You’ve come to the right place for your newborn sleep schedule and sleep patterns. I will help teach you how to get your baby on a schedule, how much time in bed is actually needed, and day and nighttime solutions.
When I was pregnant with my firstborn… I hadn’t babysat a child more than once or twice.
Much less a baby.
Much less a newborn that was as small as my forearm and was always hungry.
I read what I could, studied what I found, and now – as a mom of 5 – can safely say… getting your newborn to sleep well is totally possible.
I’ll show you how.
The Ultimate Newborn Sleep Schedule: Week By Week
There is some discussion as to whether a baby is a newborn for 28 days or up to 3 months.
For the purposes of my newborn sleep schedule and routine, I’m going to consider 6 weeks the newborn phase.
Table Of Contents..
- Week 1: What to do right out of the hospital
- Week 2: Fixing the day and night confusion and a 2 week old baby routine
- Week 3: Awake but drowsy and how it affects newborn sleep
- Week 4: How to get your newborn on a schedule
- Week 5: The feed that helps baby sleep longer stretches plus nighttime feeding recommendations
- Week 6: Choosing a morning wake time
- Newborn Sleeping & Feeding FAQ
In truth, during the first week there is one goal with regards to newborn sleep… encourage your newborn to take full feeds.
At one week old, of course, the baby doesn’t need to be put on a type of routine yet, but the best thing you can do for a one week old baby routine is to make sure they are taking full feeds.
Right now, at one week, they are learning how to feed, sleep, and be alive!
How to keep babies awake long enough to feed:
- Rub their feet and hands
- Wipe their forehead, neck, and face with a wet wipe
- Strip baby down to their diaper and un-swaddle or wrap them so they are not too warm and snug (Psst… here are beautiful nap and bedtime routine cards for your nursery)
- Burp thoroughly when you change nursing sides, or halfway through with the bottle
When you begin nursing, encourage your baby to take a full feed. This will vary depending on the baby, but it will not be 5 minutes, then falling asleep.
If your baby falls asleep after only a few minutes, gently rouse them and encourage them to continue feeding.
If you can get your baby to take full feeds for the first week they’ll naturally rest well, both day and night.
I know it can be super hard for you to get through this (emotionally and mentally), but you will get through it.
There’s a tendency to just let baby feed for a few minutes here and there and sleep here and there. This feels natural, but if you are a first time mom particularly it’s very hard to begin to understand baby’s cues.
Because baby seems to be fussing a lot and then falling asleep a lot and you don’t know when they’re tired or when they’re hungry. THIS IS WHY routines (even loose ones) are so beneficial to baby and mom.
Baby doesn’t need to cry to make their needs known if they are just well fed and well slept from the get go.
Sample One Week Schedule:
- 7:00 am – full feed, burp, diaper change, wake up and play time
- 8:10 am – wind down routine, down for nap
- 9:30 am – baby wakes up, full feed, diaper change
- 10:45 am – wind down, down for nap
- 12:00 pm – baby wakes up, full feed, “play time”
- 1:30 pm – wind down, down for nap
- 3:00 pm – baby wakes up, full feed, “play time”, bath time, family time, etc.
- 4:15 pm – wind down, down for nap
- 5:30 pm – baby wakes up, full feed, sits with family for dinner in infant seat or mom’s lap, family time
- 7:30 pm – cluster feed (tips on that here), wind down, down for nap
- 9:30 pm to 10:30 pm – dream feed (how to do that and when) (swaddled, of course), immediately back down to bed
- Night feeds throughout the night as baby wakes up
By now you are probably well and truly exhausted. And, if your baby has their days and nights all turned around, even more so.
Maybe you’ve even fallen prey to the biggest baby sleep myth I can think of. That of – keeping baby awake so they are tired and will sleep more. This is not the case.
While newborns do have a strong homeostatic drive (a drive to go to sleep), they will have a hard time falling asleep and staying asleep if they are overtired.
With your 2 week old baby, if you keep working on giving baby full consistent feeds (probably every 2 to 3 hours), you can also begin working on their day/night confusion.
It doesn’t have to be!
How to clear up day and night confusion:
- During the day when baby is awake and feeding, open windows, turn on lights, and keep things very bright
- At night, 8:00 pm and later, do all feeding, hugging, cuddling, diaper changing, in very dim or dark conditions
- After feeding your baby during the day, attempt to keep them awake for at least a few minutes by singing, cooing, playing, and bonding
- If your baby seems fully awake in the middle of the night, try turning on very bright lights which will cause baby to shut their eyes (I’ve heard good things about this trick)
- Don’t allow more time than 3 hours between feedings during the day, even if they are still sleeping. Wake them up and feed them again if they continue sleeping. You don’t want a 5 hour stretch to happen during the day, you want it to happen at night
- At night, feed them whenever they wake up and are hungry, but let them determine how frequent that is
- At night, avoid stimulating, playing, cooing, singing, or any other behaviors that will encourage baby to stay awake
- Work on your swaddling with these helpful tips.
