The first few months of your baby’s life are the time to get to know your baby, and learn about your baby’s needs for sleep, feeds, play and settling.
You might find that a very simple, flexible routine seems to help your baby, and helps you feel more in control. But this isn’t the time to worry about getting your baby into any kind of rigid routine.
REGULATE NAP TIMES
Newborn babies cannot distinguish between day and night, as in the womb there was no distinction between night and day, and for this reason babies under the age of 12 weeks, should sleep for no less than 45 minutes and no longer than 3 hours per day-nap, as this can lead to day-night reversal.
In order for newborn babies to sleep longer and better, swaddling is recommended as it inhibits the immature startle reflexes, which disrupt sleep. The deep pressure created by swaddling is calming which is why swaddled babies also cry significantly less.
As a newborn grows into an infant, closer to the 12-week mark, they begin to develop a schedule. At this age, total sleeping hours reduce while their nap times increase in length. Eventually, they start sleeping through the night, waking only once or twice for feeds. Most newborn babies do not have a regular sleep schedule until they are at least 6 months old.
It’s important that a baby doesn’t sleep so much during the day that they skip a feed. A newborn baby needs a minimum of six feeds every 24 hours. At around eight weeks of age, feeding times become more predictable and the length of the feeds will become shorter. Your baby will also be more awake and focused on the feeding, rather than dropping off to sleep.
When your baby starts solids, her milk feeds will gradually decrease. By six months of age, baby should be having three solid meals and four milk feeds a day. By the time your child is twelve months old, milk feeds are reduced to just two feeds a day, once on waking and again at bedtime. It is advised to offer your toddler three meals a day, and two healthy snacks.
RELAX WITH A BATH
Ending the day with a relaxing bath is a great way to connect with your baby while helping her settle into a good bath-time routine. Start your bath-time routine approximately 30 to 45 minutes before bedtime. Babies generally sleep the longest after a warm bath and the bath then becomes a bedtime signal. The key to a successful bedtime routine is to not take your baby out of the sleep-zone after bath time, but rather settle them for the night.
ESTABLISH A ROUTINE
Routine gives the day a rhythm that will become familiar if it is repeated the same way every day. The repetitiveness of a schedule will help your baby to feel more settled. Unfortunately, just as you have established a consistent schedule, your baby’s sleep may regress.
Sleep regression is the time when your baby’s sleep patterns shift; they wake up often during the night, and they have a hard time going back to sleep. And if your baby is awake, so are you.
This usually happens for two reasons: a developmental leap or a shift in nap schedules and overall sleep needs. The most common signs of sleep regression are more frequent night wakings, trouble falling asleep at bedtime, increased fussiness or suddenly resisting naps.
With a combination of patience and persistence, you will soon meet the day when your constantly developing little person goes back to sleeping for a gloriously long stretch of time.
Author: Una Van Staden, Pikanini Baby Academy