How Much Should a 5-Week-Old Sleep?

Newborn Sleeping Patterns: The Only Certainty Is Uncertainty

Most 5-week-old babies sleep 12 to 14 hours a day on average, but never in one go. Newborns haven’t developed circadian rhythms and experience several short sleep cycles during a 24-hour period, leading to erratic sleep schedules. Although you can’t guarantee a 5-week-old will go to sleep at the same time every night, you can count on your baby sleeping most of her days—and nights—with frequent wakings for feeding and soothing.

Being Your Baby’s Sleep Coach

Close-up of a newborn baby sleeping

The Sleeping Habits of 3-Month-Olds

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You’re not completely at the mercy of your little one’s sleep patterns. Establishing an evening routine, for example, goes a long way toward longer periods of nighttime sleep, as does swaddling and nap-time management.

Set the mood. Practicing a bedtime ritual can help your baby establish day and nighttime sleep patterns. A workable routine might include slowing down after dinner with a story and drawing a bath around 7 p.m. After bath time, speak to your baby in softer tones (especially during feedings), turn down the lights if possible, and finish off with a couple lullabies while you soothe your baby to sleep around 9 p.m.

Swaddling stabilizes your baby during his startle reflexes, those sudden jerks, notably in the legs, that occur just before nodding off. Swaddling also mimics the womb in the feeling of security it evokes. Your baby likely doesn’t remember anything pre-birth (or post-birth, for that matter), but his body does, and the confined space of the blanket is redolent of the womb. The American Association of Pediatricians’ guidelines for safe swaddling are:

  • Stop swaddling at 2 months, if not sooner. At 8 weeks, your baby starts developing the core strength necessary to roll over, and a rolling, swaddled baby is a no-no.
  • Set your swaddled baby on his back to sleep. Again, to avoid his rolling over.
  • Unwrap the blanket if your baby gets hot. Signs of overheating include sweating, a hot forehead and nose, damp hair, rapid breathing and heat rash. 

Monitor nap times (the best you can) to detect a pattern. First, check the quantity of her sleep. More than three hours of continuous daytime sleep, for example, can throw off her sleep pattern by moving back her nighttime sleep sessions. Try to keep your baby asleep for around two hours at a time, soothing as needed. Fewer than two hours, and babies wake up cranky and under-rested; more than three hours, and they get cranky during the night. It’s kind of a “cranky-if-you-do,” “cranky-if-you-don’t” dilemma, but it will soon be over—at 6 weeks, your little one will develop a more regular sleep pattern.

What to Expect When You’re Expecting ... More Sleep

You and your baby will encounter a lot of milestones on your way to that first full-night’s sleep. Developmental milestones to expect by 12 weeks include:

  • Lifting his head and raising his upper body using his arms, both precursors to rolling over.
  • Fine motor skills, particularly in his hands. Your little guy can now grasp toys and shake them, put his hands in his mouth and swat at dangling items (like toys on a mobile).
  • Improved face tracking and recognition and hand-eye coordination.

Every child develops at a different rate. If your baby sleeps a little longer or more than two hours at a time, don’t worry. However, if you can’t wake your baby, he seems lethargic and doesn’t want to eat, make an appointment for an evaluation.