Sleeping & crying patterns vary widely from baby to baby and any concerns need to be checked out with your LMC or Plunket Nurse or Karitane Family Centre or GP. Feeding and Sleeping problems are very interrelated.

However some general guidelines for the development of baby’s sleep patterns are as follows:

0 – 6 WEEKS:

Don’t expect baby to sleep through the night without feeds; baby is used to a continuous flow of nutrients whilst in the womb and will digest feeds within 1-2 hrs.

Baby will sleep average 16-18 hours in every 24hours BUT in short stretches of variable length (often max 3-5 hours).

Baby will need, on average, 8-12 feeds per day (depending on Growth spurts at 2, 4, 6 weeks; number of feeds per day increases for 2-3 days with each growth spurt so outings may have to be cancelled and you may need extra help for 2-3 days).

Baby’s active time may be anything from 20mins to 1.5 hours; any longer and you may be missing vital tired signs (go & see the Sleep video at any Karitane Family Centre or at Mana PC). Once overtired, baby doesn’t feed as efficiently, which means that baby wakes more often & is more unsettled; a vicious circle.

Baby may sleep varying lengths of time BUT, in a 24hour period, if baby NEVER sleeps longer than 1.5hrs, baby may be in an overtired “Snack n Snooze” pattern ie too tired to feed efficiently so not getting hindmilk so not satisfied so no deep sleep so needs feeding again within 1-2 hrs etc etc. Contact your LMC/Plunket Nurse/La Leche League Leader/Plunket Helpline for help. Self help measures to change that pattern may include giving baby a warm bath, a massage, checking room temperature and clothing, wrapping baby, taking them for a walk, taking them for a drive, checking Latch-on & feeding positions, checking baby’s health (temperature?), gently rubbing baby’s back to help them settle.

NB Beware the sleepy baby who seldom cries; don’t let the newborn baby go longer than 4hours without a feed (this includes the first few days at home or in hospital when your breastmilk is at the colostrum stage) and check the number of feeds per day and the number of wet nappies with your Health professional


6-8 feeds per day (getting more efficient & consistency and composition of breastmilk has changed; sometimes mothers feel that they have “no breastmilk” compared to those early “engorged” days when breastmilk was oversupplied compared to demand – breastmilk IS being produced, it’s just that the demand/supply system is often very efficient now in comparison to those early days!!).

Growth spurts at 6 & 12 weeks (again increased number of feeds needed for 2-3 days).

May not be able to sleep through the night without a feed .

3 – 6 MONTHS:

Longest period of sleep may now be at night!

May begin to sleep through the night without needing a feed!

Can now begin to put baby to bed when relaxed & tired but still awake – Baby begins to learn to fall asleep alone!

5 -6 MONTHS:

Lighter sleep patterns developing; unsettled sleep. So at night, try to leave for 5-10mins to allow them to begin to settle themselves?


Total sleep 13-14hours in every 24; may get a 6-8 hour block of sleep at night!

Discuss sleep programmes with Health professionals (may not be appropriate before 6months).


- These are only rough guidelines; please contact your LMC or Plunket Nurse or Karitane Family Centre for 1:1 advice for you & your baby (you are unique!)
Take care that any advice given on sleep is from a reputable source and is AGE-APPROPRIATE
- A constantly unsettled baby needs a medical check and expert help before being labelled as “colicky”/”Challenging” baby

For more information see:
“Thriving Under 5” – Plunket booklet; “Baby & Child” – Penelope Leach;
Plunket Helpline 0800 933 922;
Plunket Karitane Family Centre;
“Babies” – C Green;
La Leche League 
ISIS online