Neonates need to sleep and feed more than older babies to thrive and achieve their milestones on time. In the initial months, newborns simply eat, sleep, and repeat. Hence, parents may wonder if their baby sleeping a lot may be a cause for concern, especially if the baby has an erratic sleep schedule.
However, newborns do not follow a fixed schedule to sleep and wake up, and it will take them time to establish a schedule outside the womb. This post provides information on how to know if your baby is sleeping too much, the possible causes for it, and signs you should contact your pediatrician.
How Many Hours Of Sleep Does A Newborn Need?
The sleep requirements of babies change as they grow up. According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine
- Newborns from zero to 12 months need to sleep 12–16 hours a day.
- Children from one to two years need 11–14 hours of sleep per day (1).
Newborns generally sleep in short intervals of 30–45 minutes and in three- to four-hour increments in a day. However, by the time they reach one year, they tend to sleep for longer hours during nighttime without frequent wake-ups, and the overall sleep time decreases (2).
New parents often complain about how tired they feel because the baby doesn’t sleep and how they wish the baby could sleep for a few more hours. But, is it possible for a baby to sleep too much?
Can Babies Sleep Too much?
Yes, babies can sleep excessively. If your baby has slept for an additional hour or two, it’s normal. However, if they sleep for an extra three to four hours, it can be considered “too much.”
Every baby is unique, and so are their sleep patterns. Some babies fall asleep quickly, whereas others could take some more time. So, before you come to the conclusion that your baby is sleeping too much, you need to observe their sleep patterns and time their naps.
It is common for older babies (four to six months old) to sleep an extra hour or two when they are sick or had a busy day, but if your newborn sleeps for 20 to 22 hours and misses feedings, you need to intervene.
Because of their small tummy size, newborns need to be fed frequently to get the required nutrients. Breastfeeding babies shouldn’t go longer than two to four hours during the day and four hours at night without feeding, and for formula-fed babies, it is three to four hours. The frequent waking up and other hunger cues are indications that you need to feed the baby.
However, some babies are non-demanding or placid and may not show interest in feeding every two to three hours. For such babies, it is advised not to wait for more than four to five hours between feedings, and you need to wake the baby to feed it, especially in the first few weeks (3). Clues such as the color and duration of urine and stools might help tell if your baby is being fed sufficiently. Try to set the alarm, and diligently wake them up for a feed every two hours.
Remember, if your newborn gains enough weight, poops on time, and shows normal vital signs, you need not worry about them snoozing for a few more hours (while diligently following the feeding routine).
It is slightly different for older babies. As they grow older, the sleeping patterns begin to fall in place, and they tend to wake up less frequently and take long naps during the night.
Sometimes, your baby might occasionally sleep for an extra hour or two. It could be a concern only if it happens suddenly. Read on to know why some babies sleep more than usual.
Possible Reasons Your Baby Is Sleeping More Than Usual
If your baby starts to sleep more than usual, it could be due to the following reasons.
- Babies might sleep for more time when they are going through a growth spurt. According to the results of a study conducted by Dr. Michelle Lampl, et al., “Longer sleep corresponds with greater growth in body length.” So, if your little one is going through a growth spurt, they might be sleeping more (4).
- Immunization can also make babies sleep excessively. A study by Linda Franck, et al., found that afternoon immunization causes increased infant sleep in the 24 hours after the immunization (5).
- If your baby had a long day or was more active than other days, they could get tired and sleep for long er than usual.
- Severe cases of jaundice can also make the baby sleepy. According to the American Pregnancy Association, extreme jaundice is characterized by feeding difficulties and extreme sleepiness (6).
- Lethargy, drowsiness, and sluggishness could be signs of an infection or low blood sugar. If your baby finds it hard to wake up for feedings, and even when awake, shows no alertness to sounds, you need to talk to your pediatrician (7).
- Preterm babies tend to sleep more than full-term babies. If you have a preterm baby, talk to your pediatrician to understand their needs, as they are at a greater risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
Sleeping for extended periods,occasionally, may not be a cause for concern, but if your baby shows signs of lethargy or drowsiness and often miss feeds or is not gaining weight, you should be worried. Consult your pediatrician to rule out any underlying medical conditions.
What Should You Do If Your Baby Is Sleeping Too Much?
Preterm babies, babies with a low birth weight or newborns with certain health conditions may need to be woken up or dream fed every 2.5-4 hours. Such babies are often too weak to wake up from their sleep on being hungry and cry/give signals to demand food on their own.
If your doctor has ruled out medical conditions, and if your baby is gaining normal weight, you can try some of the below tips to keep your baby awake.
Before trying any of these steps, make sure your baby is sleeping for the stipulated time and feeding and pooping normally. You only need to wake your baby up if they are sleeping way beyond the minimum hours and missing feeds, as sleep is of utmost importance for babies to grow and develop cognitive skills.
- If your newborn is sleeping and missing feedings, lightly rub or tap on their cheeks to wake them up. You can also try stroking the palms or soles of the feet to wake them.
- Babies tend to drift off after a few minutes of feeding. In such a case, take them off the breast, wake them up, and try to latch them again. Repeat this until they are nursed well.
- You can also try rubbing the baby’s face with a cool and clean washcloth.
- For babies aged six months and above, try to keep them engaged by introducing new toys or play with them until their nap time.
- Developing healthy sleep habits may also help older babies to have a quality sleep and stay active during the day.
If your baby sleeps a lot compared to other babies, do not immediately jump to conclusions and worry yourself. Each baby is different, and hence, their sleeping habits may also differ. So, you need to observe their sleeping pattern throughout the day, how active they have been, and how many extra hours they have been sleeping. Sleeping for an extra hour or two is normal since any of the above factors may affect their sleep durations. However, if you notice them sleeping for abnormally long durations or waking up tired, consult your doctor as it may indicate an underlying issue requiring medical intervention.
- Newborn babies need enough sleep to develop properly.
- Going through a growth spurt or having more active hours than usual may cause babies to oversleep.
- If your baby sleeps too long and shows signs of lethargy and weakness, consult your doctor.
- Rubbing your baby’s face with a cool cloth, keeping them engaged until nap time, and other tips to prevent your baby from oversleeping are discussed below.
2. Melissa M. Burnham, et al.; Nighttime sleep-wake patterns and self-soothing from birth to one year of age: a longitudinal intervention study; J Child Psychol Psychiatry (2002).
3. Feeding Your Newborn; The Nemours Foundation.
4. Michelle Lampl, Michael Johnson; Study is the first to link sleep duration to infant growth spurts; American Academy of Sleep Medicine (2011).
5. Linda Franck, et al.; Infant Sleep After Immunization: Randomized Controlled Trial of Prophylactic Acetaminophen; Pediatrics (2011).
6. Newborn Jaundice; American Pregnancy Association
7. Behavior Changes; University of Rochester Medical Center