Your baby will still wake through the night to feed, but now that it’s on demand you may notice longer stretches of sleep. Their sleep architecture and anticipations have not changed much, but establishing a healthy bedtime routine will set the foundation for your baby to recognize the difference between daytime sleep and nighttime sleep. A good routine will allow you to begin slowly lengthening the time between night wakings.
Introducing consistency for sleep
A newborn should be fed on demand and should set the routine for at least the first 12 weeks. You will follow their cues rather than the clock, but as you start to see patterns in their habits and needs, you will learn that they are striving for consistency. Babies thrive on schedules and consistency!
Although you can’t create a schedule for your baby until closer to 12 weeks, you can create a loose daily goal schedule and routine that works for your family and lifestyle. Aim for a consistent bedtime and wake time everyday. As you start your scheduled bedtime routine, bath, baby massage, feeding, and story, you’ll find your baby yawning and showing sleepy cues as their bedtime approaches.
Watch for Baby’s patterns
If your goal is to have a schedule in the daytime, remember that your baby is constantly adapting and growing and their needs will change. Watch their patterns and use them as a guideline for your desired schedule. For example, if you know your baby begins showing sleepy cues after lunch time everyday, try to be home during that period so your baby can nap while you have some quiet time to yourself. Or maybe your baby takes a nap every morning around 10, so you decide it’s a great time for you to run some errands while your baby naps on the go. Being aware of your baby’s sleep patterns helps you create a schedule that works for both you and your baby.
Here are two important things to keep in mind:
For safe sleep, your baby should sleep in your room in their own space for the first 6 months and even up to a year. This has been proven to reduce SIDs, and has the added bonus of positively changing your own sleep environment, too. What does the perfect sleep environment look like? Start with safe sleep habits and then make your room as dark as possible, blocking out all sunlight. Lower the temperature and use a noise machine to help mask outside sound. Remove all crib toys and mobiles as they are unsafe sleep hazards and can also be too stimulating. If you stay up later than your baby, use a soft night light to maneuver around your room, and never watch TV or play on a device in your room as the light and noises can wake your baby and negatively impact their sleep cycles.
From the moment your baby is up for the day you want to enforce that it is day time. You want them to understand that day time is when you are more active, when you get your exercise in, see the sun, consume the majority of your calories, and when you get to play. Babies are not born with a circadian rhythm, the 24-hour cycle that determines your behaviors and physiological needs. Instead, your baby follows your social cues to understand the difference between night and day. So it’s important that you get your baby outside, open your windows to let the sunlight in, practice tummy time, and take naps in a room with daytime noise and some sunlight, but block out all noise and light at night. You can wake your baby from naps to feed in the daytime so they are being offered enough daytime feedings, but after they have reached their birth weight, you can let them wake to request feedings at night. All of these daytime habits will help your baby understand that day time is for playing, and night time is for good, restorative sleep.