Newborns four to six weeks old are starting to show some patterns of regularity.
In the first couple of weeks of life, your baby seemed to be asleep all the time. You could actually get a nap in yourself. Between the ages of four to six weeks, it’s normal for your baby to start to ‘wake up’. Your baby’s day sleep may drastically reduce as your baby’s store of maternal melatonin will have depleted. Your baby’s sleep cycles begin to emerge, which means you may find your baby wakes easily after a short nap and sleeps in ‘shorter bursts’. On the other hand, your baby might also still be sleeping for long stretches of a couple of hours at a time, during the day. Your baby’s ideal awake time lengthens to between sixty to ninety minutes. Overnight, you might see your baby start to have one solid stretch of sleep, especially in the hours leading up to midnight. As far as overnight feeds go, your baby will still need at least two or three feeds during the night, although you should avoid excessive feeding.
If your baby is fussy and tends to cry a lot, this can be a normal stage of development. Crying peaks around six weeks of age and there can be a growth spurt around this time too. Your baby might be especially fussy in the late afternoon and want to cluster feed into the evening.
If you want to begin to organise a basic routine for your baby, six weeks is a great time to start, as your baby is becoming more aware of their surroundings and of night and day. However, the key word here is ‘basic’, so don’t stress about trying to stick to a strict schedule. You will need to go with the flow a bit and understand that your baby will be unpredictable at times.
1. Ensure your baby’s sleep space follows safe sleep guidelines.
2. Look for tired signs but also keep in mind that tired signs are easy to miss. If you offer naps around the sixty to ninety minute mark of baby being awake, you will avoid your baby becoming cranky and unsettled from overtiredness.
3. Babies are creatures of habit. Establish a predictable and relaxing pre-sleep ritual where you do the same things in the same order, consistently, before each nap and at bedtime. Your baby will (over time) learn to expect that sleep is coming and this will help with settling.
4. The best way to start your baby on a basic routine is to start your day at a similar time each day (wake baby if you have to). Offer the first feed of the day out in the lounge room, in the light. This will help to set your baby’s body clock.
5. Aim to work on small goals that are achievable. It’s okay if your baby mostly sleeps ‘on you’ in the daytime, but offer at least one nap a day in the bassinet or cot if you can. If your baby doesn’t settle well, persevere as much as you can but on the same token, don’t feel like you’ve failed if it doesn’t work. Your baby will get used to sleeping on a flat, stationary surface but it will take time and practice.
6. Avoid feeding too frequently at night. If your baby is healthy and thriving, feeding well and having full feeds, you should be able to extend the time between feeds at night to no less than three hourly (check this with your doctor or child health nurse). If your baby wakes after only a short stretch of night sleep, try resettling baby with some patting and shushing, instead of feeding. This will encourage your baby to take full feeds instead of snack feeds. Snack feeds can cause baby to wake frequently due to hunger.
7. Have realistic expectations. You cannot spoil a newborn baby and you will not introduce any unwanted sleep associations at this age. Your baby needs lots of cuddles and hands on settling from you. It’s is a time to get to know your baby more and enjoy the snuggles.