Understanding Newborn Sleep
I clearly remember what it was like to bring a newborn baby home for the first time. I was completely in love, totally in awe and totally clueless about how sleep deprived I was going to be in about two months.
Newborn Sleep: Ages, Stages & What You Can Do:
Weeks 1-8: Enjoy the Ride
Week 8: First Sleep Milestone – Social SmilesThe first sleep milestone comes around six to eight weeks of age. At this point, night sleep should become a bit more organized, with longer stretches of sleep, around four to six hours, becoming more predictable.
At this stage, your baby will likely start with their first social smiles. Your baby sees you and smiles, and you know that he’s acknowledging presence. This is a good way to determine that you’re in the next newborn stage and that it’s now appropriate to work on the components of healthy sleep.
How to Encourage Healthy Sleep Habits:
Crib SleepWhile it’s still early to enforce a consistent day-to-day routine, there are little things you can do to encourage healthy sleep and prepare them to be rock star sleepers in the future. You can start by being consistent with the environment where your baby is going to sleep. You’ll notice at this stage that your baby doesn’t sleep as well in louder environments as he did as a newborn. If you aren’t planning on co-sleeping or continuing to co-sleep, it’s a great time to start placing your child to sleep in his crib and in a dark and quiet setting as much as possible.
Remember, at this age you can’t create any bad habits, but it’s important to get your child familiar with their crib surroundings. The only way he’ll get used to his crib is to be consistently in it. That being said, if a swing or car seat is what gets the job done that day, that’s okay. For now.
Watch Baby’s Sleep CuesAt this age, babies shouldn’t have more than an hour or two of wake time during the day.
At around 45 minutes to an hour, you need to watch for your baby’s drowsy cues, which could include:
- Zoning out
- Wide eyed stare
- Rubbing his eyes
- Pulling his ears
- Turning his head from side to side
If they can’t put themselves to sleep, it’s okay. Self-soothing skills often don’t mature until approximately 12 weeks of age. However, you can step in with your own soothing routine or sleep cues to help prepare your baby for sleep.
The goal of your bedtime or nap time routine should be to relax and soothe your baby, not to necessarily put your baby to sleep – that’s their job. Your soothing methods, or sleep time cues could be rocking, singing, feeding, or a combination of these. The soothing process doesn’t need to take very long. This process is a component of sleep training and shows that you are starting to respect your child’s need to sleep by anticipating when he needs to go to sleep.
Learning to recognize the drowsy signs and developing a rough sleep routine at this point will avoid your baby from becoming overtired.
Practice, Practice, Practice!Remember, at this stage there really aren’t any strict rules and the only goal is to have baby be as consistently well rested as possible throughout the day. You can start having them practice putting themselves to sleep, but if you have to take over, it’s okay. Don’t get discouraged. During this stage, you’re both practicing. Sleep at this point is still unorganized with no pattern and naps that vary in duration.
Just keep figuring out those cues and practicing what works best for both of you. Encourage healthy sleep habits and it will eventually come together!