Newborn Sleep FAQs

PHOTOGRAPHY Kirsty Stone @thesearethegoldendays

Frequently asked questions and concerns of parents with a newborn.


Q: My baby is a noisy sleeper. Is this normal?

Yes, it’s very normal for newborns to be snuffly, noisy sleepers. They’re often quite restless when they’re in a light sleep. You may hear them making groans, gurgles, and grunts which can be quite surprising at first but you’ll soon get used to it.


Q: If I keep my baby awake more during the day, will they sleep more at night?

Unfortunately not. Keeping them awake more during the day will make them overtired. Babies who are overtired tend to wake more frequently. At this age, it’s best to follow awake times and look for their tired signs as a guide.


Q: When should I put my baby into a routine?

It’s not necessary to set a strict sleep and feeding routine for your baby while they’re a newborn. In fact, it’s recommended to feed them on demand, meaning for as long as they want to during the day and night. When they’re a little older (over four months), you can look at moving them to a more structured nap routine and teach them to self-settle, if you would like to. For sleep expectations with older babies, see Normal Infant Sleep: Six Weeks to Six MonthsNormal Infant Sleep: Six Months to One Year and Normal Infant Sleep: One to Two Years.


Q: My baby keeps waking up to feed. Does this mean I don’t have enough milk?

It’s normal for newborns and babies – especially those younger than six months old – to want to breastfeed a lot. Sometimes they wake because of hunger but it can be for comfort as well. Provided your baby has plenty of wet nappies and is gaining weight well, they will be receiving enough milk. If you have any concerns, speak to your LMC, GP or Well Child Tamariki Ora nurse about your worries; they’re here to help you.


Q: Help! I think my baby has their days and nights mixed up.

As exhausting as it is to have your baby seemingly be awake all night and asleep all day, rest assured this is very common with newborns. It’s due to what we mentioned in Normal Newborn Sleep about their circadian rhythm or internal body clock not being developed yet. Here are some gentle techniques you can implement to help your baby understand that daytime is for play and nighttime is for sleep.

During the day:

  • Keep the curtains open instead of having them in a dark room.
  • Keep making the same noises you usually would like vacuuming, putting the dryer on, playing music etc.
  • Make sure they’re having enough breastfeeds during the day. See Troubleshooting Common Breastfeeding Problems for more information about feeding frequency.

At night:

  • Implement a gentle evening routine with a warm bath and relaxing massage.
  • Limit light and keep stimulation to a minimum.
  • Keep voices calm and quiet.
  • Give them a cuddle and a breastfeed before settling them to sleep.


Q: As soon as I put my baby down in their cot, they wake up. Any advice?

If it looks like your baby is asleep in your arms but they wake with a loud cry when you transfer them to their bed, this is usually because they were only in a light sleep. When babies are in a light sleep, they can be woken easily. Try settle them again and this time, wait a little longer for them to be in a deep sleep before attempting to put them down.


Q: My baby will be asleep for five minutes and then wakes up crying. What’s the problem?

This can be a sign that they might have a burp lurking. Often just picking them up from laying on their back can bring it up instantly. If that doesn’t work, try holding your pēpi upright and winding them as you usually would to help bring up the burp, before settling them back to sleep.


Q: When should I be concerned about my baby’s sleep?

If your baby is wheezing, breathing more quickly than usual, not waking for feeds, too tired to feed, not feeding well or frequently, or you can’t settle them, talk to your LMC, GP, or Well Child Tamariki Ora nurse. Alternatively, you can call PlunketLine on 0800 933 922 to speak to a Plunket nurse who can give you advice and information – this service is free and available 24/7.

Tip: Sometimes the contrast of your warmth to being placed in a cold cot or bassinet can wake up your pēpi. While you’re settling or feeding, it may be a good idea to place a hot water bottle or wheat bag on their mattress to warm up their bed. Always remove it before putting your baby down.