As the circadian rhythm starts to develop, nights begin to start to take shape in the upcoming weeks. This is the first stage of sleep development and becomes a time where you can begin to nurture the basics of healthy sleep habits. Since nights organize first our focus at this time will be concentrated on bedtime and their night stretch. This will be the first building block in nurturing your infant’s sleep patterns. Naps will continue to be unorganized and unpredictable so at this stage your goal should be to help your baby sleep during the day when they are tired.
Before now your infant was sleeping and waking to feed in whatever intervals drove their feeding patterns. By this time, the circadian rhythm is also helping to drive more regular feeding patterns and drive for a regular night time stretch. As their system is evolving, you can help it along by implementing some predictability in night routines and sleep regularity. Developmentally, once you start to notice your baby smiling at you and beginning to become more social and cooing, these are signs that they are neurologically maturing and you can begin to put into motion these sleep tips.
- Begin to establish regular bedtime routine.
Develop a Nice Relaxing Bedtime Routine. If you have not already begun to do this – now is the perfect time to implement this sleep step. Start to establish a regular and consistent routine for your baby prior to going to bed. This will help set the stage that the day is coming to an end & help prepare your baby for a good night of sleep. Pick a few simple steps & try not to make your routine too long. A bath, massage, & short book or lullabye are three simple steps. All babies will have a feeding before bed so that will always be part of the routine. Pick a few simple, calming and relaxing steps done in the same order every night before bed. This will help set the stage for night time & help your baby sleep better. One large study found that a routine helped babies fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer with or without putting the babies down slightly awake. You will be amazed at how well this one little step will work. Remember the key is to do the same routine in the same order every night prior to bedtime.
- Make sure to have an optimal sleep environment that is consistent during your baby’s entire night stretch.
Creating a sleep friendly environment can be very helpful in getting your baby to sleep better. In the early months – babies have the ability to shut out outside stimulation and will fall asleep easily in crowded areas & with loud noise around. As they get older, they lose this ability & many will sleep better in an area that is quiet & conducive to sleep.
First and foremost – make sure you have a safe sleeping environment. Additional helpful ways to create a sleep friendly environment is to ensure your baby’s room is dark. White noise is very effective at buffering outside noise. Also pay attention to how stimulating your infant’s environment is. Many new babies are rooming in with their parents so be sure to have lights off when they are sleeping and try not to have the tv on or running (laptops, ipads, radios, etc.).
Some babies are very sensitive to noises and will wake up if parents are talking in the room or if the tv is on. Respect the fact that your baby is trying to sleep & keep the room relaxing & quiet and dark so they can have a peaceful slumber.
- Night consolidation begins.
So your baby will be taking one extended stretch at night that typically begins after bedtime. This stretch on average may be between 4-6 hours. Some babies may do a little longer stretch than that but it’s more the minority than the majority. After the one long stretch – your baby will be waking in a regular feeding pattern after that every 2-4 hours. Having a consistent bed time and bedtime routine will help to set this rhythm and encourage a more predictable night pattern.
- Keep lights, stimulation & interaction to a minimum.
When they wake & need to be fed – do so quietly & in a dimly lit environment. It may not be necessary to change and burp at every waking at this stage. Most babies will be fine going most of the night without a diaper change so if not absolutely necessary, forgo the diaper change and set baby right back down to sleep after a feeding.
- A Dream Feed may be helpful at this stage.
Another helpful tip is to try a dream feed. This has also been referred to as a focal or rollover feeding. Wake your baby between 10:00 pm – 12:00 am for a feed before you and your spouse go to bed. Pick them up & nurse or bottle feed – then put them right back down to sleep. This will help control a feeding time so that hopefully your baby will take their one long stretch after that time and allow both you and your baby to have a good stretch of sleep.
Keep in mind that this only works for 50% of babies. The circadian rythmn typically drives for the deepest and longest stretch at the beginning of the night starting at bedtime. If you find that doing the dream feed adds another waking and feeding after 3 days then stop the feed and allow your baby to take their longest stretch at beginning of the night.
- You can begin to “Practice” putting your baby down Drowsy and Awake at sleep times.
This is a good time to practice putting your baby down while they are drowsy and awake and aware enough to know where they are put down to sleep. When your baby is ready – this will be the cornerstone of helping them learn to independently fall asleep. But in the early months – remember they may need more help. Some babies may not fully develop the skill of self -soothing independently to sleep until they are at least 4-6 months of age. If you want – you can “practice” this step at this age.
It may or may not work and that’s ok. Some babies need more soothing than others and it’s more important to respond to their needs than to expect them to learn a skill they may not be capable of doing. When your baby is very sleepy – you can try putting them down once a day (at bedtime after a nice routine is a good time to try this). Your baby may fall asleep after a while or they may fuss. If they begin to fuss or cry – you can try to soothe them next to the bassinet or crib for a few minutes.
If they begin to cry – then pick them up & soothe them until they are calm and drowsy and try putting them back in their bassinet or crib again to see if they can do that last piece of falling asleep on their own. If they begin to cry and are unable to settle, pick them up and soothe them to sleep in whatever way works. You can try again at another time or wait a few days/weeks before trying again.
- Your baby is too young for any sleep training or overly structured sleep or feeding schedule at this age.
Keep your expectations in check and don’t expect a full night of sleep or regular long naps at this age. Your goal now is to establish one good night time stretch and have a regular bedtime and night routine and to keep baby rested and napping during the day when they are tired.
The following recommendations will also be helpful during these weeks so below is a review of some of the sleep tips discussed for infants up to eight weeks old with a few updates for this age.
- Night sleep begins to consolidate but day sleep will still be unpredictable and unorganized. Your baby will be sleeping on average anywhere from 9-20 hours in a 24 hour period. There is a wide range so please just pay attention to your own baby and do not compare your baby to others.
- Having a predictable but flexible routine will aid the development of good sleep habits.
- Average night waking between 8-12 weeks will be 2-3 times between 10 pm-6 am
- Make a plan to get the rest you need. Lay down when baby is sleeping. Nap during the day when your baby naps.
- Share night time duties so that you each can get a block of uninterrupted sleep. Try to aim for at least 5-6 hours of sleep within a 24 hour period. Taking that block in one consolidated stretch is ideal but may not be possible due to your baby’s feeding patterns. Try to optimize feeding times so you are able to feed baby and get right back to sleep as quickly as possible at night.
- Recreating the womb experience can be very helpful in keeping your baby settled and calm and may assist in extending short sleep episodes. Try swaddling to help your baby feel snug and secure. Add some white noise during sleep times and keep the room dark when sleeping at night. keep Stimulation to a minimum and make sure to only use dim lights when tending to baby
- Nursing Moms should watch their caffeine intake as it is known that it can have a negative impact on your baby’s ability to sleep well. Removing caffeine from your diet will be helpful in these early months.
- Lots of skin to skin and holding during the day will help your baby remain calmer and cry less in these early months. Studies show that the more holding you do in the early months – the calmer your baby will be and can result in less overall crying during the newborn months.
- Moms should aim to eat healthy foods and drink lots of water to keep hydrated.
- Bring in support for help with running errands, helping with other children, cleaning, laundry, etc. Enlist people to bring you meals so you don’t have to cook can save you time and allow more periods of rest for postpartum moms.
- Try to start your day at the same time every morning. This will help kick start that circadian rhythm and aid in syncing up you & your baby’s sleep/wake cycles. Believe it or not – this will help set a nice rhythm to your day and help in regulating their night sleep.