You’ve passed the newborn phase, you’ve noticed changes in your baby’s sleep, and now you might be wondering, What’s the next step with sleep? Around the 6-8 week mark is the perfect time to start establishing healthy sleep habits.
The first 6-8 weeks of a baby’s life are exciting and tiring for new parents. During these early weeks, your priority should be to enjoy and bond with your baby, establish a feeding routine and heal from the birth.
Around the 6-8 week mark — when your baby starts smiling — you can start to establish some healthy sleep habits. Help your baby define day and night with exposure to light in the morning and keeping it dark at night. Choosing a consistent sleeping space is important — the recommended sleeping space for the first six months is a crib, cradle or bassinet next to your bed. If you plan to move your baby to his or her own room eventually, you might start to experiment with laying your baby down for naps in the nursery.
Newborns and babies under six weeks can sleep anywhere. But once you reach the first sleep milestone around the two-month mark, it’s best to avoid motion sleep (stroller, swing, car). Your baby will get the best sleep if it’s stationary. To maintain your sanity and get out of the house, the third and fourth naps can be on the go. Get some fresh air, go grocery shopping or visit a friend.
Establishing a soothing pre-sleep routine helps cue baby that sleep is coming. At this age, the routine won’t be more than five minutes. Instead of napping at specific times, focus on awake times and lay your baby down to sleep 45 minutes to one hour after waking. Expect naps to be short — 35-40 minutes or one sleep cycle. Finally, feed babies upon waking to help them avoid creating an association between the bottle or breast and bedtime.
The first few months of a baby’s life can be tiring, as your baby needs to feed around the clock. But knowing when and how to prioritize sleep will make the coming months so much easier.
Jessica Raymond is a certified child sleep consultant with SleepWell Baby. She has two young daughters who help to reinforce her knowledge of babies’ and kids’ sleep needs. Jessica works with families struggling with their child’s sleep by providing education, information, tools and support to help get their kids — ages four months to eight years — sleeping better. She can be contacted at [email protected]