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Newborns & Sleep: The Basics

Prepare for your definition of "sleeping like a baby" to be changed forever. Your newborn will sleep in fitful bursts, radically altering her schedule just when you thought you had it down. It might give you solace to know that according to Dr. Jodi Mindell of the National Sleep Foundation, your baby's sleep patterns should start forming when she's 4 to 6 weeks old.

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Sleep, Sleep and Sleep Some More

In his first weeks, a baby will sleep as many as 16 hours or more in a 24-hours period, says KidsHealth. That sleep will be broken into chunks of varying length. He might doze for 10 minutes, wake up for a few hours, then sleep four hours at a stretch. On average, Mindell says, between birth and about 6 months, the typical baby will take about two to four naps per day, each lasting between 30 minutes and two hours.

Where Baby Sleeps

Having your newborn within reach is comforting at night, but the American Academy of Pediatrics warns against sharing a bed. Being smothered or falling off the bed are co-sleeping risks, says a report by the March of Dimes, and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is linked to co-sleeping. The AAP does recommend you two share a room. Nighttime feedings will be easier to manage with a crib or bassinet on your side of the bed. A newborn's crib must be free of bumper pads, stuffed animals and other soft objects. Dress the baby in a sleep sack and avoid putting him under blankets.

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Midnight Snacks

While it's painful to wake a happily dozing baby at 2 a.m., doing so might be beneficial for everyone. If she sleeps for four hours or more during the night, writes Elizabeth LaFleur, R.N. at MayoClinic.org, you may have to rouse her to maintain a feeding schedule. Waking her up is preferable to letting her wake you by crying, says LaFleur. That's because crying is a late sign that's she's hungry.

Encouraging Sleep

The first time you find yourself nodding off in front of the open refrigerator, you'll do just about anything to encourage the baby to sleep at night. Mindell suggests trying to get the baby on a sleep routine when he's 8 to 12 weeks old. In the meantime, try to keep him engaged and alert during the day. Show him colorful objects, hold him in front of your face and talk to him. When he wakes at night, keep the light low and murmur in a low voice to keep him as drowsy as possible.

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