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A day in the life of a newborn

8-minute read

Key facts

  • Newborns spend most of their time sleeping between feeds and usually sleep for 16 hours in a 24-hour period.
  • Your baby will need about 6 to 8 feeds in a 24-hour period, which will take around 2 to 5 hours a day in total.
  • When your baby is crying, check if they are hungry, tired, or uncomfortable.

Getting to know your baby

Newborn babies seem to mostly sleep, eat, cry and poo. But as you and your baby get to know each other and bond in your early days together, your day will also involve cuddling and playtime. Babies’ eating and sleeping patterns often change, and it may take some time for them to settle into a routine.

You may prefer that your day-to-day activities follow what your newborn does or you may like to start to establish a very simple routine. Either way, your baby and you will start to settle into a daily pattern of sleeping, feeding and playing.

All babies are different — they have different temperaments, likes, and dislikes. Therefore, it is good to be flexible and read cues from your baby that tell you how they feel and what they need.

How much will my baby sleep?

Newborns spend most of their time sleeping between feeds. Each sleep period is around 2 to 3 hours. However, your baby may start to stir after 40 minutes and may need your help to settle back into sleep again. In the first few weeks, they may be asleep for 14 to 20 hours over a 24-hour period.

Your baby cannot tell the difference between sleeping during the day and night. They will probably wake for feeds 2 to 3 times during the night. Once your baby is a month old, they may start sleeping for longer periods at night, and from 3 to 6 months they may sleep for 4 to 5 hours at a time.

Because a newborn's sleep patterns change regularly, it is a good idea to take it slowly and stay flexible in the first few months. However, it can be helpful to set up a sleep routine. Babies who are 3 months old or younger are usually relaxed and sleepy after a feed, so this could be included in your sleep routine. Look for your baby’s signals of when they are sleepy.

How much will my baby feed?

Whether you choose to breastfeed or bottle feed, your baby will need about 6 to 8 feeds in a 24-hour period, for a total of around 2 to 5 hours a day. Breast milk is easily digested so if you are breastfeeding, your baby may even feed up to 12 times a day.

At certain times, your baby may feed very frequently, which is called cluster feeding. After the cluster feed, they might have a longer sleep.

If you want to calculate the time between feeds, you should work out the time from the beginning of the last feed, not the end.

As well as providing your baby with the important nutrition that they need to grow, feeding your newborn is a great way to have some cuddle time.

Listen to Dianne Zalitis, midwife, talk about what to expect when you bring your baby home on the Babyology podcast.

How do I cuddle and play with my baby?

Making time for cuddling and play time with your baby as part of your daily activities is important for your baby’s growth and development. The key is to interact with your newborn, rather than giving them games and toys. Ideas for playing include:

  • making eye contact, smiling, and talking
  • singing nursery rhymes
  • taking your baby for a walk
  • reading or telling them a story
  • making faces
  • blowing raspberries

Other play ideas include:

For some babies, play time might simply involve cuddling or having a quiet stretch and kick on a blanket. Some may want only 10 minutes play at one time, while others may prefer longer. It is best to pay attention to your baby's behaviour; if they seem upset or unsettled, they may be frightened, tired, or overwhelmed. If so, try a quieter activity later on. Alternatively, you may notice from their behaviour that they are getting tired and need to sleep.

How much will my baby cry?

Sometimes it seems as if your baby is always crying! This is normal and is a way for your newborn to communicate with you.

  • about 1 in 10 babies cry for more than 3 hours a day
  • you may find that your newborn cries more in the afternoon or early evening than at other times
  • when your baby is crying, check if they are hungry, tired, or uncomfortable
  • they may need feeding, settling to sleep, a clean nappy, or your baby could be too hot or cold
  • they could be frightened, needing a cuddle, excited or overtired

As you get to know your baby better, you will start to recognise different types of cries and what they mean. Responding to your baby’s crying is an important part of trust and bonding.

What can my baby see and hear?

Newborns can hear well and have been able to hear since they were in the womb.

Newborns can’t see well in the first two months because their eye muscles are still developing. They can see some things at close range, and they are attracted by bright light, colours, and patterns. They start to recognise faces they commonly see over the first few months of their life.

Other activities

Part of your daily routine will also involve regularly changing nappies and washing your baby. Expect at least expect at least six to eight soaked cloth nappies or four to five heavy disposable nappies in 24 hours.

What routines can I start with my newborn?

It helps to remain flexible with newborns. However, you might choose to start doing simple things with your baby in a similar order when it comes to sleeping, feeding and playing:

  • when your baby wakes from a sleep, offer them a feed
  • in the middle of, or at the end of the feed, change your baby’s nappy
  • have cuddle, talk and play time
  • settle your baby down to sleep

At night you may prefer to skip play time and simply try to settle them back to sleep.

Resources and support

You should do what you feel is best for you and your baby, but get advice from your doctor or child health nurse if you are not sure.

Speak to a maternal child health nurse

Call Pregnancy, Birth and Baby to speak to a maternal child health nurse on 1800 882 436 or video call. Available 7am to midnight (AET), 7 days a week.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: April 2023

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