The Baby Post
Newborn sleep can be chaotic and unpredictable and what works one day might not work the next – even if you do every.single.thing exactly the same. We don’t suggest sleep training before your baby is 4 months old (calculated from the estimated due date) because simply put, he is not ready and he needs your help. There are a few things you can do to help him get the rest he needs now though, that will help create great habits for the future.
The most is important thing to remember is the “A,B,C’s of safe sleep”; Alone, on their Back’s in their Crib (or bassinet).
The first 2 months:
As mentioned above, for these first few months, our baby’s schedule will be unorganized; there is no rhyme or reason to his sleep and biological sleepy rhythms haven’t matured yet. Don’t be discouraged, and do not worry about spoiling him or creating bad habits. Right now you only need to make sure that your baby is well rested and well fed. Do what you need to – keeping safety in mind – to help him sleep.
Make sure that he gets a lot of sunlight during the day and then keep it dark at night – while it won’t do too much right now (because he isn’t producing melatonin – our sleep hormone – on his own yet), it is a great habit to get into and will help in the next few weeks, when nighttime sleep becomes more organized. When he wakes in the night for a feed, to be changed or for cuddles, keep the room as dark as possible, keep it quiet and keep interaction to a minimum; encourage your baby and help him to go back to sleep.
Short intervals of wakefulness:
Newborn babies sleep a lot – they can sleep 14-18+ hours and it is going to come in varying chunks throughout the day and night. A newborn can have a wake time of between 30-90 minutes before needing sleep. A lot of babies at this age will fall asleep anywhere – on you, in the bassinet, in the stroller etc – and others will need your help by swaying them, humming to them etc. and that is okay, help them.
2 – 4 months:
At this age, your baby is more aware of his surroundings. You might notice he is more social and smiles often. You will notice that he doesn’t just close his eyes and go to sleep – he will actually try to stay awake and take more in so he will need your help. The good news is that daytime and nighttime sleep becomes more organized around this age.
Introduce the crib:
At this stage we want to introduce the crib – if you haven’t already. It is important for your baby to have a consistent sleeping place, a place of his own (think about how much you love your own bed). You might want him to sleep in a bassinet beside your bed for bedtime – and you can do that, but try to offer his naps in the crib. Some families move the crib into the master bedroom – and that is an excellent choice as well. Now is a great time to get away from using the swing and bouncy seats, strollers etc because as you approach that 4 month mark, and his biological clock matures, motion sleep will not be as restorative as motionless sleep and we will start to see an increase in night wakings, short naps and early morning rising.
Short intervals of wakefulness:
One thing to keep an eye on is his wakeful periods. At this age, a baby can only be awake for 45-90 minutes and at that point he is going the need to sleep again. Up for one hour, down for two hours – maybe not 2 hours every time, but he will need a little nap. If you try to keep him awake longer, he will become overtired – and that makes it harder for him to fall asleep later in the day. A lot of people suggest keeping a baby awake during the day so that he sleeps better at night – but this will not work; an overtired baby has a harder time falling and staying asleep.
He is taking in the world – seeing things and learning things and he doesn’t understand when he needs to sleep, so we need to watch the clock and watch him for his “sleepy cues”. What are some of the signs to watch for? He might start turning his head side to side or pulling on his ears – if you see your baby zone out, that is the perfect time to lay him down, he might fall asleep on his own.
If he can’t put himself to sleep, then we will need to help him. A great way to help is with a soothing routine, a routine of similar activities each night will cue his brain that sleep will follow. What can you do as part of your soothing routine? You can read a book, sing a song, nurse, bottle feed, rock in the chair, sway with him – or you can combine a number of these. At this age, it doesn’t have to be too long – because remember – we just want to calm him and tell him it is bedtime. If your baby is starting to fall asleep during your soothing routine, skip to the end. Once you are done your routine (approximately 15 minutes) then you can put him down in his crib or bassinet. If you get to the end of your routine and your baby is still not settled, you can help him sleep. There are still no strict rules at this point. You can try picking him up and calming him and then putting him down and repeating as necessary, or you can stay right with him and just use your voice or rub his tummy etc. If he is not settling, then pick him up and help him to sleep.
At this age, you are building a foundation for healthy sleep, and that takes practice and consistency. You will have some longer stretches of sleep in the night, but daytime sleep can still be without reason. Once your baby is 4 months then you can work at extending the naps and that will help to smooth out the nights.
Take a deep breath, follow your instincts and keep our safe sleep rule in mind. Remember that our goal right now is to keep your baby well rested and well fed.
This article was posted online in January 2016 – click The Baby Post to see the original article.