During these weeks, focus on baby’s sleep environment, as this is key to developing good sleep habits for later months. It is also important at this stage to consider a safe sleeping environment to reduce the risk of SIDS.
Weeks 1 to 3:
Your baby will seem to sleep all the time and in any situation for the first week as her body has a store of her mother’s melatonin, a ‘sleep hormone’. During the first couple of weeks, have baby sleep during the day in the light and in a very dark room at night, which will allow her to start learning the difference between night and day. From week two onwards, sleep baby in the dark for naps as well as night sleep. After about the first week, your baby will begin to be more wakeful as maternal melatonin begins to ‘wear off’. Your baby during this stage will require 16+ hours of sleep over 24 hours, with at least two or more feeds overnight, and with awake time between sleeps being approximately 40 to 60 minutes.
Weeks 4 to 6:
During this stage, it is normal for your baby to still be very sleepy or even the total opposite and be extremely wakeful! She may still need up to two feeds during the night, although you should avoid excessive feeding. Your baby’s day sleep may drastically reduce, but this too is normal, as your baby’s store of maternal melatonin has depleted. Your baby’s sleep cycles begin to emerge, lasting from 20 to 45 minutes, which means you may find your baby wakes easily after this time, and sleeps in ‘shorter bursts’. Your baby’s awake time lengthens to 60 to 90 minutes. If your baby has been fussy and cries a lot, this can be a normal stage of her development, and this usually peaks around 6 weeks. If you would like to begin to organise a basic routine for your baby, 6 weeks is a great time to start, as your baby is becoming more aware of her surroundings and of night and day (see Age Appropriate Routines below).
Weeks 7 to 12:
After 6 weeks of age, biological sleep rhythms continue to emerge (see ‘Biology of Baby’s Sleep’) and your baby begins to produce her own melatonin, making the darkness of his sleep environment very important, as melatonin is only produced when it’s dark.The aim at this stage is to start to sync biological rhythms and hormonal effects dependent on sleep cycles, with when baby can achieve her most restorative sleep.Your baby’s awake time will increase to between 1.5 and 1.45 hours. Consolidation of night sleep begins around 8 weeks and from this age, it is important for you to try and recognise your baby’s drowsy/tired signs (see ‘Keys to Helping Your Baby Sleep’) and not let her get overtired, as overtiredness can be a main reason for night awakenings. Try and follow a wind down ritual before each sleep and have your baby go to bed early if possible, to maximise night sleep for baby as well as yourself.