Baby sleep expert Dr Kate Johnson, from Babysomnia, shares the essential steps to follow in establishing good sleep habits during baby’s second and third months.
During the weeks 7 to 12, you should start to see some really positive sleep changes from your little one – including longer stretches of sleep for all the family!
The Circadian Rhythm Starts Developing
Around 6 weeks, or when you see the onset of social smiling, this is a good indication that your babies’ Circadian Rhythm is starting to mature.
The Circadian Rhythm is your internal biological clock and controls when and how long we sleep.
This development means that you should start to see the time your baby regularly goes to sleep start to creep ever earlier. This will likely turn into some major stretches of night sleep and life will take on a rosier tinge.
If your baby is an excellent day napper with 4 to 5 hours or more of daytime sleep, he will likely be sleeping only 9 or 10 hours at night. Conversely, if your baby’s day sleeping is only 3 to 4 hours then you are likely experiencing 11+ hours at night with perhaps two (or more) night-time feeds.
So there is now a welcome predictability to bedtime and the first third of your baby’s night. This comes as a fantastic relief. However, the job is not done yet – the last third to half of the night will remain a challenge.
This is the time of night when sleep pressure is lower and the baby is experiencing more REM sleep. This can lead to lots of movement, snuffling and even crying out.
Begin a Regular Bedtime
Now is the time to get serious about setting a regular bedtime that works best for your family.
This will be a time frame (approximately a 30 minute window) that you can manage most days.
Once you have decided on a bedtime, it’s good to schedule a quiet wind-down period in a dark environment from that time on.
Starting A Bedtime Routine
By weeks 7 to 10, you may also want to start implementing your baby’s first bedtime routine.
Routines are an important feature of good sleep and this will continue as your child grows. At this stage, any routine will be fairly simple – swaddling your baby, giving him a cuddle and a kiss and telling him it’s time for sleep.
The key to a bedtime routine is the repetitiveness each night, which cues your baby that it’s now the time to sleep.
Give your baby a chance to fall asleep on his own
As your baby gets older, it will be important for them to learn to fall asleep on their own.
Keeping this in mind, it’s often worth practicing putting your baby down when they are sleepy but still awake.
Give the baby a chance to settle himself but if he requires help, you should go in and help to calm him down.
Try some different settling strategies other than just feeding to sleep – such as patting, cooing or stroking.
Better Daytime Sleep
After 6 weeks, you baby should start to have some morning nap predictability. You can encourage this in the same way that you have a regular bedtime – and you should aim to begin the day with a definite starting time. Turn on the lights, have a feed, and start your day with little one at a similar time each day (within a 30 minute window).
You will begin to notice that your baby’s body clock is starting to exert control and he’s naturally waking at a similar time each morning. You’ll likely start to see a pattern of when he is ready for the first nap of the day. For 7 to 10 weeks this is usually after a wake period of 90 minutes or so.
Here are the most important things to remember about sleep in this age range:
• The circadian rhythm is starting to develop, leading to some longer stretches of sleep
• Bedtime should now be regular
• Continue to swaddle your baby so long as it is safe and there is no rolling
• You’ll still be feeding on demand during these weeks.
• If you are working towards self-settling, don’t be afraid to put down the baby whilst he’s still awake. Remember, you are trying to minimise your input to them going to sleep.
Kate has worked in the field of Sleep Medicine for over 15 years. She has a Ph.D. from the University of Melbourne and has since worked extensively both here in Australia as well as most recently in the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital. She is passionate about working with families to help children sleep better and is the founder of Babysomnia. She currently lives in Melbourne with her husband and four young children. If you would like more information check out her website at www.babysomnia.com