Nursing & Newborn Sleep

Is anyone out there getting any sleep?

Many new parents are concerned about newborn sleep, lack of sleep or whether they will ever get any sleep again. The first few months with a newborn can leave parents feeling overwhelmed and tired. Sleep concerns are as important as feeding issues and should be addressed if you feel a little out of control with your baby’s sleeping patterns.

Expect your newborn to nurse and sleep throughout the day and night in two to three-hour intervals. What that means is your baby will nurse for 25-45 minutes, take a short break, finish the feeding with a little “top off” and then sleep for a period of 90 minutes to as much as 2 hours.

A feeding for a full term newborn from birth through the first 40 days should look like this:

  • Nurse on each breast for 10 – 15 minutes. You can switch sides after 10-15 minutes of active nursing with visible suck-swallow breath sequences.
  • The baby may need to go from right to left sides more than once.
  • The baby should have a short period of time spent in a quiet “active alert” phase, or may even be quiet and sleepy for 10-20 minutes. Looking contentedly at a mobile, listening to a story or a song, seeming happy as a clam or a little sleepy are all normal behaviors after a feeding.
  • After this quiet calm phase, the baby may appear irritable or sleeping; baby may yawn or have hiccups.
  • Once the baby goes through that last phase, you may see signs of readiness to nurse again before going off to sleep. You may call this the “last round,” “dessert” or the “final course,” but it is important and a chance for the baby to get that last extra rich high-fat milk.
  • This shorter part of the feeding may last 5 – 7 minutes or so. Hopefully not much longer and the baby should appear to be falling asleep.
  • The baby should be prepped and ready to go to sleep. That may mean you have to swaddle the baby or turn on a soothing sounds machine to help the baby get to sleep. Some parents use a co-sleeper, crib or a swing. Find the sleeping arrangement that makes you the most comfortable.
  • You should try to have the baby learn to sleep in a variety of locations around the house, including the car seat for times when you are running errands.


A few important things to watch for:

  • Make sure you see active sucking and swallowing with breasts softening during the nursing session.
  • Ensure that the last round at the breast is not longer than 10 minutes. Baby might feel like another feeding is starting.
  • See if baby is calm, relaxed and goes off to sleep fairly easily after the full feeding is complete.
  • Gauge whether your breasts feel full before the feeding starts and softer/emptier as the feeding goes on to completion.
  • See if baby seems happy and satiated after nursing session is complete.


Are newborn sleep issues keeping you up all night? Reach out to one of our lactation consultants for support for you and your baby.

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