At this point your baby is getting the hang of the outside world and you are getting the hang of this period.
If baby is napping quite long stretches during the day, then saving his fussiness for night…. this could be day/night confusion.
I have had a few babies who would sleep well all day for naps and then would have a two hour stretch at night where they were fussy and not able to be consoled.
This was day night confusion.
I kept on having the baby take shorter naps during the day and making sure they saw lots of sunlight, etc. and within a few days the day night confusion had sorted itself out.
Continue feeding your baby full feeds as you look forward to the next week or two when a more routine day can be expected for both you and baby.
WEEK 3 of the Newborn Sleep Schedule
Now that your baby is about 3 weeks old and is getting the hang of full feeds and has their days and nights mostly fixed, it’s time to start thinking about teaching your baby to fall asleep on their own.
Why worry about this so early? Here’s why… because they are probably already doing it at this point and their drive to sleep is still strong.
2 and 3 week old babies often go to sleep on their own without much fuss, and if you want that to continue then now is the time to start good habits.
As babies get bigger they’ll stop this and that’s when you get in a pickle.
Having to jump through hoops and use newfangled vibrating equipment, washing machines, and cars to get baby to sleep.
If you already are here, use these baby sleep checklists.
A note on sleep patterns and cycles
Within the first 6 weeks after birth, babies typically take a nap between their 2 or 3 hourly feeds.
For the first three weeks of a baby’s life, they are relying on maternal melatonin to help them prepare for sleep and their drive to sleep (homeostatic) is strong.
Sleep cycles typically last about 45 minutes to an hour for newborns. 0-10 minutes they start to fall asleep, 10 to 20 minutes they are getting into deeper sleep, 20 to 30 minutes they are heavily asleep, 30 to 40 minutes they are coming out of heavy sleep, and 40 to 50 or 60 minutes they are in light sleep and easy to wake up.
This is why if you help baby to sleep by patting or shushing, but only do it for 5 minutes, baby wakes up or cries. It’s because they are not yet in deep sleep.
How to get your newborn to go to sleep on their own:
- Do not let your little one get overtired (more on that here)
- Learn the fine art of putting your baby to sleep awake but drowsy. This means before your baby has fully conked out, but while they are yawning, doing the “eye roll” or rubbing their eyes, you can set them in their crib to do the final hard work of falling asleep on their own
- Give the baby a pacifier. This is one of the best ways to help your baby learn to calm down on their own. The pacifier also becomes a positive sleep association (here’s what sleep associations are and do) and gives your baby a way to soothe themselves into sleep. This is my preferred pacifier because it rarely falls off and by 3 months babies can hold it themselves.
- Perfect your naptime or bedtime routine (effective quieting routines can be found here) as another positive sleep association. Songs, rocking, hugging, and patting are great ways to help baby calm down. Diaper change, lights down low (even in daytime), and white noise communicate “sleepy time.”
- When baby is well fed, changed, and not overtired, simply put the baby in their own crib while they are drowsy and let them learn to fall asleep on their own. They will likely stare off into space for a time, if not fall right to sleep. This is okay. This is right!
- In the meantime, you can even help them to sleep in and take longer naps.
Next, we’ll talk about finding and crafting a good routine for a baby that meets all their needs in a timely way that encourages full bellies and rested babies.
WEEK 4 the of Newborn Sleep Schedule
Now that both you and baby are good and used to one another, it’s time to find a mutually beneficial routine and get your newborn on a schedule.
A routine that serves the needs of your infant for nourishment, sleep, and lots of mommy bonding.
How to find a good rhythm, routine, or schedule:
- Determine the average time between feeds. If your baby usually goes between 2.5 to 3 hours between feeds, create a routine based on those times.
- Start your day at a consistent time. Choose a time each morning (say, 7 a.m.) and feed the baby every single day at that time. Soon your baby will sleep until 7 and that’ll be your normal start to the day.
- Write down a feasible schedule that allows 2.5 to 3 hours between feedings with nap times in between each feed. See my sample newborn routine with all its times here.
- Make sure general feeding times don’t coincide with other major activities you can’t change like car pickup, dinner time, or the bedtime routine of older children. Of course, you’ll have to be flexible, but take these times into consideration and attempt to feed before or after those events.
