Normal Sleep - Newborns To 3 Months

Normal Sleep - Newborns To 3 Months

Pēpi need sleep to grow and develop. Sleep needs vary and change as they grow. Your baby's sleep needs may differ from other babies their age. Knowing what to expect at each stage helps you understand their sleep needs as they grow.


Key points on newborn sleep

  • newborns will sleep for an average of 14 to 17 hours each day
  • they often sleep for 2 to 3 hours at a time
  • newborn babies often have an irregular sleep pattern with no set pattern
  • pēpi often develop a more regular sleep-wake cycle as they grow older 
  • newborns have cycles of both active sleep and quiet sleep
  • the most important things in the early months are responding to your pēpi and being flexible
  • if you have concerns about your baby's sleep, seek support from a trained healthcare professional 

This page is about sleep in newborns. It's part of a whole section on normal sleep.

Where should pēpi sleep?

Put pēpi in their own bed for every sleep (such as a cot, bassinet, wahakura or Pēpi-Pod®).

Have your baby's bed in the same room as you for at least the first 6 months.

It is never safe to put pēpi to sleep in an adult bed, on a couch or on a chair. Look at KidsHealth's information on safe sleep to learn more about making the sleeping environment safe for your newborn.

My newborn's sleep - what to expect

Newborns sleep for a large part of the day and night, and they wake often. During the first 3 months of life, pēpi sleep for around 14 to 17 hours each day. They sleep in blocks of 2 to 3 hours at a time. 

All babies are different, so sleep patterns can vary and are unpredictable. Some newborns may sleep for longer stretches. Others may need to wake up often to feed or be comforted.

Learn more on the Raising Children website about what to expect of your newborn's sleep in the first few months of their life

Screenshot of Raising Children website section on newborn sleep

Do newborns have sleep cycles? 

Newborns don't know the difference between day and night. They need to feed often to grow, so they wake frequently. Newborns have 2 types of sleep cycles:

  • active (REM) sleep
  • quiet (non-REM) sleep

During active sleep babies often move and twitch. During quiet sleep, they are still and less likely to wake. 

This video from the Association of Infant Mental Health UK shows a baby in light or active sleep state.

This video from the Association of Infant Mental Health UK shows a baby in a deep or quiet sleep state.

Check out the Raising Children website to learn more about newborn sleep cycles and why sleep is important.

Screenshot of raising children website section on sleep

What are some signs my newborn is tired?

Newborns may show the following signs if they are tired: 

  • closing fists
  • rubbing eyes
  • yawning
  • fluttering eyelids or difficulty focusing
  • staring into space
  • making jerky arm and leg movements
  • arching backwards
  • frowning or looking worried
  • sucking on fingers - this could be a good sign and might mean that your baby is trying to find ways to settle to sleep

Newborns can get tired very quickly. Some may show tired signs after an hour of being awake. Others may show no tired signs for 2 or more hours.

This video by the Raising Children website shows some of the cues a pēpi may give when they're tired.

Have a look at the Whānau Āwhina Plunket website for more information on signs to look out for when your newborn is tired

Screenshot of Plunket website section on sleep

How to settle a newborn to sleep?

You may want to resettle your newborn if they wake up but you think they need more sleep. You can try to settle them by doing things such as talking or singing to them, stroking their forehead or gently patting them. If this doesn't work, you may need to pick them up to cuddle or feed them. As they calm, you may see cues that pēpi is still tired, and you may want to return them to their bed. 

There is no right or wrong way to settle pēpi, and different things will work for different babies and their whānau. 

It can be difficult to settle some newborns back to sleep after they wake.

Take a look at this video by Raising Children for tips on settling your baby. 

Check out this video Manaaki Tamariki, Kia au tō moe: Video tips from whānau on sleep for pēpē by Te Hiringa Hauora | Health Promotion Agency for more tips on helping your pēpi sleep.

Where can I get support? 

The first few months of life with a newborn can be challenging. If you are struggling to settle pēpi or feel like they're not sleeping well, it is important to reach out for support.


Call PlunketLine 24 hours a day, 7 days a week on 0800 933 922.

PlunketLine is available 24 hours a day for advice and support for you, your pēpi and your whānau. Calls are free from cell phones. You do not need to be registered with Plunket to use this service.

Plunket logo
Call PlunketLine on 0800 933 922 for parenting advice.


Call Healthline 24 hours a day, 7 days a week on 0800 611 116.

Healthline provides free advice to parents and whānau if they’re worried pēpi may be unwell. They can help find services nearby such as an afterhours medical centre if you need to see a doctor. 

Your GP or doctor

If you are worried that your baby is unwell or showing signs of distress or pain, see your GP so they can check pēpi. You can also talk to your GP if you are needing extra support with adjusting to life with pēpi.


Take a look at the Tākai website for more information about newborn sleep.

See more KidsHealth content on normal sleep at different ages 

Check out KidsHealth's section on normal sleep

Screenshot of KidsHealth website normal section

See all KidsHealth's content on sleep in children

This page last reviewed 04 April 2023.

Call Healthline on 0800 611 116 any time of the day or night for free health advice when you need it