Babies grow and change at an astounding pace, and every month brings new and exciting developments.
The first year of your baby’s life is a year of incredible growth and development. The average baby triples their birth weight by age 1 and grows up to an incredible 25 centimetres in that first year. And that’s not all — between birth and 12 months, your baby will learn to roll over, sit up, crawl, and perhaps even walk.
Your baby’s sleep patterns will change pretty significantly in the first year too, and so we put together a 5-part blog series about how our baby’s sleep needs and patterns change in the first 12 months of life.
Part 2: 0-3 Months
“A new baby is like the beginning of all things – wonder, hope, a dream of possibilities.” – Eda Leshan
In Part 1 of this blog series, we took a look at what Newborn sleep looks like.From the time your little baby enters this world, they will be sleeping in stretches of between 2 – 4 hours at a time and will be waking for a feed.The time that they are awake is also short between 30 minutes up to an hour at a time, and they will be having 3 – 4 naps in the day.
As the weeks go by, you may feel like you’ve got the hang of their sleeping and awake pattern, by the time they reach 8 weeks of age somebabies will start to sleep for shorter periods during the day and slightly longer periods at night – although they will still wake throughout the night for feedings.
While these sleeping patterns are exhausting for us parents, rest assured that they’re quite normal and necessary for newborns. While there are things we can do to improve sleep in these early weeks of your baby’s life, it’s far too early to expect your newborn to stick to a sleep schedule, or to sleep through the night without feedings.
What if your baby cries a lot
Crying is how babies communicate their basic needs – their first and foremost need is to be fed when they are hungry. Although there may be other reasons that they cry, such as needing a change or being cold or possibly being unwell. What’s important is that when they cry you are there to comfort them— even in the middle of the night when you are beyond exhausted.
Contrary to what other people may tell you, newborns are not capable of being manipulative and therefore you should not allow your baby to cry until they fall asleep – that only sends them a message that there will be no one to care and help them in their need.
The question most asked: when will my baby sleep through the night?
Firstly, lets define what sleeping through means – for young babies, sleeping through is generally defined as sleeping six to eight hours at a stretch overnight.
Every baby is different and will have very different sleeping patterns. Even babies with the best temperament may not necessarily sleep through the night sooner than their more temperamental counterparts.
Babies are not developmentally ready to sleep through the night until they're around 4 and 6 months old, and for some babies sleeping through doesn’t happen until their much older.
What’s important is not to get hung up on sleeping through the night, but making sure your baby is able to settle quickly to sleep when they wake for a feed or need a change.
What to do if you and your baby are on opposite schedules
Having opposite schedules can certainly add to the exhaustion, but don’t stress too much, you both need a little time to adjust to your life together. There are ways to correct this to make your schedules more aligned – for example, you can start giving hints that it’s time to settle down and get ready for sleep by feeding, rocking, a soothing bath, a lullaby and a story — these simple ways signal to your little one that it's time to settle down and get ready for sleep.
Just remember, babies should not be forced into a sleep schedule until they're at least 3 months old.
How to help your baby adjust to life on the outside and help them to sleep well
It's not always going to be easy to sleep in a new environment, especially when your baby has gotten so used to the warm, dark and cosy spot inside your belly. When it comes to adjusting to life on the outside, your new baby might appreciate some help sending them off to dreamland a little bit easier.
Keep the lights dim. Even though some babies can doze off anywhere, it’s probably better to dim the lights and create a dark, sleep-inducing atmosphere. The faster your baby learns that darkness signals sleep time, the sooner they will start sleeping through the night.
Try putting your baby to bed drowsy but awake.Your baby isn’t born knowing how to soothe themselves to sleep, and if you let them fall asleep in your arms, you’re doing their important work for them. Putting them down while they are in a drowsy state but still awake helps them to learn to fall asleep on their own.
An idea: Try massaging your baby before they drift off. Studies suggest that babies who are massaged before bedtime may produce more of the sleep-enhancing hormone melatonin. And it’s a nice way for you to bond with your little one.
Swaddle and keep them feeling secure. After spending nine months in your tummy, it’s no surprise that your newborn prefers a snug space that gives them a secure feeling. Babies in their first few weeks will sleep better in a bassinet, and is a great option for a cozier, more contained space to settle into. Swaddling your baby with a swaddle wrap like the Koala Hugs newborn wrap or a swaddle sleepsuit or sleep sack like the Sleepy Hugs for newborn sleepsuit will offer an extra dose of security — and may even help them sleep a little longer. Just be sure to stop swaddling by the time they show signs of starting to roll (this may happen from around 3 or 4 months old), as swaddling is no longer safe.
Play white noise. Silence is golden, but most babies actually prefer to hear sounds that remind them of when they where in your tummy listening to a symphony of gurgles and the beat of your heart. The low hum of a fan, soft music or a white noise machine can be very soothing for your baby. On the other hand, yours might prefer the sound of silence, in that case, maintaining a quiet environment can sometimes be a challenge but if that’s what it takes.
Assess the temperature in their room. The Red Nose Foundation does not recommend a specific room temperature for baby’s sleep. As long as baby is put down to sleep on their back, and that baby is dressed appropriately for the room temperature – not overdressed or under dressed – with their head and face uncovered, you can feel reassured that you are protecting baby from overheating. Always check your baby by feeling their tummy, which should feel warm. Don’t worry if baby’s hands and feet feel cool – this is normal. If your baby shows signs of heat stress, such as flushed and clammy skin, remove some bedding or clothing and offer fluids such as breast milk for young babies or water for older children. Download the Red Nose Foundation Guide to Room Temperature Download the Red Nose Foundation Guide to Dressing Baby for Sleep
Most importantly, do remember that night waking and losing sleep for the first few months is a normal part of being a parent to a gorgeous new baby.