Newborns should sleep for most of their day—just not all at once—and never more than 2-4 hours at one time. Newborns typically sleep 14-18 hours a day after birth, and then between 12-14 hours a day in the first month.
Wake Your Baby for Breastfeeding
If you had a long labor, received pitocin (the medication used to induce labor) or pain medication, or if your baby has molding or bruising of the head—or was born preterm, it’s particularly important to wake your baby for feedings every 2-3 hours during the first few days. Your baby may be very sleepy in the newborn period but baby should never go more than 4 hours between feedings.
Baby will need to nurse at least 8-12 times a day; and every baby is different. Some may feed less and some more frequently; some may get their days and nights mixed up—keeping you up all night and wanting to sleep through the daylight.
As you learn your baby’s sleep cycles, you’ll feel the most rested—if that’s possible, if you sleep when baby does and be up and awake when baby is too. This time won’t last forever, but sleep deprivation is one of the hardest things new moms cope with in those first weeks after birth.
Skip a Schedule
Baby is unlikely to keep any kind of schedule; and experts say never put your baby on a schedule. Rather, baby eats when baby is hungry; sleeps when sleepy. Learn your baby’s hunger cues so that you can rouse her to nurse (see “Baby is Always Hungry!”).
Your baby may not wake up for feedings, and letting baby sleep more than 4 hours at a time can lead to weight loss and dehydration. These problems make baby even sleepier, so you risk beginning a difficult problem if baby doesn’t eat every 2-3 hours.
Talk to your nurse, baby’s healthcare provider or a lactation consultant if your baby seems too sleepy, doesn’t want to nurse as often as expected or falls asleep at the breasts with less than 10 minutes of active sucking and swallowing.
NOTE: Baby needs encouragement to nurse if he or she breastfeeds less than 8 times in 24 hours!