As soon as you have a baby, everyone will tell you that you will never sleep again. Make sure you sleep now because you won’t be able soon enough! No one ever told them that sleep doesn’t store up for when you need it. So, when your baby sleeps for hours, and you rarely see her eyes, you wonder if everyone else was wrong, or is something wrong with your child.
Is it possible that your baby is sleeping too much? The truth is your child could sleep too much, but it is a rare possibility. Chances are you should thank the stars for your great luck.
Why is Sleep So Crucial?
Everyone loves to sleep, except for some babies. Most adults like to lay down in our beds and sleep the night away. Besides feeling good, there are important reasons why everyone, especially children, needs the right amount of sleep.
In the womb, a baby spends 16 to 20 hours per day asleep! Most of the time they sleep is spent in rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, which is an active sleep. A lot of brain activity takes place during REM. Once your child is welcomed into the world, they typically spend the 16 to 18 hours asleep, even though some stretch closer to the 20-hour mark. Over 50% of the time, they sleep during the day is spent in REM. As they age, the amount decrease.
Why is REM so important? Experts believe that it is the crucial sleep needed for proper brain development. Inactive sleep lets your body relax and rejuvenate. Active rest gives your baby’s brain a workout with stimulation. The right amount of sleep ensures our baby’s brain mature appropriately. It is also the time when their memories consolidate. Later in life, the correct amount of sleep ensures that your child’s cognitive abilities are high.
How Much Sleep Is Normal?
Before you rush to the doctor’s office, you have to learn about a baby’s sleeping pattern. It is so important to remember that each and every baby is different. You cannot compare children, even siblings. Babies require a lot of sleep; they are rapidly growing the first year of life. Even though it may seem like your baby never falls asleep at night, chances are they are getting more sleep than your realize.
In particular, a newborn can sleep up to 20 hours a day. During the first month of life, there is so much development taking place. It is nearly impossible for your baby to sleep too much. After all, growing is hard work! You may notice your newborn is extra fussy at night. This time is often called the “witching hours,” and they can be brutal. Luckily, it passes as your baby grows and their sleep becomes more consistent.
Regular sleep patterns for newborns just don’t happen. They may be awake one time more than you would think, and the next day could be a sleepy day. Unless your newborn never wakes up, even to eat, there is likely nothing wrong with your baby at all. In all likelihood, your child will sleep two or three hours, wake up to eat, then go right back to sleep again.
As your baby grows, the amount of sleep necessary decreases. Instead of sleeping after each feeding, she will have concentrated naps. Creating a routine when your child has set naptimes is helpful. Typically, between two and six months old, your baby will take three naps that are length, more than 45 minutes long.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has recommendations about what is healthy for children. Remember, all babies are individuals, so their sleep may not be perfectly in line. However, it gives you a baseline to figure out if your baby is sleeping too much.
- Newborns: 14 to 18 hours daily
- Age 4 to 12 months: 12 to 16 hours daily
- Age 1 to 2 years: 11 to 15 hours daily
As you can see, the ranges are wide. If your six-month-old is sleeping like a newborn and doesn’t have set wake times during the day, it would be wise to speak to your pediatrician. Sometimes, there are medical conditions that can lead to excess sleep.
The Tricky Newborn Stage
Newborns are hard! They have no set sleep pattern. Sometimes, your baby may decide to sleep all day and party all night. They apparently think that midnight, 2 am and 4 am are ideal times to party with mom instead of partying with their eyelids. Many babies come into the world with their days and nights totally mixed up! You may notice that your night owl sleeps all day long. In fact, you may have to wake them up during the day to feed. Then, at night, a switch is turned, and they are wide awake!
When a baby has their days and nights reversed, it can be so hard for parents. Our bodies aren’t programmed at way. Luckily, it doesn’t last forever, even if it feels like it. Typically, you have to try to get a good schedule and try to take naps during the day. Most babies get it all figured out without a month or so, even though it can feel like an eternity.
It is so important to remember that every baby has their sleeping personality. Some babies are light sleepers from the start. Individual babies sleep well for their entire life. Other children are difficult from the moment they emerge from the womb. Parents of more than one child can often attest to this fact. What works for your first child may not work for your second child. You shouldn’t expect your babies to sleep the same! So, if your second child ends up sleeping the days away, don’t worry that there is something wrong!
Sleeping After Newborn Phase
On the flip side, lack of sleep can result in medical issues. There is a delicate balance to maintain. The worry tends to happen once your child is no longer a newborn. You may be concerned about their development. How will she learn to crawl if all she does is sleep?
