NEMOURS APR 2018
FROM NEWBORNS TO SLEEP TRAINING
Newborns have highly specific needs that will dramatically change as baby ages. Firstly, newborns sleep a lot—typically up to 17 hours a day. Because the initial two to three weeks of a newborn’s life requires that they be fed every two to three hours, most moms will find the real challenge is getting a newborn to stay awake long enough to properly nurse. Moms cannot leave it to a newborn to dictate when he or she sleeps, as newborns might choose sleep over vital sustenance. This is especially true of jaundiced and/or premature babies. Never allow a newborn to sleep without a feeding for more than a single four-hour stretch in 24 hours.
Only when your baby has surpassed his or her birth weight and is steadily gaining weight can you stop feeding every two to three hours during the night and instead feed on demand. Not only do newborns require frequent nutrition and hydration, mom requires the frequency, too, in order to build a proper milk supply.
Most babies don’t stay asleep for more than two to four hours at a time, day or night, during the first few weeks of life. The result? Lots of sleep for your baby and a very tiring schedule for you. As a new parent, you’ll probably be up several times during the night to change, feed, and comfort him or her. Baby sleep cycles are far shorter than those of adults, and babies spend more time in rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, which is thought to be necessary for the extraordinary development happening in their brains.
All this unpredictability is a necessary phase for your baby, and it doesn’t last long—though it may seem like an eternity when you’re sleep-deprived.
At six to eight weeks of age, most babies begin to sleep for shorter periods during the day and longer periods at night, though most continue to wake up to feed during the night. They also have shorter periods of REM sleep, and longer periods of deep, non-REM sleep.
Somewhere between four and six months, experts say most babies are capable of sleeping for a stretch of eight to 12 hours through the night. Some infants sleep for a long stretch at night as early as six weeks. But many babies don’t reach that milestone until they’re five or six months old and some continue to wake up at night into toddlerhood. You can help your baby get there sooner, if that’s your goal, by teaching him good sleep habits from the start.
While babies typically have different sleep needs, a well-rested baby is key to having a happy baby. Every baby can benefit from the smart strategies described here. By using these tips, you’ll lay the foundation for a lifetime of restful sleep:
Give your baby a chance to nap frequently
For the first six to eight weeks, most babies aren’t able to stay up much longer than two hours at a time. If you wait longer than that to put your baby down, he may be overtired and have trouble falling asleep.
Teach your baby the difference between day and night
Some infants are night owls (something you may have gotten a hint of during pregnancy) and will be wide awake just when you want to hit the hay. For the first week or so, you won’t be able to do much about this. But once your baby is about two weeks old, you can start teaching him or her to distinguish night from day. When he or she is alert and awake during the day, interact and play as much as you can, keep the house and your baby’s room light and bright, and don’t worry about minimizing regular daytime noises like the phone, music, or dishwasher. If he or she tends to sleep through feedings, wake him up.
At night, don’t play when he or she wakes up. Keep the lights and noise level low, and don’t spend too much time talking to him. Before long, he should begin to figure out that nighttime is for sleeping.
Look for signs that your baby’s tired
Is baby rubbing his or her eyes, pulling on his or her ear, or being more fussy than normal? If you spot these or any other signs of sleepiness, try putting him or her down to sleep. You’ll soon develop a sixth sense about your baby’s daily rhythms and patterns, and you’ll know instinctively when he or she is ready for a nap.
Choose a kid-friendly bedtime
Zero in on when he’s likely to be sleepy—experts generally recommend setting a bedtime between seven and eight o’clock. Wait much later, and he or she is likely to be too cranky, overtired, and restless to fall asleep easily. Sleep begets sleep.
Decide on a bedtime and stick to it
Babies thrive on consistency. If you put your baby to bed around the same time every night, she’ll develop a physical pattern, and her body will innately understand when it’s time to sleep.
Create a simple & relaxing bedtime ritual
Even newborns can benefit from a bedtime routine. Do not incorporate nursing into your ritual. Nursing a baby to sleep will make him or her feel dependent on the breast to fall asleep when he or she awakens in the middle of the night. Nursing should be done before the ritual begins in another room. Pick three or four soothing activities you can do together every single night to form the ritual. These might include giving your baby a bath and a massage, then singing a lullaby. Keep the routine brief by aiming for lights-out within 20 minutes after bath time ends.
Put your baby to bed tired but awake
Let your baby learn how to fall asleep without you. If you rock or nurse your baby to sleep, he’ll need the same attention when he wakes up in the middle of the night. Babies who go to bed drowsy figure out how to fall back to sleep on their own.
When to put an end to nighttime feedings
By the time babies are six months old, most who are growing normally can get through the night without needing to nurse. Around that age, start weaning your baby from midnight feedings by feeding her just before your bedtime ritual begins. If she wakes up, offer comfort (like a back rub) instead of more nursing. She’ll be fine. #
Courtesy of babycentre.org.