During the first few days of your baby’s life he or she will most likely sleep, eat, and poop. This is the mother’s time to rest and recover from child birth. Get all of the sleep you can now. When your baby is asleep, try and sleep yourself. Focus on breastfeeding and bonding with your newborn.
At this early stage, your baby has not yet developed biological sleep rhythms. This is when the baby may have its days and nights confused. For the first six weeks, it is your job to do whatever you can to soothe your baby and get them to sleep. Rocking, nursing, putting the baby in a swing, going for a walk, or taking the baby for a car ride are all good techniques for getting your baby to sleep. Don’t worry about creating bad habits. It is too early for your baby to make that association. Your main focus at this time is to make sure that your baby is well rested. Remember, do whatever you can to get your child to sleep and obtain the rest he or she so desperately needs. Keep the baby in natural sunlight all day, and keep baby in darkness during the whole night. This will help baby distinguish between day/night quicker.
At this point, your baby is usually sleeping in a basinet, pack n’ play, or co-sleeper next to your bed. This makes it much easier for those night feedings. Put the baby down at around ten o’clock just as you are ready to go to sleep yourself. Turn the lights off and turn on a white noise machine. For night feedings and changings, only put on a very dim light. Do not interact or talk to baby. Nights are time for strictly business. This will help your baby learn that night time is for sleeping only. It's not time to be up and playing!
Early evening fussiness may start at around two weeks after your baby’s estimated due date. This is referred to as the “purple crying period”. It is a normal phase that all babies go through. It is defined as the time when the baby cries more than normal. Do whatever you can during this time to soothe your baby. Try the soothing techniques I previously mentioned and see which one or combination works best. A great resource is http://purplecrying.info/
At around six to eight weeks, you may notice a difference in your baby. He or she may start to smile when you look them in the eye. They are starting to become more social and aware of their surroundings. This is a very exciting time as a parent when you whiteness your little one’s first real, gummy smile! Usually day/night confusion ends and your baby will start to have its longest sleep period at night. Also, late in the day fussiness will peak and start to taper off.
There are many things you can do at this point to shape your baby’s healthy sleep habits. This is a great time to introduce the crib, a consistent sleeping place. It may seem like a scary place at first, but it’s great to get your baby use to it as early as possible. Start with naps if that would make you feel more comfortable. Make sure that your baby’s nursery is not over stimulating. Mobiles, bright posters, and lights can all keep your little one from drifting off to sleep. It’s a good idea to invest in room darkening shades and a white noise maker.
You want to begin to phase out sleep props like the swing, stroller, car rides, and bouncy seats. This is a good time to start a soothing routine. Usually after about forty five minutes to an hour
of being awake, your baby may start to show signs of being sleepy. They may start to pull on their ears, rub their eyes, and zone out. These are all examples of cues your baby is giving you and telling you it’s time for a nap! You can watch your baby for a few minutes to see if they can put themselves to sleep. If not, they will still need some assistance. Take your baby into their nursery and begin a soothing routine. Dim the lights/close the shades and begin to rock, swing, sing to or nurse your baby. Once your baby appears to be drowsy but still awake, lay them down in their crib. Turn on your white noise machine and either wait in the room to see if your baby falls asleep, or exit the room. I find that video monitors are a great way to see what your baby is doing without reentering the nursery and taking the risk of waking the baby.
You want to practice this routine and watching your baby to make sure you get them down before they become overtired. If they become overtired, you will have a very hard time soothing them and getting them to sleep. Naps will still be erratic at this point. Some may only be about twenty minutes where others could last over two hours. If you baby wakes after twenty minutes, give them some time to see if they can put themselves back to sleep. Let them experiment with self soothing. If they are unable to do so, pick them up and begin the routine all over again starting with being awake for forty-five minutes to an hour.
Remember, there are no strict rules or schedules to follow at this point. Follow your baby’s cues. Do what you feel is the best for your child. This time of your baby’s life is all trial and error anyway. Do your best to be consistent in helping your baby develop healthy sleep habits!