Broken nights are inevitable during the early weeks when your baby needs frequent feeds.  While parents accept this routine as part of caring for a young baby, lack of sleep can lead to exhaustion. Try to get some sleep yourself during the day when your baby is asleep, rather than rushing around catching up on housework.

On average a one month old baby sleeps for a total of 16.5 hours in 24 hours, but the length of each sleep varies between babies.  During the day some babies may only sleep for short times, while others sleep for longer periods of 3-4 hours at a time. Some babies sleep for long periods at night while others wake several times feeling hungry and need frequent feeding.

Some newborn babies can be sleepy particularly if they are jaundiced.  If baby is sleeping for long periods, not waking for feeds, not feeding well, not having many feeds or is too tired to feed it is important to contact your midwife or doctor.

Every baby has their own sleep pattern and often babies do not have regular sleeping patterns until they are older. Your baby may wake wanting frequent feeds.  For breastfed babies these feeds are important to help establish and maintain breastfeeding.  If your baby is having only short sleeps she may become over tired.

Baby may be tired after a feed, change, play time and cuddle. It’s best to put her to bed before she becomes very tired. Overtired babies can be harder to settle.

An overtired baby may:

  • grizzle
  • rub her eyes
  • have poor eye contact, seem to stare into space (not looking at anything)
  • yawn
  • have clenched fists
  • startle easily
  • have tense movements

It can be easy to mistake these tired signs and think they are wind, hunger or boredom.

Baby’s sleep cycles are a mix of light and deep sleep.  During active dreaming sleep baby may twitch, have irregular breathing, smile or make sucking motions with her mouth.  During deep sleep there is little movement. It is common for babies to move about, open their eyes, cry or wake during their lighter sleep cycle then settle back to sleep. If your baby wakes during this lighter sleep, it may help to give her a chance to resettle herself.

Some babies have a pattern of needing to be rocked or fed to go to sleep and wake crying soon after being put down, this is because her last memory is being with you so when she wakes during the lighter part of her sleep cycle she is not in a different place. She may then become more wakeful wanting you to rock or feed her before she can go back to sleep.

It is important to settle baby on her back to help prevent SUDI (cot death) and keep her face clear. For more information on SUDI see here.


Back for sleep

Front for play

Upright for cuddles and hugs

Once your baby is feeding well the following may help you settle your baby to sleep:

  • Have a quiet calming period before going to bed.  This could be a cuddle, talking in a quiet soothing voice or singing to her.
  • Keeping baby at a comfortable temperature.  Baby should not be too warm in bed.  One more layer than an adult would have on is enough.
  • Try to put baby to bed awake or drowsy when she is showing signs of being tired.  By falling asleep in her own bed she learns that her bed is a familiar place and that if she wakes during her sleep she may settle back to sleep again on her own.
  • Try relaxing her by patting or stroking her or use a musical mobile.  Leave the room when she is calm but still awake.
  • Some babies take longer than others to settle.
  • Some babies grizzle or cry themselves off to sleep.  As she settles she may have periods of crying with quiet times between.  At first her crying may peak then gradually lessen with longer quieter times in-between until she falls asleep.
  • Check baby if she sounds distressed and is not settling, or after about 10 minutes.
  • Most babies sleep through household noises.  You don’t need to make special efforts to keep the house quiet.  Some babies even prefer to go off to sleep to the sound of the vacuum or music.
  • Try teaching your baby the difference between day and night.  Make day feeds fun with time talking to her and giving her cuddles.  Make night feeds quiet with no play time or talking and keep the lights dim.

If you are concerned about baby’s sleep, you are unable to settle her, she is not feeding well or she is difficult to wake, talk to your midwife, or other health professional.

Many babies are snuffly or noisy sleepers. It is common for babies to have irregular breathing patterns when they are asleep i.e. breathing quickly followed by short pauses. This is normal. If she is breathing more quickly than usual, wheezing or grunting when breathing, or you are concerned about her breathing pattern, take her to the doctor.