t sleep through the night – especially those younger than three months old (BASIS, no date).
Newborn babies sleep for around two to four hours at a time (Heraghty et al, 2008). Babies are lighter sleepers than adults so they’ll wake more easily. They’ve also got tiny tummies so they need to feed often too (Galland et al, 2012; BASIS, no date).
How long might older babies sleep for?
By the time babies are about three months old, around half may sleep for about five hours during the night (BASIS, no date; Henderson et al, 2010). Between three and six months the balance of light and deep sleep becomes more organised, so babies settle more easily (Heraghty et al, 2008).
As babies get a bit bigger, you’ll notice that their sleep time will decrease to around 15 hours by 12 months. Most of that sleep will be at night and the rest during one or two daytime naps (BASIS, no date).
Although, just to let you know, night time waking might not disappear completely. It is still normal behaviour after three months and 27% of one year olds still wake in the night (Henderson et al, 2010; BASIS, no date).
This page was last reviewed in November 2021.
Our support line offers practical and emotional support with feeding your baby and general enquiries for parents, members and volunteers: 0300 330 0700.
The Lullaby Trust has lots of useful information and support for parents about safe sleep.
You might find attending one of NCT's Early Days groups helpful as they give you the opportunity to explore different approaches to important parenting issues with a qualified group leader and other new parents in your area.
Make friends with other parents-to-be and new parents in your local area for support and friendship by seeing what NCT activities are happening nearby.
BASIS (Baby Sleep Info Source). (no date) Normal sleep development. Available at: https://www.basisonline.org.uk/normal-sleep-development/ [Accessed 7th November 2021].
Galland BC, Taylor BJ, Elder DE, Herbison P. (2012) Normal sleep patterns in infants and children: a systematic review of observational studies. Sleep Med Rev. 16(3):213-222. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21784676 [Accessed 7th November 2021].
Henderson JMT, France KG, Owens JL, Blampied NM. (2010) Sleeping through the night: the consolidation of self-regulated sleep across the first year of life. Pediatrics. 126(5):e1081-e1087. Available at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20974775/ [Accessed 7th November 2021].
Heraghty JL, Hilliard TN, Henderson AJ, Fleming PJ. (2008) The physiology of sleep in infants. Arch Dis Child. 93:982-995. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18653626 [Accessed 7th November 2021].