- Cluster feed during the late afternoon early evening, more on that here.
- Get the baby sleep routine cards, the baby sleep checklists, AND all 25+ routines for babies aged 6 weeks to 5 years right here.
- Make sure to wake baby up to maintain your routine during the day. Don’t let baby sleep for 4 hours during the day because, inevitably, she’ll need to feed twice during that period at night to make up for it. At night, let the baby sleep as long as they are able between feeds. You determine day, they determine night.
If you still have questions about how to craft a routine, here are my routine archives full of practical tips age by age.
The joy of a routine…
The joy of a routine cannot be understated.
And the main reason routines “fail” is because the mother just doesn’t like them and doesn’t follow through.
Babies, on the other hand, love them.
If you keep a good rhythm or routine then you’ll quickly (within weeks or less) learn to decipher hunger cries from tired cries from gas and pain cries. I’m serious. Routine helps you say… “Hmm, baby fed 45 minutes ago so it isn’t hunger (if you did full feeds!) so must be gas.”
Then you burp and VOILA. Baby is comfortable again. Or, baby wakes up crying and you look at your watch and see.. “Oh, it’s been 3 hours… baby is ready for a feed!”
If you do no routine and just feed for 4 minutes all day long you never know what baby actually wanted.
Sample 4 Week Old Baby Sleep Schedule
- 4:30 am – feed baby swaddled (no lights on), put immediately back down to sleep
- 7:00 am – wake up, feed unswaddled (here’s why) in well lit area, play time
- 8:15 am – wind down routine, down for nap awake but drowsy (first nap of the day is the most important!)
- 10:00 am – wake up, full feed unswaddled, play/bathe/errands
- 12:45 pm – wind down routine, down for nap
- 2:45 to 3:00 pm – wake up, full feed, play/family time
- 4:15 pm – down for nap
- 5:30 pm – cluster feed, bath/family time / sit with family at dinner
- 6:30 pm – cat nap
- 7:00 pm – get baby up, wind down routine
- 7:30 pm – cluster feed (what that is, here) swaddled then immediately down for nap
- 9:30 pm to 10:00 pm – feed again swaddled, put immediately down to sleep
- Feed at night as baby wakes up
WEEK 5 of Newborn Sleep Schedule
The dream feed is one of the most important feeds of the day. Or night, rather.
Because it’s what will help baby get a longer stretch of sleep through the middle of the night and it’s what’ll help you do the same!
A dream feed is essentially a feeding you give the baby between 10:00 pm and 11:00 pm or so, right before you go to sleep.
It helps “top the baby off” so to speak and will hopefully allow you both an extra hour or two of uninterrupted sleep.
This feed is important because it works to fill the baby’s tummy during early evening hours so they learn to sleep long stretches. It is also the last feed you’ll likely drop.
When you have only one nighttime feed left (and your baby is sleeping until your desired morning time) this will be that feed.
Dream feed Basics:
- Baby will not likely wake for this feed since they’ll have had a couple of feeds just a few hours earlier in the night. This means you will wake the baby, likely right before you go to sleep, and feed her.
- Babies can be historically sleepy at this feed and not drink very much. When you wake baby, do a diaper change, re-swaddle, and try to feed the baby as much as they’ll take. If they nod off after a few minutes, use a wet wipe to wake them up and get them drinking again.
- If your baby won’t wake up, wait 20 minutes and try again.
- Feed in a dim or dark room so baby does not associate this feed with stimulation, but simply feeds half asleep then goes back down in their crib fast asleep. These are part of a basic calming quieting wind down routine.
- This feed will be maintained until baby is sleeping fully through the night until morning. And I don’t mean 5:00 am. I mean 6:00 am or later. You’ll drop early morning feeds and be left with the dreamfeed. When you feel confident your baby can sleep through the entire night without milk, then you drop this feed.
This feed may be tricky to get the hang of since baby is so drowsy, but it’s worth its weight in
- White noise machine
- Swaddle that allows diaper changes without unswaddling
- Pacifier to help baby settle between feeds and at rest times
WEEK 6 of Newborn Sleep Schedule
Morning wake times.
This is one of the most important habits you can start with your 6 week old baby. Why decide a morning wake time?
Well… it’s simple.
If you feed them at a consistent time each morning, that’s the time they learn to sleep until.
So, if you feed your baby at 5:30 am and then start the day… their metabolisms and body clocks will get used to waking up for good at 5:30 am.
You probably want to avoid this.
