As a new parent, the sleep cycles of a baby may come as a shock to you. Sure, we all hear about sleepless nights and newborns waking up frequently with no rhyme or rhythm. But to experience it firsthand, and for the first time, is a whole new world.

With a new baby, it can seem like their sleep cycles are confusing and left up to nothing more than random chance. However, there are some basic guidelines to mark how much and how long your baby should be sleeping at specific times in their growth. Below is a short timeline of what to expect in regards to sleep cycles.

Newborn – 6-8 Weeks

This is the period you’ve heard all about. The part where new parents seemingly cannot sleep for more than mere minutes at a time. But that doesn’t seem right, since newborns typically sleep 16-17 hours a day. It is. While they may rack up that amount of sleep time in a full day, newborns typically do not sleep for more than 2-4 hours at a time. Newborns have such short sleep periods because they experience far more rapid eye movement (REM) than adults. The high level of REM is due to the massive development of the brain happening post birth. Their sleep patterns are very irregular, which is what keeps new parents up all night. This is normal and will subside after 6-8 weeks.

6-8 Weeks – 4-6 Months

Your baby will begin to sleep for longer periods of time. They will typically require less sleep during the day and more at night, though they will still wake up at night for feedings. Babies normally start sleeping for 8-12 hours a night, or sleeping fully through the night, by the time they’re 6 months old. Some babies with lucky parents start sleeping through the night at 6 weeks old, so this is not something to worry about. The numbers become a little more ambiguous during this period, as every baby is different. However, to properly encourage your baby to sleep through the night early on, you can refer to these tips.

6 Months Onward

Your baby should be sleeping through the night with little to no disturbances, however it is not unheard of to have babies wake up during the night through the toddler age. This is normal, but often discouraged by parents who wish to sleep through the night. As referenced above, you can follow these tips for ways to properly encourage your new baby to develop good sleeping habits so that they can sleep through the night early on.

The time period where newborns wake up frequently through the night isn’t very long – just 6-8 weeks – but can seem like an eternity to sleep-deprived parents. Hopefully the timeline above and the referenced tips can give you some peace of mind when considering the sleep patterns and behavior of your newborn.

Camille Barron
Camille Barron
Camille is a New York native living in Nashville, Tennessee. She loves yoga, running, nutrition, and fashion, and is grateful for the opportunity to share important information with parents. You can check out more of her writing on her personal blog at www.serialoutfitrepeater.com.