A Newborn Sleep Schedule for an Optimal Day/Night Rhythm

Author Name: Heidi Holvoet, PhD

Intro Newborn 1-4 months 4-12 months

The baby sleep schedule for a newborn comes quite naturally at first. Ideal now is to support her natural newborn sleep patterns and gently instill a good day-and-night rhythm .

Especially during the first days, sometimes weeks, most babies are barely awake when not feeding. They'll feed, sleep, feed, sleep, etc.

Most babies

Please don't feel uncomfortable if your little one does not seem to behave like "most babies". When I mention "most babies" I mean what is typical, on average, at that age.

But of course there are always many many cases on either side of the average. And those babies are still very normal! As a comfort, remember: "most babies" do not behave like "most babies" ...

Whether feeding on demand or on a feeding schedule , the feeding times vary quite a bit in these first weeks. Sleeping simply folds around feeding ... and you probably find a newborn sleep schedule to be far away.

In fact, it's better not to interfere with the newborn development too much while she is still fully establishing her newborn sleep patterns .

Sleeping newborn in pink

But what *is* important is to give your newborn a feel of day and night. A baby is not born with the day/night rhythm well established. It is the first thing to be learned about sleep.

Use these steps to help your baby discover the difference between day and night :

  1. Choose your day and night times.

    No need to be very strict but roughly decide on a time when the day starts and ends. For example your day could start around 7am and end at around 7pm. Each feeding in between will be a night feeding.

  2. Day/Night Cues - Top tip!

    Keep lights dim and activity to the lowest during these night feedings . In other words: during the night, keep it functional: not too many smiles, not much talking, change her diaper only if really necessary ...

    Leave active feeding and playing sessions to the day - when I bet you'll feel more like it yourself as well. This will be a key part of each baby sleep schedule at any age.

  3. Of course you choose times that suit you well.

    And no worries: this is not about deciding when your baby will go to bed when older. It's just for you to have a regularity guideline right now. And for baby to get into the rhythm.

  4. Avoid waking your baby up for a feeding.

    If she usually feeds at a given time but is fast asleep, it's best to let her sleep. She needs time to find her sleep/wake pattern and that is best developed naturally.

  5. Observe your baby.

    Look for sleepy signs , listen to her breath when she just fell asleep and also when she is in a deep sleep, how does she wake up (rubbing her eyes, turning her head left-to-right, ...)? This will help you arrange a good newborn sleep schedule .

    No worries if you can't seem to read and interpret your newborn baby's signs easily!

    To tell you the truth: most parents find that very hard to do - even if many books make us believe "good moms and dads" should.

    Just observe, it's fun to do and somehow you do learn from it! Trust your instincts, somehow you will get a feel for when she needs to sleep, or is not tired at all, or overtired. And you'll use this as she grows out of the newborn phase ...

Intro Newborn 1-4 months 4-12 months

Article Author: Heidi Holvoet, PhD - Founder, senior sleep consultant

Heidi Holvoet, PhD

Heidi Holvoet, PhD, is the founder of the Baby Sleep Advice website and movement, an award-winning author, baby & toddler sleep consultant with 15+ years experience as well as a certified lactation counselor.

Over the years, Heidi has received several awards inluding a Mom's Choice Award (MCA) and National Parenting Awards (NAPPA) for her Baby Sleep Advice website, programs and books. Also, Baby Sleep Advice was awarded "Most Trusted Infant's Sleep Solutions Company 2023" in the Benelux Enterprise Awards 2023.

Heidi continually conducts personal research and participates in continued education and in that way stays up to date with current scientific and pyschosocial infant care.

Association of Professional Sleep Consultants

She is also a member of the Association of Professional Sleep Consultants of which she was one of the earliest contributors. She obtained her PhD degree in physics at the University of Ghent in Belgium.

Heidi is passionate about helping babies and their parents sleep more and better, with her trademark approach that has been proven and praised time and again by parents worldwide to be effective and truly no-tears. Respect for you as a parent and your baby, is at the heart of Heidi's warm and kind support. Her approach always keeps in mind a baby's needs and abilities at any given age, is based on pediatric science and the most up to date knowledge in infant care and sleep science.

As well as the award-winning baby sleep programs, Heidi offers popular 1:1 consults and easy-access 30-minute SOS Sleep sessions.