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Why wont my newborn sleep at night?

It’s normal for newborns to have their days and nights mixed up in the first few weeks. Not sleeping at night is frustrating, but there are some things you can try to help your baby learn the difference between night and day and get into a sleep routine.

Why won’t my newborn sleep at night?

There are a few key reasons why your newborn may not be sleeping at night yet:

  • Newborns don’t know the difference between day and night. They sleep on and off around the clock in the early weeks. Their biological clock that regulates sleep/wake cycles takes time to develop.
  • Hunger. Newborns need to eat frequently, often every 2-3 hours. Nighttime feedings are normal, so hunger could be waking your baby.
  • Physical discomfort. Issues like diaper rash, gas, or reflux can all interrupt sleep.
  • Stimulation and noise. Newborns are easily startled – lights, noises, motion etc could all be preventing quality nighttime sleep.
  • Wrong day/night association. If there’s a lot of activity and stimulation during the day, your newborn may get the message that daytime is for awake time.

While it can be frustrating to be up with a wide awake newborn in the middle of the night, remember that it’s developmentally normal at this age. With time and consistency, your newborn’s biological clock will develop and their sleep patterns will regulate.

When will my newborn start sleeping at night?

There is a wide range of normal when it comes to newborn sleep. Some babies start sleeping longer stretches at night (5-6 hour stretches) by 6-8 weeks. Many don’t consolidate night sleep until 3-4 months. Here are some general newborn nighttime sleep milestones:

  • 0-6 weeks: erratic sleep around the clock, waking every 2-3 hours to feed
  • 6-8 weeks: may have one 4-5 hour stretch of sleep, but still waking multiple times to feed
  • 3 months: night sleep consolidates, may have one long stretch of 6+ hours
  • 4-6 months: only waking 1-2 times per night to feed

Every baby is different though. Prematurity, health issues, and temperament can all impact sleep patterns. Try not to compare your baby’s sleep habits to averages or other babies – focus on figuring out what works best for your unique little one.

Tips to help your newborn sleep better at night

While you can’t force a newborn into a set sleep schedule right away, there are some things you can do to encourage nighttime sleep:

  1. Establish a calming bedtime routine. A predictable sequence of activities like swaddling, rocking, and quiet singing can help cue your baby that it’s time to sleep.
  2. Make daytime playful and stimulating. Getting sunlight, playing, and keeping the environment lively during the day can help your newborn learn that day is for being awake.
  3. Limit daytime sleep. Having consistent designated nap times instead of letting your baby sleep all day may help them get more nighttime shut-eye.
  4. Keep nights boring, dark and quiet. Minimize stimulation and light at night to send the signal it’s time for sleep.
  5. Watch wake windows. Newborns are usually only awake for 30-60 minutes between naps. Tracking this can prevent overtiredness.
  6. Swaddle your baby. Swaddling provides comfort and prevents startling that can wake your baby.
  7. Use white noise. Soothing white noise can muffle noises that may disturb light newborn sleep.

Don’t expect a strict schedule right away. Just focus on creating the building blocks of healthy sleep habits. Over time your newborn will connect their biological rhythms to their environment.

When to Talk to Your Pediatrician

While it’s normal for newborns to wake frequently at night, talk to your pediatrician if:

  • Your baby is still waking hourly at night by 6-8 weeks old.
  • Night sleep is not consolidating by 4-6 months.
  • You have concerns about your baby’s sleep safety.
  • Your baby has signs of sleep issues like difficulty settling or short naps.
  • Daytime sleepiness, weight changes, or behavior changes indicate a sleep problem.

Some health issues like reflux, allergies, sleep apnea or neurological conditions can affect sleep. Your pediatrician can help identify if an underlying issue is disturbing your baby’s sleep.

Common newborn sleep mistakes

It’s easy for sleep deprivation to catch up with new parents. Be aware of these common newborn sleep mistakes:

  • Letting your newborn nap too much during the day – this can interfere with night sleep.
  • Not watching wake windows – newborns get overtired easily which affects sleep.
  • Not having a calming bedtime routine – this helps signal to baby that it’s time to sleep.
  • Carrying baby around to get them to sleep – this prevents self-soothing which is key to good sleep.
  • Not managing stimulation and noise in baby’s sleep environment.
  • Trying to put baby on a strict schedule too early.

Remember that newborn sleep is constantly changing and improving. Stay flexible, focused on healthy habits, and talk with your pediatrician if you have any concerns.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it normal for a newborn to sleep 20 hours a day?

Yes, it is completely normal and healthy for a newborn to sleep around 20 hours per day. Newborns have short wake windows and need to sleep in short bursts around the clock. This will gradually consolidate into longer, more predictable sleep as baby gets older.

What can I do if my newborn fights sleep?

Common tips for a newborn fighting sleep include swaddling them snugly, using white noise, making sure the room is dark, rocking or swaying gently, and watching for tired signs so they don’t get overtired. Check for signs of reflux or discomfort that could be disrupting sleep. Be patient and consistent with sleep habits.

How do I get my breastfed baby to sleep longer stretches at night?

Make sure baby is taking in plenty of milk during day feeds and consider adding a dream feed. Allow at least one long stretch (4-5 hours) per night without feeding. At this age babies can go this long without eating at night while continuing to gain weight well. Gradually add in longer stretches as your schedule allows.

What should I do if my newborn always falls asleep while feeding?

This is common. Try undressing baby down to the diaper, tickling feet, singing, etc to keep them alert during feeds. Avoid feeding in dark, quiet rooms. Burp frequently and change diapers mid-feed if needed. Consider shifting day feeds slightly earlier so the last 1-2 feeds are before bedtime.

Is my newborn getting enough sleep?

In the first 3 months, newborns need 14-17 hours of sleep in a 24 hour period. So if your baby sleeps around 15 total hours but split into short chunks, that is developmentally normal and appropriate. If total sleep time is significantly less than 14 hours at this age, consult your pediatrician.


It’s hard not getting that solid night’s sleep as a new parent. But try to remember that erratic sleep is temporary and developmentally appropriate for your newborn. Focus on consistency, healthy sleep habits, and nighttime comfort. Your baby’s sleep will improve dramatically over the next weeks and months. If you have any concerns, your pediatrician can provide guidance tailored to your child.