Sleeping Habits

Newborns sleep a lot — about 17 to 18 hours a day for the first few weeks and 15 hours a day by month three. But they’re almost never asleep for more than three to four hours at a time, day or night. The best way to make sure that your baby will learn the good sleeping habits is to teach them right away. Keep an eye on your baby to learn to know the signs when he is sleepy. If you spot the common signs of sleepiness (rubbing the eyes, pulling on his ear, developing dark circles under his eyes) put the baby right away in the crib. Soon you will learn your baby’s daily rhythms and patterns, and you’ll know instinctively when he’s ready for a nap. Also once your baby is about 2 weeks old, you can teach the baby a difference between day and night by playing with him during the day and then making sure that night time lights and noise level are down. When the baby is 6 to 8 weeks old, start giving your baby a chance to fall asleep on his own.

When you lay your baby in her crib, you’ll want to follow the recommendation of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) that healthy infants sleep on their backs or sides.

Here is some updated information about baby sleeping:

  • The safest sleeping position for a baby is on the back.

  • The risk of SIDS is slightly greater for infants placed on their sides compared to those placed on their backs.

  • Babies who sleep on their stomachs have a higher risk of SIDS than those infants who sleep on their backs or sides.

  • Avoid soft surfaces and air-trapping objects in a baby’s sleeping environment. Never lay your baby on a pillow, quilt, or other very soft surface to sleep.

  • If you use a side sleeping position, bring the bottom arm forward so your baby will be less likely to roll onto her stomach.

  • When baby is not sleeping, be sure to follow the AAP recommendation and give your baby some “tummy time.” While your baby is awake and you’re watching her, lay her on her stomach to assist her development and to help prevent flat spots on her head.

  • Don’t use a restrictive device to hold your baby’s head in place.

  • When your baby is able to easily turn over from his back onto his stomach, continue to put him to sleep on his back but then let baby adopt whatever sleeping position he prefers.

The current AAP recommendation is for healthy infants only; it may be best for some babies to sleep on their stomachs. Before you leave the hospital, be sure to discuss the safest sleeping position for your baby with her doctor.