The first three months of life are often referred to as the fourth trimester when your little one is still adjusting to life outside of the womb. During this adjustment, baby is depending on you to lead in building healthy habits – including healthy sleep habits.
At first you may be overwhelmed with your little one’s irregular sleep patterns. While it will be a gradual shift to sleeping more consistently at night, it will happen. So, how can you help support your little one through this transition during the first few months of life?
Educate yourself on newborn and infant sleep patterns. You can expect your baby to sleep between 16-18 hours per day for the first month and 11-15 hours per day the following two months. Your little one’s longest stretch of sleep will probably be between 2-4 hours at first, increasing as time goes on. Remember, even though having a familiar routine is important, try to be flexible instead of adhering to a strict schedule these first few months.
Learn about feeding patterns. Did you know that feeding on demand – whether by breast or bottle – promotes healthy sleep? You can expect your little one to feed 8-12 times per day. As we mentioned above, be flexible with your little one’s feeding needs. Babies tend to cluster feed – again, whether by breast or bottle – around the 2nd day, 2nd week and 2nd month of life.
Pay attention to sleep cues. Some cues may seem obvious – yawning, rubbing their eyes, heavy eyelids or interacting less than usual – but when you yourself are sleep deprived, it can feel impossible to tell what your baby wants. Your baby may exhibit one or more of these sleep cues, or may have other indicators of their own. Just pay attention and as time goes on you will learn what they are.
Consider how surroundings affect sleep. At night, lay your little one down in a dark, quiet room to sleep. During the day, leave lights on and make noises as usual. This will help your little one gravitate toward sleeping at night when the atmosphere is more calm and serene. Also take into consideration how warm or cool the room is since your baby cannot yet regulate their own temperature. Colors, smells and other sensations can also affect their sleep.
Help your little one self-soothe. Your newborn will not be able to self-soothe at first, but swaddling and patting them can help them feel calm and safe as they grow. As you near the third month, begin limiting talking and interacting during sleep times. You may want to begin introducing a pacifier or lovey that will provide comfort as well.
Introduce a routine. Even though your newborn will have their days and nights mixed up at first, just give them time and it will slowly get better. The sooner that you can introduce a routine, the easier it will be for your little one to catch on. Maybe you read a book to your little one before bath time and lotion. Maybe you have a familiar song you sing or a toy that plays music to cue that it’s bedtime. There is no right or wrong, just create a routine that works for you.