A newborn needs about 17 hours of sleep each day for normal growth; most newborns average 18 to 20 hours of sleep each day. Most babies sleep in short naps lasting 2 to 4 hours. For the first few days your baby may be very tired from being born and sleep more than average. Therefore, to be sure he is getting enough to eat, his doctor may want you to wake him every 2 to 4 hours for feedings. Your baby should be fully awake when you feed him. If you think your baby is sleeping so much he isn’t eating enough or you have a hard time waking him for feeding, talk to your doctor.
When you lay him down to sleep, always place your baby on his back. As you lay him down, remember “back to sleep.” Putting your baby down to sleep on his back decreases the chances of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and is particularly important for the first 6 months. Letting babies sleep on their side or stomach has been strongly linked to SIDS. Never put your baby on a pillow to sleep. Avoid putting toys or extra blankets in the crib. Fluffy comforters and water-beds should also be avoided.
The baby’s crib should have a firm mattress with a tight-fitting sheet. Keep his face and head uncovered while he’s sleeping so he can breathe easily. Avoid soft blankets, pillows, or any other extra bedding because they could block his breathing. Keep toys and stuffed animals out of his crib too.
When possible, keep your baby warm with a sleeper or pajamas, not a blanket. If you do use a blanket, place your baby so his feet touch the foot of the crib and tuck a thin blanket along the sides and foot of the crib mattress the blanket should cover him only as far as his chest, below his arms. Keep his arms out of the blanket. Don’t overheat your baby with too many clothes or blankets.
Be sure to tell day-care workers and babysitters about these guidelines. Show them how you want your baby to sleep. Babies who are used to sleeping on their backs are at higher risk for SIDS if someone puts them to sleep on their stomachs by mistake.
Sleeping on his back is important, but your baby also needs to spend some time on his stomach to help strengthen the neck and shoulder muscles, help him learn to control his head, and keep him from getting flat spots on the back of his head. So when your baby is awake and you can watch him, put him on his stomach for a while.
Most babies begin developing a sleep-wake pattern after the first few days. Some babies get into a sleeping pattern right away. Other babies wake up off and on all through the night for as long as six months. While your baby is developing a pattern, you can get him to sleep longer at night by waking him during the day whenever his nap lasts longer than 3 hours. To wake him, talk or sing softly to him. Avoid tiptoeing around the house while your baby is sleeping. Let him get used to sleeping with everyday household noises. A night, put your baby back down as soon as you have changed and fed him. Keep the lights dim and the nighttime routine quiet and without play. Develop a nighttime routine to let your baby know that a long nap is coming. It’s OK for your baby to fuss a little before he falls asleep—you don’t need to pick him up every time he fusses. It’s good for him to learn to soothe himself to sleep.
Try to get some needed rest for yourself by sleeping when your baby sleeps. At nighttime feedings, ask your partner to bring your baby to you while you stay in bed and rest. When the feeding is over, ask your partner to take your baby back to his crib.
If you want your baby to be close to you, bring his bassinet or crib into your bedroom. Your baby should not sleep in the bed with your or your other children. Your baby could suffocate or be injured from someone rolling on him. Your baby should not sleep on a couch or chair—he may slide between the pillows or cushions and suffocate or be injured from rolling on to the floor.
Tummy Time When Your Baby is Awake
Your baby should sleep on his back, but when he is awake, be sure to let him spend some time on his tummy. Being on his tummy will prevent a flat spot from forming on the back of his head and helps to build muscles in his neck, shoulders and arms. Never leave your baby alone when he is on his tummy. Your baby can spend time on his tummy:
• if you carry him in a football hold, supporting his chest and body with your arm and his head with your hand.
• if you carry him over your shoulder, this also gives him snuggle time, too!
• if you place him on his tummy on your chest or stomach facing your face. As he is able to lift his head, he can see you.
• if you lay him on his tummy across your lap or knees
Change his position during the day and don’t leave him for long periods of time in a baby carrier or baby swing.
Maintaining Normal Body Temperature
Helping your newborn keep his body temperature normal is very important. Calories that he needs for growth can be spent trying to keep warm or stay cool. A newborn’s body temperature goes up and down quickly as the temperature around him changes. Therefore, how you dress him and where you place his crib or bassinet plays a big part in keeping your baby’s body temperature normal. If his crib is in a cool or drafty room, under a ceiling fan or air conditioning vent, your baby can lose body heat. His body will try to create warmth by using up body fat and calories needed for normal, healthy growth. Placing the crib near a heater or in front of a sunny window can make your baby too warm.
If your baby is fussy and can’t be soothed with milk or by being held, he may be too warm or too cold. If there is an overhead or ceiling fan in your baby’s room, keep it on a low setting and put the crib so the fan does not blow directly on your baby. Keeping the room temperature between 67°F and 72°F should keep your baby comfortable. Even when your baby’s body temperature is normal, his hands and feet may feel cool to you. This is because his circulatory system may need more time to fully develop.