It’s a common question - is your baby a good sleeper?
According to Registered Nurse, Midwife and Maternal and Child Health Nurse, Helen Stevens, the answer is always yes!
Here, she provides some insight into what to expect when it comes to sleep patterns between the ages of 6 weeks and 6 months.
Just when you think you might be seeing a sleep pattern emerging, your baby goes through a (completely natural) unsettled period where there is increased tendency to cry.
This is a time to offer more cuddles, feeds and comforting. This is a great time to get that sling you bought out of the package so you can still do things while comforting your baby through this period.
Some parents feel they need to change something, and look for what it wrong. Nothing is wrong; in fact, all is going just that way it should. After a couple weeks your baby begins to have more settled periods and you will notice you need to go up a clothes size and even more enthralling is that this has been more than a physical growth period; your babies social brain has blossomed as well, and you are now talking to and smiling with your bundle of joy.
Sleep times will vary still but you will be seeing fewer of the 20 minute sleeps and more of the 2 to 5 hour sleeps. If you baby has a long sleep, it is quite possible that will be followed by a couple shorter ones as your baby catches up on some feeds that were missed during the long sleep phase.
Now a real pattern starts to immerge where you see some longer blocks of sleep. This happens because baby is now able to fit more milk into that tiny, but growing, tummy. For some reason this seems to be the time parents feel compelled to ‘train’ their baby.
A review of literature has shown that sleep training interventions before six months make very little difference to babies’ sleeping pattern after 6 months of age. Don’t rush it, your baby needs love and cuddles, and when calm, it is time to pop them into their cot or bassinet. Don’t be alarmed if your baby has one unsettled time in the day, usually the evening. Affectionately named the ‘witching hour’ this too will pass. Don’t try and get your baby to sleep well at this time, lots of feeds, cuddles and comforting will help these weeks pass more quickly.
Now is when you will be seeing your babies pattern of 3 -4 hourly feed, some wake time after a feed and then sleep time again. The time between when baby wakes and feeds, plays and returns to sleep usually is about 1 ½ hours total of wake time now. Sometimes your baby may remain awake for 2 hours, but that will be more the exception than the rule. And just when you think you are really getting a clear picture, it is time for another unsettled period!
Alas they continue all their lives, the next one being around 7 to 8 months. Don’t panic; again, lots of cuddles and comforting and when baby is calm and showing tired signs, it is time for sleep in their cot.
This phase will also pass, so allow your baby some time to suck their hand or try to calm themselves. It is still not necessary to sleep train, because you will be seeing quite a different pattern once the 4 month unsettled time has passed.
Now the circadian rhythm hormones are really starting to come into play and at night you will see longer uninterrupted sleep times, and only waking once or twice for feeds. Day sleeps range in length from 45 minutes to 2 hours. Now that the circadian rhythm is governing sleep wake states, it is important to have your little one into bed before 8pm so they are not fighting against the natural evening sleepiness.
This is also when, if not already, your baby wakes anytime after 6am and it ready to start the day. If you are not a morning person, rather than try and force your baby to sleep longer, just start the day when they wake bright and chirpy, but stay in your pyjamas.
This way you can convince yourself that you can go back to bed when they have their morning nap – yes anything to make 6am less painful for you.
To read about baby expectations from 6 months and up, click here.