As a new parent, you may be surprised to learn that your newborn, who seems to need you every minute of the day, actually sleeps about 16 hours or more! Newborns typically sleep for periods of 3–4 hours. Don't expect yours to sleep through the night — the digestive system of babies is so small that they need nourishment every few hours and should be awakened if they haven't been fed for 5 hours (or more frequently if your doctor is concerned about weight gain).
When can you expect your baby to sleep through the night? Many babies sleep through the night (between 6–8 hours) at 3 months of age, but if yours doesn't, it's not a cause for concern. Like adults, babies must develop their own sleep patterns and cycles, so if your newborn is gaining weight and appears healthy, don't despair if he or she hasn't slept through the night at 3 months.
It's important to place babies on their backs to sleep to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). In addition, remove all fluffy bedding, quilts, sheepskins, stuffed animals, and pillows from the crib to ensure that your baby doesn't get tangled in them or suffocate. Also be sure to alternate the position of your baby's head from night to night (first right, then left, and so on) to prevent the development of a flat spot on one side of the head.
Even though you may feel anxious about handling a newborn, in a few short weeks you'll develop a routine and be parenting like a pro! If you have questions or concerns, ask your doctor to recommend resources that can help you and your baby grow together.