Typically, your baby will sleep 13 to 15 hours per day. As mentioned above, the normal range is 12 to 16 hours. Less than 12 hours a day isn’t enough for them. You may notice they are cranky, clingy, and they have a hard time getting to sleep. It seems odd, but an overtired baby is nearly impossible to get to sleep. Most sleep battles result from your child being too tired, not being too awake.
If your baby sleeps 12 hours at night and takes two two-hour naps, there isn’t any reason to be concerned. Even though it puts your child into the upper range of healthy, they have a consistent sleep pattern with set wake periods. There is plenty of time for your baby to explore, learn to crawl, sit up and hit all of those fun and exciting milestones!
Some parents may be concerned about this amount of sleep. Never feel awkward asking your doctor for their opinion. That is why they are there – to help you and to answer all of your questions! If anything, it will ease your mind about their sleeping patterns.
Sleeping and Feeding
One of the biggest concerns is your baby may not get enough nutrients to sustain their rapid growth if they are sleeping too much. Newborns are notoriously sleepy, but they also need to breastfeed every two hours to help mom create and sustain her milk supply. Finding the right balance between sleeping and eating is hard! They need to have both to grow properly, and that is our primary goal!
If you find that your baby, especially a newborn, isn’t eating every three hours, it may be a good idea to wake them up. Yes, it goes against every fiber in your bones! Never wake a sleeping baby, right? Wrong! Babies need to eat eight to 12 times each day; a newborn should be on the higher end of that scale. Inconsistent feedings could prevent your child from gaining enough weight, and that is a major problem.
Waking a baby is harder than it sounds. When they are tired, babies can sleep heavily. You may have to change their diaper, burp them, unswaddle them, or try to engage and communicate with your child. You may also have to wake your child up during naps sometimes. A super long nap can lead to terrible bedtimes!
Medical Reasons for Too Much Sleep
Yes, there could be a medical reason why your baby sleeps a lot. Some infants and toddlers do sleep more than recommended, but it tends to be more worrisome for older children. There is a chance your baby is sleeping too much due to a medical reason. Here are a few.
- Medical procedures can lead to excessive sleeping for the days following.
- Any infection in the body
- Kidney problems
- Hypersomnia is rare, but there is secondary and primary examples.
It is important to note jaundice. Many newborns experience jaundice, even a bit when they are born. It is more common in breastfed babies and tends to last longer. The cycle can feel daunting to beat, and sometimes the cycle can damage a successful breastfeeding relationship. Jaundice can make a newborn feel extra sleepy. They sleep more, but they need to breastfeed more. The best way to get rid of jaundice is allowing frequent, unrestricted breastfeeding to help eliminate the bilirubin from their body. However, jaundice, sleepy baby tends to nurse less enthusiastically and less frequently. If you are facing this problem, you need to wake up your child often to breastfeed!
Growth Spurts – Oh My!
If your baby suddenly starts to sleep more than normal, it could be due to a growth spurt or a mental “leap.” There are set periods of time when your baby may be undergoing rapid change, either physically or mentally. During this time, they may be excessively sleepy. If your child is facing a growth spurt, you may find they eat or sleep more. It is normal, and they will go back to normal soon!
Luckily, you can pinpoint certain times throughout a child’s life when they will hit a growth spurt. It won’t always happen directly on target. Sometimes, they come in a general time frame. If your infant suddenly sleeps more than they did a few days ago, see if their age matches up with these.
- First few days at home
- 7 to 10 days old
- 2 to 3 weeks
- 4 to 6 weeks
- 3 months
- 4 months
- 6 months
- 9 months
Sometimes, an increase in sleep has to do with meeting certain milestones. If your baby has recently mastered holding their head up or rolling over, they may stop sleeping or increase their sleeping patterns. All of this change takes a lot of energy out of our sweet babies!
Are You Just Lucky?
There are some things to remember from this all. First, every baby is different, so try not to compare kids. Newborns rarely sleep too much, even if they are sleeping 20 hours per day. They are rapidly growing, so wait before you worry! Babies have a large range of what is considered normal. Take a look at the averages and see where your child falls. If your child is older than six months and sleeps like a newborn, a call to the doctor won’t harm anything! However, if it is a new development, it could simply be a growth spurt.
More than likely, you are just incredibly lucky and hit the baby jackpot. Many parents, with the baby that never sleeps, would trade places in a heartbeat. If your child is gaining weight appropriately, eats well, and is healthy overall, there is little reason to be concerned. Even though you probably want more time to bond with them while they are awake, they will soon be mobile and sleeping a lot less. There will be days when you wish they still slept this much!