23 answers

How Much Should a Premature Baby Sleep?

Dear moms,

I am a first time mom of a beautiful baby boy, born premature at 33 weeks. He spent two weeks at the NICU and is now home with us. He is now 36 weeks. I am wondering how much he should be sleeping? I am waking him every 3 hours to feed him as instructed by the pediatrician and for the most part he is alseep whenever he is not eating. Some days he has more awake periods apart from feeding, diaper changing or bath time. Is this normal behavior for a baby this age? (who is also a premie?)

Thanks in advance for your advice!

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Featured Answers

This sounds totally normal...I have a baby boy who was born at 34 weeks and he did the exact same thing. Soon he'll be up all the time so try and get some rest!!!!! Good luck.

Hi A.,

My son was born at 34 weeks. The sleeping is totally normal. And I think that is for all babies in general whether premie or not, they just sleep. They will continue in this pattern until they are almost 3 months old before you will notice a change. Just continue to feed and love that baby and let the baby sleep. He will grow big and strong and be just fine.


More Answers

Dear A.,

I say good for you that your baby is a good sleeper. If your baby is eating and growing the way that he should then I am sure everything is fine. The only reason a newborn baby wouldn't sleep is if they are hungry, have gas, or a dirty diaper. The fact that he was premature is why he may need more sleep. My nephew was doing the same thing however he was sleeping through feedings and did not gain weight properly so it was a chore to wake him and feed him every three hours but they did it and he was fine.

Actually, I have always found that preemies tend to sleep
alot. This is time they should have been inside. Around
your original due date you will probably notice he will
be more awake and alert. Get your sleep while you can.
Keep waking him to eat for now. In about a month or so,
you probably won't even have to do that. Enjoy that little

Hi A., Congratulations on your baby boy. Your baby is doing just what he needs to do. He is growing while he sleeps. I know you wish he was up more but he needs to rest. Being born is not easy, very hard work. Enjoy the quiet time because as the days and weeks go by he will sleep less and less. Sounds like you are doing a great job. Grandma Mary

Most newborns sleep most of the day, and this is very normal. Eventually he will start to be awake for a little while. You can encourage this time by making sure he is exposed to bright lights during the day and keep the lights dim as much as possible at night when you wake up for feedings. You can talk to him or sing to him or make faces while he is awake. I would also suggest feeding him every 2 hours though, especially if you are breastfeeding. Most pediatricians will tell you that, so I am surprised that your pediatrician would say every 3 hours for such a young baby. My pediatrician recommended that I feed my son on demand, but for the first few weeks, not to go more than 2 hours and sometimes even more frequently while they are having a growth spurt. They digest their food so quickly at this age that they need to be eating all the time. That would be two hours from the beginning of the last feeding, so if he ate at 9 am, then he has to eat again at 11 am, even if the 9 am feeding takes an hour. Newborns don't always have the strength to eat very fast so this is realistic, especially since you have a preterm baby. Breasteeding is especially important for preemies so I would greatly encourage it. The skin to skin contact helps them grow and feel secure. I would definitely recommend getting the help of a lactation consultant to work with you because tiny babies can have more trouble latching properly. It can take a few months before breastfeeding is working well because you both have to learn the proper technique. Get The Breastfeeding Book by Dr. Sears- really good advice. Also a great baby website is http://www.kellymom.com. After he gets to 42 weeks, you can probably let him sleep at night for as long as he wants if he is gaining well. He still probably won't sleep that long, but this will encourage him to have his longest sleep periods at night.

I assume you mean that he is now 3 weeks old (but would have been 36 weeks gestation). My children weren't preemies (all three were born at 36 weeks), but even they did nothing but sleep the whole day, other than when they were eating. That's just how it goes at the very beginning. After a while, they will spend more time awake, but you are correct to wake the baby every 3 hours for a feeding, especially for a little one like yours...


Hi A.,
My son was born at 32 weeks, and stayed in the NICU for 11 days. I remember that he slept ALOT, he would even fall asleep during feedings. The nurse at the NICU showed me ways to keep him awake so he would eat, so yes, i believe that this is normal for a preemie. Normally, your baby would still be in the womb now, keep that in mind.
Good Luck!

Hi A.-
This is normal for preemies. My son was also a premie- born at 31 weeks. When he came home at 35 weeks he slept all the time. I had to wake him for feedings, the peditrician told me don't let him go more than 3 - 3 1/2 hours without eating. I think when he was a little past term and his weight was gaining nicely, I didn't have to wake him anymore. He is now 7 months old and sleeping, eating and growing beautifully!

A side note- I think at around 37, 38 weeks he started to get his days & nights mixed up. He would sleep all day (I had to wake to feed) and be awake from 11 pm - 6 am! That was rough! You can't really do much to change it, they figure it out when they are ready, a little after term. (DO NOT give him cereal in the bottle at this age, wait until about 5, 6 months. Preemies digestive systems aren't ready until then and it may bring on food allegies the earlier you give cereal & food)I can only say- if possible, to sleep during the day when he is sleeping too. Good luck!

Hi A.,

My daughter was also born premature at 33 weeks, and spent 18 days in NICU. My daughter had a similar routine, honestly it was very frustrating, because I began working again, and lost a lot of sleep. I also started giving her cereal in her bottle at 2 months and it did not help. Eventually it passed and she start sleeping all night when she turned 6 months old. You can speak to your pediatrician about it maybe they have so new theories on the situation. My daughter is 19 now.

Did you doctor tell you about some things that happen to premie for example how some of them have to catch up to the other children, etc.

Best wishes

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