Newborn Sleep Schedules for the First 3 Months

by | Mar 1, 2020

Getting your baby on a consistent schedule is crucial to establishing a daily routine and developing good sleep habits. Starting early will help your whole family get accustomed to following a schedule with your baby.

Check out the 8 Rules You Must Follow for the Best Newborn Sleep

Use these sample newborn schedule for your 1-12 week old baby to get them on a consistent sleep routine during the first 3 months of life.

Daily Cycles

The first thing you must know about these sleep schedules is to use the feed, wake, sleep cycle. At any given age, your baby will have a certain amount of these cycles per day.

For example, every time your newborn has a feeding, wake time, then a nap, that counts as 1 cycle. When your baby is first born, he or she will have 9 cycles throughout the day and they will gradually decrease as the weeks go on.

Feed:

Make sure that your baby is waking up every 2.5-3 hours to eat during the day. Do not let them sleep longer than a 3 hour nap or they may have trouble sleeping at night or will not get enough feedings in per day.

During each feed-wake-sleep cycle, you want to ensure that your baby is getting a full feeding. Newborns tend to fall asleep while eating, so you will need to wake them up to keep going until they stop on their own.

How to keep them awake long enough to feed:

  • Rub their feet and hands
  • Wipe their forehead, neck, and face with a wet wipe or wet washcloth
  • Walk around while feeding your baby
  • Change their diaper
  • Strip baby down to their diaper and un-swaddle or wrap them so they are not too warm and snug
  • Burp thoroughly when you change nursing sides, or halfway through with the bottle
  • Take breaks from feeding to raise them high in the air and let them come down
  • Make a lot of noise around them

If your baby has a full belly and ate for the recommended amount of time, they should start to feel drowsy. If they don’t get a full feeding, they may wake up from a nap within 10-15 minutes and still be hungry.

Wake:

The basic premise of this routine is to give your baby awake time right after a feeding so that they don’t fall asleep while eating. 

Newborns and infants typically get lulled to sleep from nursing or bottles and feedings make them very tired. However, the goal is to allow them to fall asleep from an awake state and not directly from a feeding.

If your baby has awake time before they fall asleep, they will understand how to put themselves to sleep on their own. If you let them fall asleep while eating, they will always rely on you or milk to put themselves back to sleep. 

From the early days, you should begin waking up your baby if they have fallen asleep during a feeding. Use the strategies listed above to get them awake if they don’t arouse easily.

20-40 minutes is sufficient awake time in the first couple of weeks and you can work up from there. Once your baby is about 4-6 weeks old, they should be able to stay awake longer. At that point, 45-60 minutes of wake time is appropriate between feeding and sleep. 

Sleep:

After their awake time, you should attempt to put them down for a nap EVERY cycle except for the last. So if your baby has 7 feedings, they should have 5 naps. Down to 6 feedings around 3 months? 4 naps.

If your baby only sleeps 10-15 minutes or doesn’t sleep at all, it’s ok! You’re still helping to establish a consistent nap cycle.

Don’t let your baby sleep more than 3 hours during nap times because not only will you have to fit in all your feedings, but your baby may keep confusing day and night if they’re sleeping long periods during the day, but not at night.

If your baby has fallen asleep in your arms, just give them a little nudge to wake them up before putting them down. If the most you can do is just get them to open their eyes and stretch for 3 minutes, that’s a good start.

Always make sure they are a little bit drowsy when you put them down.

You don’t want them to be wide awake because in most cases that won’t work for your baby. If they need a little help getting drowsy, you can rock them, shush them, walk with them, swaddle them, or give a pacifier. 

You’ll notice soon that their eyes will start to get very heavy and they’ll begin dozing off. BEFORE they completely fall asleep is when you should set them down

Once you place them down awake, if they start to get really crazy irritable, pick them up and repeat the process of soothing and again put them down awake. 

It may take several tries before they get used to it. Remain consistent and they will pick up the habit.

The steps I followed consistently for EVERY NAP OR SLEEP are:

  1. Swaddle
  2. Put the pacifier in
  3. Sound machine on
  4. Rock in my arms while walking around the room for a couple of minutes
  5. Put him down drowsy once his eyes got heavy

Do whatever works for your baby.

Newborn Sleep Schedule Weeks 1-2

For the first 2 weeks of your baby’s life, you just need to make it out alive! You’ll be feeding, burping, and changing diapers for what may seem like a hundred times a day.

Take this time to really get to know your baby.

Do all the things that sleep experts say not to do: Let them fall asleep in your arms and soak in all those newborn snuggles. Feed them on-demand, as they cry, or just to bond. Allow them to nap in the swing or bouncer with your supervision.

