Parents of newborns often worry whether their child is sleeping too much or not getting enough sleep. It’s been a little more than a month since your baby’s earliest days, when he awakened only to let you know he was hungry. Although you probably see some changes in his sleep patterns now that he is 5 weeks old, his nutritional and developmental needs still dictate how long he sleeps and how much sleep he needs. Talk to your pediatrician if you have any concerns about your child's sleep needs. Infant sleep patterns vary, but child health professionals give parents a general idea of what to expect at different ages.
Infants and Sleep
The amount of time your infant sleeps increases gradually over her first 5 weeks, during which time her sleep patterns are influenced by several factors. Her tiny stomach does not hold much food, so she awakens often for feedings. She needs to eat enough to gain and maintain a healthy amount of weight over her first two to three weeks of life. Infants also need time to develop their internal clocks to match time outside the womb. Infants eventually begin to eat more during the day, which can affect how much they sleep at night. As your infant gets older and larger, she will have more awake hours. However, her sleep patterns will continue to follow her need for food.
Newborn to 4 Weeks
Newborn babies sleep a total of 16 to 20 hours day during the first two to three weeks of life. The total sleep hours are distributed evenly over night and day, with the infant waking every three to four hours for feedings. Breastfed babies may awaken as often as every two hours for feedings. If your newborn does not wake on his own, he should be awakened every three to four hours for feedings, according to the KidsHealth website. After he reaches 2 to 3 weeks of age, an infant’s stomach can hold enough food to allow him to sleep for four to five hours at a time.
5 Weeks and Beyond
A month-old infant sleeps about 8 1/2 daytime hours and 7 1/2 hours at night, with many naps during the 24-hour period. Your infant will continue to increase her nighttime sleep hours and remain awake for longer periods during the day. You can make sure she gets enough sleep by establishing a ritual she learns to recognize as the prelude to sleep. Put her to bed when she becomes drowsy, but before she falls asleep. Help her to calm down and relax by rubbing her back or humming a song, but stop before she actually falls asleep so that she falls asleep on her own. Use daytime hours for stimulating activities, like talking or singing to the baby.
Questions for Your Pediatrician
Talk with your pediatrician if your baby’s sleep pattern is far outside the range of what is considered normal. Tell your pediatrician if your baby does not respond to feedings or if you find it is difficult to wake him. Tell your doctor if the baby is unusually irritable or has difficulty falling asleep. At 2 months old, most infants sleep for six to eight hours during the night. By 3 months of age, most babies sleep a total of 13 hours a day, with four to five hours in the day and eight to nine hours at night. Let your doctor know if your baby does not sleep through the night by the age of 4 months.