Up All Night

Ask Dr. Matt: How much sleep is too much for a newborn?

My 2-month-old daughter has stopped sleeping through the night! She wakes up after four hours, eats, and then goes back to sleep for another three of four hours. Then she naps all afternoon. She is also still sleeping in her swing next to our bed at night. We only leave it on long enough for her to fall asleep. Is there harm in doing this?

The timing of things you describe is very appropriate. Until two months or so, babies often need the squeeze of a good swaddle, a parent's arms or a swing or bouncy chair to settle down to sleep and stay asleep, largely because three-fourths of their sleep architecture is light REM sleep, and they startle and move around a lot.

At about two to three months, they begin to shift to a pattern that is about three-fourths deeper non-REM sleep, and just one-fourth REM sleep. This means they usually can get used to sleeping in a more traditional, and safer, crib-type setting. This is good, because the swings can be dangerous, particularly as babies get stronger and are able to move around more. The recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatrics are a flat mattress with a single sheet — just like in prison. I would start putting her in her crib for that afternoon nap. I think you will find she will be more comfortable on the boring mattress now. It is OK to wake her two hours or so into her nap, feed her and try to engage her in play. Those who caution "never wake a sleeping baby" are not sleeping at your house.

Be ready because a new pattern — in which frequent nighttime waking becomes common — appears at about four months.

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