They’re learning how this whole mother-baby thing works just like you are, so why not learn together?

Below is a sample *ideal* schedule for your newborn’s first 2 weeks. Try to get as close to this possible, but don’t stress if it’s not exactly the same!

It’s not necessary to be so rigid with the timing at this point because your baby is just starting to get accustomed to the outside world. However, use it as a guideline to get used to following a consistent schedule for both you and your baby.

Note: *Your baby should not sleep more than a 3-hour stretch during the day and 4 hour stretches at night. It’s best to let them sleep 2.5-3 hours during daytime naps and save the longer 4 hour stretch for night time so get them understanding day vs. night.

9 Feedings

Early Morning – 7:00 a.m.

  1. Feeding, diaper change
  2. Waketime: up to 40 minutes
  3. Down for a nap

Mid-morning – 9:30 a.m.

  1. Feeding, diaper change
  2. Waketime: up to 40 minutes
  3. Down for a nap

Afternoon – 12:00 p.m.

  1. Feeding, diaper change
  2. Waketime: up to 40 minutes
  3. Down for a nap

Mid-afternoon – 2:30 p.m.

  1. Feeding, diaper change
  2. Waketime: up to 40 minutes
  3. Down for a nap

Late Afternoon – 5:00 p.m.

  1. Feeding, diaper change
  2. Waketime: up to 40 minutes
  3. Down for a nap

Early Evening – 8:00 p.m.

  1. Feeding, diaper change
  2. Waketime: up to 40 minutes
  3. Down for a nap

Late Evening – 11:00 p.m.

  1. Feeding, diaper change, down for sleep. 

Middle of the Night – 1:00 a.m. – 2:30 a.m.

  1. Feeding, diaper change (only if absolutely necessary) and right back to bed

Pre-morning – 4:00 a.m.

  1. Feeding, diaper change (only if absolutely necessary) and right back to bed

During the middle of the night, allow your baby to wake up naturally, but do not let him sleep longer than 4 hours continuously for the first four weeks.

Therefore, if you’re lucky and your baby sleeps longer stretches, you can let him sleep until 3am and then wake again at 7am. This would only give your baby one middle-of-the-night feeding and a total of 8 feedings a day instead of 9.

NEWBORN SLEEP SCHEDULE WEEKS 3-6

First merge: Most babies start out with two middle-of-the-night feedings during the first two weeks of life, around 2am and 5am. Typically around weeks 3-4, most babies begin to stretch their middle of the night sleep, from 3 hours to 3½ to 4 hours.

Therefore, they begin to merge the 2:00 a.m. and 5:00 a.m. feedings into a single 3:00 a.m “middle of the night” feed.

This merge reduces nine feed-wake-sleep cycles in a 24-hour period, to eight cycles. At this point in time, most babies can sleep from 11:00 p.m. to 3:00 a.m. They nurse or take a bottle and then sleep until 6:30-7:00 a.m.

Waketimes this period may start to lengthen to around 10-20 minutes at a time and most babies continue with a 2½ to 3-hour routine.

8 Feedings

1. Early Morning – 6:30-7:00 a.m.

  1. Feeding, diaper change
  2. Waketime: 40 – 60 minutes
  3. Down for a nap

2. Mid-morning – 9:30 a.m.

  1. Feeding, diaper change
  2. Waketime 40 – 60 minutes
  3. Down for a nap

3. Afternoon – 12:30 p.m.

  1. Feeding, diaper change
  2. Waketime 40 – 60 minutes
  3. Down for a nap

4. Mid-afternoon – 3:30 p.m.

  1. Feeding, diaper change
  2. Waketime 40 – 60 minutes
  3. Down for a nap

5. Late Afternoon – 6:00 p.m.

  1. Feeding, diaper change
  2. Waketime 40 – 60 minutes
  3. Down for a nap

6. Early Evening – 8:30 p.m.

  1. Feeding, diaper change
  2. Waketime 40 – 60 minutes
  3. Down for a nap

7. Late Evening – 11:00 p.m.

  1. Feeding and diaper change, down to bed. 

8. Middle of the Night – 3:00 a.m.

  1. Feeding, diaper change and right back to bed

NEWBORN SLEEP SCHEDULE WEEKS 7-10

Between weeks seven and ten, most babies drop their middle-of-the-night feeding and begin sleeping 8 hours at night. Eight cycles are now reduced to seven throughout the day. Goodbye, exhausted mama!!

Your baby won’t be taking in fewer calories though, they will just eat more during each feeding. The first-morning feeding will typically be the largest.

