Whether you are expecting or have a brand-new bundle of joy, you are most likely thinking…will I ever sleep again??? I know most of you are feeling exhausted right about now and just want to know what you can do to “get your baby to sleep through the night” or “just get them on a schedule”. Believe me, as a mother of two littles, I was right there with you at the 2 month mark. I think before we can “get our babies sleeping through the night or on a schedule” we have to first understand biologically what is happening at what age. When we understand what is happening at these different ages/developmental stages, we are able to begin creating that healthy foundation for sleep. For some hacks to help baby sleep as they get a little older, check out this post.
Let’s start with the newborn to around 6 to 8 week period and take a look at what’s going on with sleep during this time. In general, Day & Night sleep is unorganized, there are no patterns, and biological sleep rhythms haven’t developed yet. There is often day/night confusion as well. So what can we do as parents during this developmental period? Not a whole lot! We need to do whatever it takes to get both the baby and mother to sleep. Our main goal is to keep the child as well-rested as possible and do what works to promote sleep.
The next milestone is around 6 to 8 weeks of age. Major biological changes start taking place around this time. Your baby doesn’t “sleep like a baby” anymore and you may be wondering what is going on! By this time, night sleep begins to become more organized. Yay! Other changes at this age include social smiles, late day fussiness starts to peak, and day/night confusion ends. Typically, the longest sleep period regularly occurs at night (4-6 hours stretch). This is where we as parents can start to establish our healthy foundation for sleep. We can begin to work on the components that we have control over such as a consistent sleeping place (may want to introduce the crib), soothing routine, and experiment with self-soothing.
Once your baby reaches 12-16 weeks of age, night sleep becomes longer and bedtime becomes earlier. Circadian rhythms begin to develop and a daytime nap schedule will start to emerge. Your baby will have longer wakeful periods and naps will be more spread out. It’s important that we continue these soothing routines even for naps so babies continue to make the connection between the cues and sleep especially during the day. Consistent naps will help to ensure that baby doesn’t reach an overtired state and will also help support the nighttime sleep schedule as well.
As our babies grow and develop, their sleep needs will change. All we can do is provide a healthy foundation and timing for sleep and allow our babies to evolve into it. Every baby is different and by learning how to create the framework for a healthy foundation early, the hope is that you will also prevent sleep issues in the future.