Sleep… sweet sweet sleep… it’s pretty rare with a newborn. We’ve all heard horror stories of children not sleeping through the night until they are 2 or 3 years old. Others wake up every hour to feed. It’s enough to make mom and dad insane.
There’s good news: this is not normal!
If you follow the Baby Wise method, 97% of your mini-me’s will be sleeping through the night by the time they are 12 weeks old.
Newborns are incredibly adorable (especially your own), but they are not very quick learners. That’s where you come in. You need to give your baby structure, not the other way around. Fortunately, newborns are simple and so is the structure they need.
Phase 1: wake up! Your and my day typically starts in the morning and ends when we go to bed in the evening. Your baby’s day is the same way, but is much shorter than yours. You like to eat breakfast upon waking and so does your baby.
Phase 2: feed that baby! Babies have small stomachs and inefficient gastrointestinal tracts. This is good for babies: the small stomachs ensure frequent feedings (which were historically breast milk), and the inefficient GI tracts allowed antibodies and other complex proteins to get directly into baby’s circulation. (Adults cannot absorb antibodies via their diet because of their GI tract anatomy – this is why antibodies are always given as an injection). Newborns need to be fed every 2 to 3 hours. If three hours have gone past, but your newborn is still sleeping, you need to wake him up and feed him. Total time to feed baby: 30-60 minutes
Phase 3: go about the day! Babies like to hear mom and dad talk in pleasant tones. They don’t know what’s being said, but they like knowing mom and dad are close. They also like to see mom and dad. Spend this awake time with baby and be engaged. It’s hard to spend every baby-waking minute completely focused on baby, so don’t feel bad if you need a few minutes every now and again to yourself – just be sure not to make it a habit. Total time for baby to be awake: 60 minutes
Phase 4: time to sleep! Put baby down to sleep. Babies will virtually always cry when put down to sleep. This means they really liked being awake (it’s so much fun!), but as a parent, you need to know when to put your baby down so they can rest up for their next tomorrow. Absolutely DO NOT keep baby awake as long as they want. This will destroy the necessary routine and make everybody sleep like crap. Let baby cry for up to 15 minutes at a time. After 15 minutes of crying, check on baby. Is the diaper wet? Are their clothes too tight? Are they too warm/cold? Try to find out if there are any real reasons for baby to be crying. After fixing everything that could be wrong, pat baby on the back and tell her everything’s just fine and put her back down to sleep. If baby refuses to sleep after another 15 minutes, repeat. Keep doing this for the duration of the sleep period – usually 60 to 90 minutes. Total time for baby to sleep: 60-90 minutes.
Phase 5: Repeat Phase 1.
Newborns will not sleep through the night prior to 8 weeks. If your’s sleeps through the night prior to the 8 week mark, don’t let him! Wake him up for feedings! Remember, they have small stomachs and need to be fed often. If you skip 1 or 2 night time feedings per night prior to 8 weeks, your baby will not reach his full growth potential as an adult. Starting between weeks 8 and 12, your baby will start to consolidate their night time feedings. They will sleep for 6 hours at a time (or more) if you were diligent with establishing the routine.
If you consistently ignored establishing the routine, your baby will consistently refuse to sleep.
Sometimes baby will be hungry earlier, or tired earlier, or sleep longer during any given 3 hour block. This is OK – feed them when they are hungry and let them go down to sleep when they are tired. Just be sure a routine is established.
For more information, buy the Baby Wise book from Amazon or borrow it from your library. Make sure you READ it and ADHERE to it. If you don’t do both, you may not be able to sleep for the next few years.