Do newborn babies need a sleep schedule?

Updated Nov 03, 2022
Infant and Newborn Baby Sleep Schedule

Newborns can benefit from routines, but we don’t recommend following a strict schedule until they’re older. There’s a lot of variability in what babies are developmentally ready for during this period, and much of the standard baby sleep wisdom doesn’t always apply to babies under 3 months old. Plus, you’ve already got a lot going on. You’re also busy feeding, nurturing, and getting to know this new little human! Let's dive into baby sleep schedules.


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We recommend waiting until at least 6 months of age before attempting a “by the clock” schedule — that is, a schedule where sleep times are based on the clock. Before 6 months, it’s best to base sleep times on sleepy cues and wake windows.

Newborns, in particular, tend to have fairly unpredictable sleep patterns and short wake windows, so strict schedules aren’t realistic for most babies in this age group. 

Why do we recommend waiting? The circadian rhythm regulates the timing of bedtime by about 3 months of age but isn’t fully developed until about 6 months old. Sleep becomes more predictable between 3 and 6 months of age, although many babies will continue to have a lot of irregularity when it comes to feeding and nap durations.

At one month of age, we hope to see at least 15.5 hours of sleep in a 24-hour period. Most babies are able to comfortably stay awake for only 30 - 90 minutes, so expect lots of daytime sleep. It’s very common to feel like all you’re doing is changing diapers and feeding your baby before it’s time for them to sleep again!

[Note: for children who were born early, we go by their adjusted age for sleep development.]

Here’s a sample of what your newborn's day may look like in the first 3 months. However, don’t be concerned if your day looks quite different. Your newborn will spend most of their time in light sleep and sleep for short periods of 30 minutes to 2 hours in the daytime. We can't control or predict when deep sleep will happen or how long naps will be until they’re older.

1 month old sleep time, nap time and bedtime schedule (sample)

Note: Sleep needs vary by child, and this chart should only be viewed as an example.

Read more on the 1 month old sleep schedule.

2 month old sleep time, nap time and bedtime schedule (sample)

Note: Sleep needs vary by child, and this chart should be viewed as an example.

Read more on the 2 month old sleep schedule.

3 month old sleep time, nap time and bedtime schedule (sample)

Note: Sleep needs vary by child, and this chart should be viewed as an example.

Read more on the 3 month old sleep schedule.

Here are samples of what your infant's sleep schedule may look like from 3 months to 1 year old.

If your baby is sleeping more during the day than at night, limit each individual nap to 2 hours. Light exposure is important for the establishment of normal circadian rhythms. Keep lights on during the day, and make it dark at night. This will help sort day/night confusion. 

Understand that irregular sleep patterns are normal and developmentally appropriate at this age. This will improve with time, daytime routines, and the right foundation.

Babies don’t always fall asleep when they’re tired — counterintuitive, we know! For easier naps and bedtimes, observe your baby's sleep patterns and identify signs of sleepiness before your baby becomes too tired. These cues can include yawning, irritability, and getting a glazed/faraway look.

Newborns can comfortably stay awake for short periods of time. Your baby may only be able to stay awake for 30 - 45 minutes in between some naps before needing to sleep again. Other times, they may be able to remain awake for 90 minutes. 

Hungry babies have a hard time sleeping. This is a good thing! We recommend feeding your baby when they’re hungry — whether they’re breastfed or bottle fed.

Try using rhythmic shushing and swaying to calm your fussy baby. Keep the environment comfortable, peaceful, and slightly darker when your baby becomes irritable and before sleep times.

Additionally, you may have some worries about your newborn - here are newborn worries you don't need to lose sleep over.

Newborn sleep schedule FAQ

Q: What time should newborns go to bed?

A:

 It’s common for newborns to have late bedtimes, and we recommend following their lead. They may not be ready for night sleep until 9:00 PM or even much later. Bedtime should shift to an earlier time between 3 and 4 months old.

Q: Where should a newborn sleep during the day?

A:

 Newborns are pretty versatile and can generally fall asleep in a variety of spaces. Aim for at least one nap per day in your desired sleep space (such as their crib or bassinet). Other naps can be elsewhere, as long as it’s safe. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends placing babies on their back, using a flat, firm sleep surface, until 12 months of age.

Q: How long should newborns be awake?

A:

 In the first month, newborn babies may only last for 30 - 90 minutes of awake time before needing their next nap. By 2 months of age, they can stretch this from 45 minutes to 1 hour 45 minutes. Expect shorter wake windows at the beginning of the day and longer wake windows before bed.

Q: How do I know if my newborn is sleeping too much?

A:

 Newborn babies sleep a lot in total, but for only 3 to 4 hours at a stretch. They typically need 14 - 17 total hours in 24 hours, making up about 70% of their time in the first 2 months of life, but sleep patterns can vary. According to the National Sleep Foundation recommendations, 19 hours is too much for this age group. If you find your baby isn’t waking for feedings, is unusually drowsy, or you’re worried for other reasons, then seek advice from a trusted health professional.

Q: When to start a routine with a newborn baby?

A:

 It’s never too early to start introducing flexible routines, so both you and baby know what's coming next. A popular newborn daytime routine is to EAT, PLAY, SLEEP (and repeat). After they wake, turn on the light, offer a feed, and engage in a short activity. This may include tummy time or just a diaper change before they’re ready for sleep again.

Q: What about pre-sleep routines for newborns?

A:

 By 2 months old, many babies will benefit from short pre-sleep routines. Introducing a consistent routine before naps and bedtime can help cue that it’s time to sleep and make the transition to sleep easier. Choose a few activities to do in the same order each night before bedtime, e.g., feeding, story or lullabies, and a clean diaper and pajamas before turning the lights off.

Don’t let another sleepless night pass you by

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Note: The content on this site is for informational purposes only and should not replace medical advice from your doctor, pediatrician, or medical professional. If you have questions or concerns, you should contact a medical professional.