For most new parents, that first 6 weeks can be a bit of a blur! There is so much to take in – feeding, deciphering crying and of course, sleep deprivation. The good thing about these next couple of weeks is that you should start to see some patterns emerge, including some longer stretches of sleep in the first part of the night.
The Development of Rhythmicity
The circadian rhythm is your internal biological clock and it controls both when and for how long we sleep. Around 6 weeks, the circadian rhythm will begin to mature and from then on will be the main determinant in your baby’s sleep. What this development means practically, is that you should start to see sleep become more consolidated at night and more wakefulness during the day.
Start A Bedtime Routine
Around this age you can start to have some more predictability to your day. Having a regular bedtime is one way to achieve this. Try and find a time that works best for your family but around 7pm is a good time.
A bedtime routine is simply a series of steps that you do each time you put your baby to bed. At this early stage, the routine will be fairly simple, so it may include some quiet wind down time in their room, a cuddle, being swaddled and then into bed. The key to a good bedtime routine is doing the same thing each time and it is this repetitiveness that will cue your baby that it’s then time to go to sleep.
Settling Your Baby
As your baby gets older, you may want her to sleep in other places other than just in your arms! If this is the case, it is worth practicing putting her to bed when she is drowsy but awake to give her the chance to learn how to settle herself. If she starts crying, go in and start some gentle stroking or patting to help calm and relax her. This is also a good time to try experimenting with different settling strategies other than just feeding to sleep.
Here are the most important things to remember about sleep in this age range:
The circadian rhythm is starting to develop leading to some longer stretches of night time sleep
Bedtime should now be regular
Continue to swaddle your baby as long as it’s safe and he hasn’t started rolling
If you are working towards self-settling, try practicing putting them down drowsy but awake
Kate has worked in the field of Sleep Medicine for over 15 years. She has a Ph.D. from the University of Melbourne and has since worked extensively both here in Australia as well as most recently in the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital. She is passionate about working with families to help children sleep better and is the founder of Babysomnia. She currently lives in Melbourne with her husband and four young children. If you have a question for Kate you can ask it on the Facebook page or for more information check out the website at www.babysomnia.com