How Long Does the Newborn Stage Last?
Have you been exhaustedly rocking a crying newborn for hours with no end in sight? Wondering when this challenging stage will be over and your baby will start sleeping more than a few hours at a stretch? You're certainly not alone. The newborn period is arguably one of the hardest phases of parenthood. Exhausted parents around the world ask themselves daily, "how long does the newborn stage last?"
This post will explore some key questions many parents have about navigating the first few challenging months with a new baby: How long is generally considered the newborn period? What developmental changes mark the transition out of this stage? What can you expect in terms of sleep and crying in the early weeks? And perhaps most importantly, when will it start getting easier? By understanding typical newborn behaviour and milestones, as well as some simple survival tips, I hope to reassure you that this tough phase is temporary. Stay strong - there are calmer waters ahead!
How long is the newborn period?
According to child development experts, the newborn period is generally considered to last around 4-6 weeks after birth.
Specifically, the newborn stage is characterized as the time from birth until the infant is approximately 1 month to 2 months old. During these first few weeks, newborn babies experience significant physical, cognitive and emotional changes as they adjust to life outside the womb.
Physically, newborns arrive fully gestated at around 37-40 weeks but their organ systems continue developing in the following months. In the first 4-6 weeks, babies focus on eating, sleeping and slowly building strength and motor control. Their vision is still blurry and they cannot hold up their own head yet. Cognitively, newborns can recognize familiar sounds and smells but have very basic reflexes rather than intentional behaviors.
Emotionally, newborns depend fully on caregivers to meet their needs. They communicate primarily through crying since other skills like smiling and cooing come later. During this period, babies establish important early bonds with their parents through intense caregiving interactions like feeding, holding and soothing.
By 4-6 weeks, most infants have transitioned out of their purely reflexive newborn phase and developed more interactive social behaviors. This marks the typical end of the newborn stage as babies mature into older infants with more awareness of their surroundings. However, developmental milestones can vary individually by up to 2 weeks in either direction. In summary, most sources consider the intense adjustment period of the first month to two months after birth as the ‘newborn stage’.
What is the hardest newborn stage?
The hardest part of the newborn stage for most parents is generally considered to be the first 6 weeks. Here are some of the key reasons why:
Exhaustion： Newborns need to feed frequently, often every 2-3 hours. This lack of sleep can take a major toll on parents' energy levels.
Learning baby's cues： It takes time for parents to learn how to interpret their newborn's cries and know whether they need feeding, changing or soothing. Misreading cues can prolong fussiness.
Sleep disruption： In addition to frequent feeding, newborns often only sleep for short periods and may not sleep well at night, which further interrupts parents' rest.
Crying peaks： Most babies cry the most during the first 6 weeks as their immature digestive and nervous systems mature. Crying can be stressful for parents to cope with.
Postpartum recovery： For many mothers, the physical and emotional recovery from childbirth overlaps with the early newborn weeks, adding an extra layer of difficulty.
Adjustment to new routines： It takes time and energy for families to adjust their schedules and rhythms to a baby's needs rather than their own.
When does the newborn stage get easier?
6 weeks - As mentioned, this marks the end of the peak crying period for most babies. Their digestive systems are more mature so they experience fewer gas pains and crying spells.
8-10 weeks - By this stage, many newborns have begun to develop a more predictable feeding and sleeping schedule. They may sleep for longer stretches at night.
3 months - Babies are more socially responsive at this age and able to smile and interact. This helps strengthen the parent-baby bond which can lessen parental stress.
4 months - Also called the "smiling stage", babies are generally happier and less fussy once they reach this point. They can also hold their heads steady and start to develop a more predictable routine.
6 months - The first major milestone, as most babies are sleeping through the night by now. They can also sit with support and are more engaged with toys and surroundings.
While every baby develops at their own pace, these are some general guidelines for when the newborn phase starts feeling more manageable for parents. Factors like temperament, feeding method, and parental support can also influence the transition out of the challenging early weeks. But often families report things smoothing out gradually from 6 weeks on as infant and parental skills progress. Communication, bonding and enjoyment strengthen as babies mature.
How long does it take to get out of newborn stage?
Most babies will begin gradually transitioning out of the earliest newborn period between 6-8 weeks. This is when sleep patterns start to stabilize and crying typically decreases.
The vast majority of infants will complete the transition from newborn to infant stage by 10-12 weeks (around 3 months). This is considered the average length of time for the transition process.
A small minority of babies may still exhibit very strong newborn characteristics past 3 months, but this is rarely more than 4 months. By 4 months, the vast vast majority have developed beyond the "newborn" stage.
Practical advice for adjusting to life with a newborn
- Establish a sleep schedule as much as possible. Try to put baby to sleep at consistent times and create a bedtime routine.
- Feed on demand but also be aware of baby's fullness cues. Overfeeding can cause gas and discomfort.
- Swaddle tightly or use a rocking bassinet to help soothe baby to sleep. White noise can also be comforting.
- Give yourself grace during feedings. You don't need to be perfectly still while eating one-handed.
- Take shifts with your partner for night feeds to get longer stretches of uninterrupted sleep when possible.
- Bathe baby in the evening so nighttime diaper changes are less stimulating.
- Prioritize self-care like nutritious meals, showering daily and asking others to help with chores.
- Spend tummy time interacting with baby while they're awake to support development.
- Let baby sleep on you for short peaceful naps while you rest too in the early weeks.
- Accept crying as their only communication. Try soothing in intervals, not continuously.
Cherish sweet moments like coos, smiles and snuggles that make the challenges worthwhile.
While the newborn period brings significant challenges with sleepless nights and learning baby's needs, it is also filled with joyous moments of discovery. Having an infant is a big adjustment but with practical self-care, acceptance of crying as communication, establishing routines together as a family, and harnessing all available support systems, mothers can feel confident this stage will pass relatively quickly. Remember that every smile, laugh and cuddle makes the difficulties well worth it. By employing empathy, patience and the tips discussed here, parents can successfully navigate the amazing journey of their baby's first months so they can both thrive through it. The newborn phase is simply a temporary blip in your journey of raising a happy, healthy child - you've got this!
An expert in sleep sack design, is a valued contributor to Kaiya Angel's blog. With a strong background in baby sleep bags and maternal care, she is highly regarded for her professionalism. Yujia Shi prioritizes baby comfort and safety in her designs, using high-quality materials. Her insightful articles on sleep bags have been featured in reputable publications and have gained a significant readership. Trust Yujia Shi to help you create a comfortable and safe sleep environment for your baby, backed by her proven track record in the industry.