Baby Care Blog

Newborn Baby Sleep Guide

Rachael Kirkwood

Newborn Baby Sleep Guide

Written by
Rachael Kirkwood

How to Sleep Baby Safely

Welcoming a new baby into the family brings immense joy and responsibility. As parents, caregivers, or loved ones, ensuring the safety and well-being of the little one becomes a top priority from day one. One crucial aspect of infant care is establishing safe sleep practices to protect against Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and other sleep-related risks.

What is SIDS?

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, commonly known as SIDS, is the sudden and unexplained death of an otherwise healthy infant, typically during sleep. Despite extensive research, the exact cause of SIDS remains unknown. However, certain risk factors have been identified, making it possible to reduce the occurrence of SIDS through preventive measures.

Importance of Safe Sleep Practices

Implementing safe sleep practices is vital in reducing the risk of SIDS and ensuring a safe sleeping environment for babies. These practices not only promote better sleep but also provide peace of mind for parents and caregivers.

  • Place your baby on their back to sleep, in a cot in the same room as you, for the first 6 months.

  • Don't smoke during pregnancy or breastfeeding, and don't let anyone smoke in the same room as your baby.

  • Don't share a bed with your baby if you have been drinking alcohol, if you take drugs, or you're a smoker.

  • Never sleep with your baby on a sofa or armchair.

  • Don't let your baby get too hot or cold.

  • Keep your baby's head uncovered. Their blanket should be tucked in no higher than their shoulders.

  • Place your baby in the "feet to foot" position, with their feet at the end of the cot or moses basket.

The risks of co-sleeping

The safest place for your baby to sleep for the first 6 months is in a cot in the same room as you.

It's especially important not to share a bed with your baby if you or your partner:

  • are smokers (no matter where or when you smoke and even if you never smoke in bed)
  • have recently drunk alcohol
  • have taken medication or drugs that make you sleep more heavily

The risks of co-sleeping are also increased if your baby:

  • was premature (born before 37 weeks), or
  • had a low birth weight (less than 2.5kg or 5.5lb)

As well as a higher risk of SIDS, there's also a risk you might roll over in your sleep and suffocate your baby.

Or your baby could get caught between the wall and the bed, or roll out of an adult bed and be injured.

Never sleep with a baby on a sofa or armchair

It's lovely to have your baby with you for a cuddle or a feed, but sleeping with your baby on a sofa or armchair is linked to a higher risk of SIDS.

It's safest to put your baby back in their cot before you go to sleep.

Don't let anyone smoke in the same room as your baby

Babies exposed to cigarette smoke before and after birth are at an increased risk of SIDS. Don't let anyone smoke in the house, including visitors.

Ask anyone who needs to smoke to go outside. Don't take your baby into smoky places.

If you're a smoker, sharing a bed with your baby increases the risk of cot death.

Get help and support if you want to quit smoking

Baby Sleep Temperatures

Overheating can increase the risk of SIDS. Babies can overheat because of too much bedding or clothing, or because the room's too hot.

  • When you check your baby, make sure they're not too hot. If your baby's sweating or their tummy feels hot to the touch, take off some of the bedding. Don't worry if their hands or feet feel cool – this is normal.

  • It's easier to adjust for the temperature by using layers of lightweight blankets. Remember, a folded blanket counts as 2 blankets. Lightweight, well-fitting baby sleeping bags are a good choice, too.  

  • Babies don't need hot rooms. All-night heating is rarely necessary. Keep the room at a temperature that's comfortable for you at night – about 18C (65F) is ideal.

  • If it's very warm, your baby may not need any bedclothes other than a sheet.

  • Even in winter, most babies who are unwell or feverish don't need extra clothes.

  • Babies should never sleep with a hot water bottle or electric blanket, next to a radiator, heater or fire, or in direct sunshine.

  • Babies lose excess heat through their heads, so make sure their heads can't be covered by bedclothes while they're asleep.

  • Remove hats and extra clothing as soon as you come indoors or enter a warm car, bus or train, even if it means waking your baby.

Don't let your baby's head become covered

Babies whose heads are covered with bedding are at an increased risk of SIDS.

To prevent your baby wriggling down under the covers, place them in the "feet to foot" position. This means their feet are at the end of the crib, cot or Moses basket.

How often should my baby sleep?

In the first 6 months of life, babies go through rapid development and their sleep patterns evolve. Here's a breakdown of sleep patterns during this period:

Newborn (0-1 month):

  • Newborns typically sleep for 14-17 hours per day, but this sleep is fragmented into short periods, usually lasting 2-4 hours at a time.

  • They often have irregular sleep-wake cycles and may not yet distinguish between day and night.

  • Babies at this stage wake frequently to feed, with feedings occurring every 2-3 hours around the clock.

  • 1-3 months:

  • Babies in this age range continue to sleep for 14-17 hours per day, but they may start to show slightly longer stretches of sleep at night, up to 4-5 hours.

  • They may begin to develop more consistent sleep-wake patterns, with more alert periods during the day and longer periods of sleep at night.

  • Daytime naps may become more predictable, though they still vary in length and frequency.

  • Babies may still wake up frequently to feed, but some may begin to sleep for longer stretches at night, especially toward the end of this period.

3-6 months:

  • By 3 months, babies usually sleep for around 14-16 hours per day. Nighttime sleep may become more consolidated, with longer stretches of sleep, typically up to 6 hours at a time.

  • Babies may start to develop a more consistent sleep routine and may begin to sleep for longer stretches during the night and take fewer but longer naps during the day.

  • Many babies start to recognise day and night and may begin to settle into a more predictable sleep schedule, though some variability is still normal.

  • Around 4-6 months, babies may experience changes in their sleep patterns due to developmental milestones such as rolling over, which can temporarily disrupt sleep. They may also begin to show signs of teething, which can affect sleep patterns.

Please note that while these guidelines provide a general overview of typical sleep patterns for babies in their first 6 months, not all babies will follow this exact trajectory. Every baby is different, and individual sleep needs and patterns can vary widely. If your baby doesn't fit these descriptions perfectly, don't worry! It's entirely normal for babies to have their own unique sleep habits and rhythms. If you have concerns about your baby's sleep, always consult with your pediatrician for personalised guidance and support.

During the first 6 months, it's essential for parents to respond promptly to their baby's sleep cues, establish a consistent bedtime routine, and create a safe sleep environment to promote healthy sleep habits.

What if my baby seems unwell and is sleeping too much?

Babies often have minor illnesses that you don't need to worry about.

Give your baby plenty of fluids to drink and don't let them get too hot. If your baby sleeps a lot, wake them up regularly for a drink.

It can be difficult to judge whether an illness is more serious and needs urgent medical attention.

See spotting the signs of serious illness for guidance on when to get help.

Reference from NHS website

For more baby, toddler and parenting information see our Baby & Toddler Hub.

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