Did you know newborns have different sleep patterns than older babies and don’t develop the ability to self soothe until four to six months of age? As a pediatric nurse practitioner, lactation consultant and sleep consultant, exhausted parents often ask me why their infant or child wakes up so often throughout the night. Parents often feel guilty or concerned that they have “spoiled” their newborns by nursing or rocking them to sleep.
As a Certified Gentle Sleep Coach, my response is that you can’t over-indulge an infant. During the first four weeks of life, the range of sleep may be between 14-17 hours each day. It’s normal for babies at this age to have short periods of wakefulness and unpredictable sleep schedules.
At around four months of age an infant’s internal clock, or circadian rhythm, is beginning to develop. While the baby’s internal clock is developing, exposure to outdoor light and fresh air during the day can help begin to regulate their body’s natural cycle.
Parents can help create a sleep-friendly environment for young infants by applying gentle sleep coping strategies such as:
· A pre-sleep ritual of no more than 20 minutes: nursing or a giving bottle, having a warm bath, massage, and swaddling.
• Putting your baby down drowsy but awake.
• Room darkening shades and comforting white noise.
• Establishing a consistent bedtime.
• Consider a sleepy feed or dream feed.
• Be aware of your infant’s sleep cues and use them to initiate the pre-sleep ritual.