The First 18 Weeks of Your Baby’s Sleep
By Days & Dreams
One of the more frequent questions I get asked is regarding newborn baby’s sleep. Many people find they leave hospital with their precious bundle, you’ve been shown how to feed, swaddle and change your baby, but what about their sleep? How much sleep do they need? Where do they sleep? How do they fall asleep? There are SO many unanswered questions.
So, I want to give you a little guide on the best way to start making positive sleep associations from the moment you get your tiny little bundle home
The first 4 to 6 weeks
This is the time I want you to relax, recover and just enjoy your newborn. Forget about the washing and the cleaning, and do as everyone says- sleep when they sleep! Get Dad, Grandparents or friends to watch over your older children when possible. Do not worry about a sleep routine, or worry about creating bad habits, nothing becomes engrained at such a young age. Enjoy the long cuddles, rocking and allowing your baby to fall asleep on you, it’s a magical time.
The next 6 to 12 weeks
This is where I want you to start to become more aware of your baby’s sleep habits. To begin with start to think about how your baby falls asleep. Is it always on you? Is it at the end of a feed? It’s important to at least think about laying your baby down awake for at least one nap a day for practice. We want to encourage your baby to begin to understand how to fall asleep (self soothe) without the constant help from you. Think about the environment they’re in, if it’s light and noisy it’s going to be much harder to be able to self soothe. So put baby into their crib/cot, shut the curtains and blinds creating a dark, calm environment. Cuddle/rock until they are drowsy then lay baby down, this allows them to be aware of where they are when they fall asleep, it can be quite unsettling falling asleep in one place and waking up in another. Baby will be needing around 5-6 hours of sleep during the day, make sure they have some good periods of awake time for stimulation in between the sleeps.
By creating a very obvious difference between dark and light you are teaching your baby’s body-clock the beginnings of understanding when it’s time to be awake and when it’s time to fall asleep. Start to also think about creating a lovely, calm bedtime routine, it doesn’t need to be rigid every night at this stage but as bedtime becomes more predictable it helps baby learn what is coming.
12 to 18 weeks
You have started to lay the foundations of self soothing; now I want you to start encouraging it more regularly when possible. You’ll start to understand your baby’s sleep cycle (see diagram below) and learn when it’s best to try and be quiet so you don’t wake them fully at the end of the cycle. You can start to attempt laying your baby down fully awake rather than drowsy so they can fully self soothe. Also begin using the bedtime routine you’ve developed every night now as familiarity and consistency is the key to your baby understanding what is happening.
It is very common for baby’s to rely on feeding to sleep, so begin to think about changing this, of course sometimes it can’t be helped but try to start feeding once they wake from a nap rather than before. A relaxed pattern of feeding, stimulation, sleep, works really well. Tracey Hogg, late author of The Baby Whisperer, describes it as the EASY method which I think makes it simple to remember…
Y- you time
It will help to you learn to understand when your baby is hungry, you will probably start recognising their hungry cry over when they’re crying out of frustration, tiredness or because they simply need a nappy change. Of course feeding on demand is recommended but start to see if you can recognise a feed pattern so you can break the feed/sleep cycle and also promote ‘good’ feeds rather than ‘snacky’ feeds which can become a bit of a habit when feeding is used as a soothing technique.
16- 18+ weeks
Now you can start to expect your baby to be developing a good feed and sleep routine, waking on average for 2 feeds a night at more predictable times, it may be one feed and some baby’s can even be sleeping through 7am- 7pm. How much sleep your baby should be getting (view chart below) will change as they grow, if they aren’t getting enough during the day you will notice they will find it harder to fall asleep and stay asleep during the night, so their routine may need some adjusting. But work on developing three good naps a day, morning, afternoon and late afternoon. Here is a great sleep time guide by age- but remember it is just a guideline, every baby is different!
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