How to choose a morning wake time:
- Choose a time that is suitable to your family routine and consistently feed them at this time.
- Every morning, aim to feed your baby at this time even if they’ve fed as soon a 1.5 hours before.
- If need be, gently rouse your baby up around 4 or 4:30 am and feed them as full a feeding as they will take, then wake them up again at the time you’ve determined is their “morning wake time.”
- And, if they wake earlier than this time but are not crying for milk, cuddle, hold, play with, and rock baby until that time comes. If the baby is extremely hungry, feed baby of course. Try to get a full feed in there and then get back on routine throughout the day.
- Remember consistency is key. Your baby’s body will get used to eating at a certain time and will slowly but surely start sleeping a lot closer to that time.
At this point your baby takes full feeds, has a good routine, is learning to put himself to sleep, and has established dream feeds and morning wake times.
You are nearly there! You are a newborn sleep pro!
If you are going back to work at this point, you may want to teach your baby to sleep well at someone else’s house.
Need sample routines for babies 6 weeks and older?By now, you know how to handle the newborn days, but what after?
The good news is this: you’ve set your baby up for a foundation of success.
Now all you need to do is continue to find routines that work for you and your baby as they grow up and begin getting bigger and bigger.
After having had 5 babies with 5 different personalities, I know a thing or two about finding a good schedule.
This is why I’ve created a book of sample routines and schedules for babies ages 6 weeks up to 5 years.
The book includes information on how long to let baby stay awake, how much play time is good for each age, what to do with baby when baby is awake but not quite mobile, and even how to manage toddler and baby joint routines.
Chapters covered in Rhythms, Routines & Schedules include:
Section One: Sample Schedules
- 6 Weeks to 3 Months Old
- 3-6 Months Old
- 7-9 Months Old
- 9-12 Months Old
- 12-18 Months Old
- 2-3 Years Old
- 4-5 Years Old
Section Two: Tips and Tricks
- Tips for Managing the Day With Multiple Children
- Daily Rhythms for an Only Child Ages 1-4 Years Old
- Daily Rhythms for Multiple Small Children Ages 0-5
- Sample Bedtime, Mealtime, and Playtime Routines
- Tips for Keeping Kids Busy Throughout the Day
For more sample routines, mom tested and approved schedules for babies ages 6 weeks and up, check out Rhythms, Routines & Schedules right now.
Newborn Sleeping & Eating FAQ
Babies can be put onto some type of sleep schedule within a couple of weeks. You will be flexible, of course, depending on your milk supply, how settled they are, whether they are taking full feeds, etc. but they will generally fall into an easy 2.5 to 3 hour routine if they are taking full feeds and not having a lot of reflux or gas.
First off, routine. Second, good habits that help baby calm down. Third, make sure you’re giving full feeds and baby isn’t falling asleep at the breast. Fourth, put baby down into the crib drowsy but awake (this is sleep training 101).
Follow these suggested baby sleep times and the newborn sleep schedule given here. Essentially, they nap after each feeding for at least a few months.
One possible explanation is that baby is having their mornings and evenings mixed up. Typically, if a baby is sleeping well for longer periods of time during the day, but not sleeping at night, is that there’s some day night confusion going on. The way to beat that is to give baby ample awake time during the day and not to let baby take super long naps. This simply teaches them that a lot of long naps happen during the day, when you want them to happen at night!
In short, yes. If baby is hungry all the time they won’t be able to cycle well through passive and active sleep cycles. They may sleep for 45 minutes, then as they transition into either passive or active, if they are hungry they’ll become fully conscious and then want to eat.
If baby is full and has had a full feed then they will transition through their sleep cycles more easily and remain asleep longer.
Reasons newborn babies cry
- They are hungry and need to feed (make sure you are offering full feeds, otherwise baby will snack and you’ll find it difficult to differentiate a hunger cry from another cry)
- They are tired and need to nap. Essentially newborns nap between each feeding. If baby has been up more than 1.5 hours then they are tired, and likely overtired.
- They are physically uncomfortable. Baby may have a wet diaper, dirty diaper or be too hot or cold. Generally, newborns need about one more layer than we do!
- They have reflux and it’s uncomfortable. You will see your pediatrician, of course, for this, then use the information here to keep baby as comfortable as possible until they outgrow this.
- They have colic and/or are letting off steam. Newborns don’t usually develop colic until around 6 weeks or so, but some crying is normal with newborns. It’s the only way they can communicate. Our job is not to stop their crying as quickly as humanly possible, but to learn to decipher their cries so we can meet their needs appropriately and promptly.
- They are whiny for one of these 8 reasons.