Is your newborn awake for 3 hours straight and not sleeping between feeds? Learn how to help your fussy baby and shorten the wake times.
Whether during the day or at night, knowing that your newborn has been awake for 3 hours is never easy.
Maybe she was asleep all day, only to be awake for a long stretch at night. As much as you appreciate the long breaks during the day, you dread the evenings when you know you’ll be awake for most of it.
She could be awake during the “witching hours” before bed, unable to be soothed for hours at a time, despite your best efforts.
Or she does sleep well at night—at least for a newborn—only to be awake and fussy all day. As grateful as you are that she sleeps when she should, you also know she shouldn’t stay awake this long during the day.
In fact, sometimes she’s not even sleeping between her feeds. She’ll go from one feed, skip a nap entirely, and be ready for her next one without sleeping once.
How to handle a newborn awake for 3 hours straight
I didn’t realize that newborns shouldn’t be awake for long stretches until several weeks after bringing my baby home. Here he was—a newborn awake for over 3 hours at a time, getting passed around visiting family and friends.
Next thing I knew, he was cranky and overtired, setting off a vicious cycle of a baby who just wouldn’t sleep.
Other times, he was awake but not crying, making me wonder how long a newborn should stay awake at a time. I simply assumed he’d fall asleep when he was tired. Only later did I find out that 3 hours was a long stretch for a little one to be awake.
So, if you find yourself in the same predicament, rest assured you’re not alone. Maybe your newborn is awake all day long, even if she sleeps well at night. Or vice versa: she’s sleeping the whole day but not getting enough rest at night.
Whether she’s awake too long during the day or at night, you can shrink her wake time and help her sleep longer and more frequently. Take a look at these tips that can help:
1. Engage with your newborn during the day
Does your newborn sleep in long stretches during the day, only to be awake all night? Use the daytime hours to engage and play with her and keep her from taking another lengthy nap again.
For instance, you can do tummy time, sing songs and make faces, or place her on a play mat or infant seat. Then, when you see her showing signs that she’s tired, you can begin to get ready for her next nap. The longer you can stretch her wake time, the more she can sleep longer at night.
That said, don’t keep her awake longer than 90 minutes—this ensures that she also doesn’t get overtired.
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2. Wake your newborn close to bedtime
Does it seem like your newborn can sleep through the whole day, including close to bedtime? This could be preventing her from settling for bedtime and sleeping long stretches at night.
I’m not normally a fan of waking a sleeping baby, no matter how long the nap has been. That said, the exception I’d make is the one close to bedtime. If she’s supposed to sleep soon but her latest nap is running long, cut it short to give her time to be awake.
With my baby, I aimed for about 45-90 minutes of wake time between his last nap and bedtime so that he had enough time to feel tired by then.
3. Keep nighttime quiet and dark
One obstacle that could be keeping your newborn awake for 3 hours at night is that it’s simply too “exciting.” Maybe you turn on the lights to change her diaper, or your evenings are filled with loud sounds.
To get her in the mood to sleep, start your evenings off calm and quiet. Turn off the television and other distracting noises. Draw the curtains to block out light, and turn on a white noise machine to muffle startling sounds.
Then, when you get up with her at night, keep your engagement minimal. Use a small nightlight or your phone to see during diaper changes. Don’t engage or talk to her in lengthy stretches, and make the focus all about going back to sleep.
4. Help your newborn fall asleep
Don’t make the mistake I did and assume that your baby will just fall asleep whenever she’s tired. Many babies need our help to fall asleep, and will end up overtired without it.
To start, set up the right environment, from keeping the room dark to turning on white noise. Use the swing, baby wrap, swaddle, and pacifier to help her doze off. Rock her to a sleepy state before putting her down. If she wakes up crying, comfort her and put her back down drowsy.
At this age, it’s a balance of giving her an opportunity to fall asleep on her own, with helping her when she’s struggling to do so. Down the line, you can consider sleep training, but for now, she likely still needs your help falling asleep.
5. Feed your newborn
If your newborn fusses and cries the whole time she’s awake, she might simply be hungry. And if you’re breastfeeding, this isn’t always the easiest news to take.
I felt tethered to my baby, knowing that I was the only one who could feed him. But our pediatrician told us that, while babies do cry for other reasons, the main one is hunger. Sure, your newborn might be bored or cold, but more than likely, she’s hungry.
Rather than trying to get her to sleep, see if you can feed her first.
Then, because sucking can lull her to sleep, make sure she’s awake the whole time she’s supposed to be eating. She might still be moving her mouth, but you should also hear a swallowing sound or see her throat moving. Tickle or burp her, or switch positions to keep her awake during feedings.
You’re right to wonder whether it’s normal for a newborn to be awake for 3 hours, whether during the day or at night. But you might not know what to do with a wide-eyed, fussy baby who won’t fall asleep.
Thankfully, you now have a few tips to try.
If she’s asleep for long stretches during the day, engage and play with her to lengthen her wake times. Make sure she has time to be awake between her last nap and bedtime.
Keep your nights dark and calm, sending the message that this is when she should sleep for a long time. At this stage, help her fall asleep, from turning on white noise to rocking her to a drowsy state. And lastly, rule hunger out by feeding her instead, making sure she stays awake during the feedings.
Now you can keep her sleep at night and be awake during the day—just not for 3 hours at a time.
Get more tips:
- Top 5 Reasons Your Newborn Wakes Up Screaming
- Newborn Feeding Every 2 Hours? Top Solutions That Will Help
- How to Get Your Baby to Adjust Using a Newborn Schedule
- 11 Ways to Cope with Newborn Sleep Deprivation
- 12 Things to Do When Your Newborn Fights Sleep
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