By five weeks of age, most babies can extend their nighttime sleep by 1 hour for each week of life. For example, a healthy five-week-old can handle a 5-hour stretch at night. A seven-week-old can handle a 7-hour stretch at night. This is as long as you’re fitting all the recommended feedings in during the day.

So you don’t have to worry that they are sleeping too long without a feeding unless you have special instruction from your pediatrician to wake them more often.

Daytime schedule adjustments

Once your baby merges the “middle of the night” feeding, you need to make adjustments to the daytime routine.

Now that your baby is sleeping through the night, you only have a 16 hour window (7am-11pm) to fit in all 7 feedings. This averages to feedings about every 2.5 hours.

However, your daily schedule may not work out to have each cycle in equal intervals. You may find that your baby only needs to eat every 3 hours for the first 3 cycles, but every 2 hours during the last 2 cycles.

Adjust the schedule to what works for you and your family. You may experience lower milk supply during evening feedings, your baby may cluster feed during the late afternoon, or you may want to adjust based on nap times or rest periods for yourself.

The most important thing to note is: Keep a consistent time for the first feeding and last feeding. If your first feeding is at 7am and last feeding is at 11pm, you can adjust the remaining 5 cycles at any point during those hours. 

The cycles do not have to be equal in length at this point as stated above. Some cycles may run 2 hours and some 3 hours. As long as you are getting in all 7 feedings in 1 day, it’s perfect!

Just don’t go any longer than 3 hours between feedings.

In my experience, I always had longer cycles during the first few feedings (3 hours) and less time during the last couple. This was because they typically eat more during the first-morning feeding so they would have a full belly for longer.

I would squish the evening cycles closer together to get my baby fuller before a long nighttime sleep stretch.

7 Feedings

1. Early Morning – 6:30-7:00 a.m.

  1. Feeding, diaper change
  2. Waketime: 40-80 minutes
  3. Down for a nap

2. Mid-morning – 9:30 a.m.

  1. Feeding, diaper change
  2. Waketime: 40-80 minutes
  3. Down for a nap

3. Afternoon – 12:30 p.m.

  1. Feeding, diaper change
  2. Waketime: 40-80 minutes
  3. Down for a nap

4. Mid-afternoon – 3:30 p.m.

  1. Feeding, diaper change
  2. Waketime: 40-80 minutes
  3. Down for a nap

5. Late Afternoon – 5:30-6:00 p.m.

  1. Feeding, diaper change
  2. Waketime: 40-80 minutes
  3. Down for a nap

6. Early Evening – 8:00-8:30 p.m.

  1. Feeding, diaper change
  2. Waketime

7. Late Evening – 10:30-11:00 p.m.

  1. Feeding and diaper change
  2. Down for the night 

NEWBORN SLEEP SCHEDULE WeekS 11-15

This is the point when most babies are capable of dropping their late-evening feeding and begin sleeping 10-12 hours at night.

When that happens, seven cycles are reduced to six. You will keep the first-morning feeding at the same time and the last evening feeding will come around 10-12 hours before that first-morning feeding.

While now you will be working with 6 feedings a day, you can fit the remaining 4 feedings in between the first and last one in any schedule you wish, not exceeding 3 hours between feedings.

Baby’s waketimes are significantly longer now so be sure to fill this time with stimulating activity for your newborn.

6 Feedings

1. Early Morning: 6:30-7:00 a.m.

  1. Feeding
  2. Waketime: 50-90 minutes
  3. Down for a nap

2. Mid-morning: 9:30 a.m.

  1. Feeding
  2. Waketime: 50-90 minutes
  3. Down for a nap

3. Noontime: 12:30 p.m.

  1. Feeding
  2. Waketime: 50-90 minutes
  3. Down for a nap

4. Mid-afternoon: 3:30 p.m.

  1. Feeding
  2. Waketime: 50-90 minutes
  3. Down for a nap

5. Late Afternoon: 5:30-6:00 p.m.

  1. Feeding
  2. Waketime: 50-90 minutes
  3. Down for a nap

6. Evening: 8:30-9:00 p.m.

  1. Feeding
  2. Down for the night

Personalize the times to fit you and your baby’s needs. Each baby is different and you as the parent will understand your baby better than anyone. Therefore, you may not want to skip to the next stage until you are comfortable.

I hope you can use these newborn schedules to give your baby a consistent daily routine and set your baby up with the best sleep possible.

For more helpful tips, check out 8 Rules You Must Follow for the Best Newborn Sleep

Use these sample newborn schedule for your 1-12 week old baby to get them on a consistent sleep routine during the first 3 months of life.

Hi I’m Marissa!

A mom of two little ones, here to provide some relatable experiences, tips, and tricks to the joys and challenges of pregnancy and childbirth through raising babies and toddlers.  Read more about me here.