Something strange happens to your infant between 5 and 11 weeks old.
Suddenly your Little Prince transforms into King Crankypants.
It’s like he was bewitched!
And in a way, he was.
These weeks mark an important shift in your baby’s development.
Your newborn’s magical ability to habituate and tune out extra stimulations has faded away, replaced with…nothing.
The new self-soothing skills he needs haven’t developed yet.
He’s in limbo. Stuck between having his OFF button pushed automatically, and learning how to do it himself.
This leaves you with an important choice.
Limp along and hope he figures it out?
Or putting your baby on a schedule to help him learn his natural rhythms and turn off that brain by himself.
What a 2-3 Month Old Schedule Is and Isn’t
Now, by “schedule” I don’t mean rigid check-boxes with eating and sleeping appointments.
At this age, those kinds of “schedules” generally bring more horror than harmony.
I’m talking about a good flexible schedule that will provide him with a predictably soothing daily list of events.
This rhythm will teach you how to push the “off” button at the right times, preventing her from being overtired and FUSSY.
Your goals for this age range should be simple. Here are the four things we want to focus on.
- Learning the proper expectations you can have for sleeping and eating.
- Teaching your infant the difference between day and night.
- Pencil out a rhythm, adjusting it throughout the day.
- As often as possible, start trying to put your baby down sleep-y, but not sleeping.
Set Healthy Expectations
Let’s take care of one thing right away. Every baby has a different “I can sleep through the night” timeline. And most babies at this age can’t. They may manage a few 5-6 hours stretches (woo hoo!) but those 10-12 hour sleeping marathons are still several months away.
Besides that, if you’re breastfeeding, you don’t WANT your baby to go 10-12 hours without waking up to feed. You need those nighttime feeds to keep your milk supply high.
If you suspect that your baby is inching closer to 7-8 hours without waking up to feed (which can happen around 12 weeks), keep a 48 hour feeding log and then share it with your Lactation Professional and Pediatrician.
They can then confirm whether your baby can stop getting nighttime calories or not.
Also, there’s a growth spurt between 6-8 weeks that will make your baby hungrier than usual. It’s very important that you feed your baby on demand during these times especially. He’s sending out a message that big changes and milestones are about to be reached and he needs more fuel than before!
That said, let me share some of the typical eating and sleeping patterns for infants this age. These are based on the average healthy, non-premature, baby.
A high needs baby (colic, acid reflux, premature, etc.) may not look anything like these amounts. In those situations, keep good records, brush up on your soothing techniques, and (most of all) be flexible. In these cases, let your pediatrician fill out your daily expectations on what a good rhythm could look like for your child.
Schedule Expectations for 5 to 8 Week Olds
I hesitate to list these, because I don’t want you to take them as solid-gold truth.
Your baby is an individual. It is VITALLY important that you use his cues and patterns to help you learn where he fits on the “standard” scale.
Babies 5 to 8 weeks old generally sleep about 15.5 – 17 hours every day.
This usually falls into a pattern like this:
- 8-10 hours of sleep a night (interrupted by multiple nighttime feedings)
- 6-7 hours of sleep during the day (divided into 3 naps)
A breastfed baby will typically still be eating every 2 .5-3 hours. It’s normal at this age for a baby to have 8-12 feedings in a 24-hour period.
Formula fed babies usually polish off about 4 ounces every 3-4 hours.
Sleeping Expectations for 9 to 11 Week Olds
Somewhere around the 9th week, you’ll see hus “sleep time” begin to shrink. Instead of sleeping 17 hours a day, he starts sleeping only 15.
Again, normally the pattern that emerges looks like this:
- 10 hours at night, potentially interrupted with feeding sessions (talk to your doctor about this).
- 5 hours of sleep during the day, split into three or four daytime “nap” periods
A breastfed baby usually nurses every 3 hours at this age.
A formula fed infant can drink up to 4 – 5 ounces every 3-4 hours.
Teach “Night” and “Day”
Our second goal to work towards is to teach your infant between day and night.
To up the confusion, let me clarify that “night” refers to anytime she’s going to sleep (even if it’s during the day).
So this is how you should be teaching him:
- Whenever he is going to sleep, it is officially “night”.
- Whenever he is going to be awake and play, it is officially “day”
When you pick him up for the morning feeding, welcome him with a bright smile.
Throw back the window shades, whistle a Mary Poppins duet with windowsill birds, or any other happy morning activities. (Don’t feel chipper? Fake it.)
Then, when you start seeing his sleepy cues for a nap (usually around 2 hours later), shut the shades, talk softly, sing quietly, and move slowly.
You need him to start noticing the difference between “bright playtime” and “dark sleeptime”.
And by “dark sleeptime,” I mean pitch black. We put layers of sheets on the windows to keep the nursery as dark as possible. I’ve even been known to travel with tin foil to put on guest windows. A dark room is a HUGE step towards late sleepers! Don’t make the common sleep training mistake of having a cute nursery that’s utterly sleep dysfunctional. That room’s purpose is for SLEEPING. Forget that to your bleary-eyed peril.
Pencil Out a Daily Rhythm
For those of you readers new to the site, Ned Normal is the hypothetical child I frequently use as an example.
It’s easy to translate this to fit your own day. Take the time he woke up, then write down when you can begin to put him down again. For example, if he was up for the day at 6:30am, then he should start showing sleepy signs around 8:30. Then re-adjust the schedule every time he wakes. Never let him nap more than 2.5 hours during the day. You want his BEST sleep to be at night!
|7:00 am||Diaper Change |
|9:00 am||Morning Nap (1.5 hrs)|
|10:30 am||Diaper Change |
|12:30 pm||Early Afternoon Nap (1.5 hrs)|
|2:00 pm||Diaper Change |
|4:00 pm||Late Afternoon Nap (1.5 hrs)|
|5:30 pm||Diaper Change |
|7:30 pm||Early Evening Nap (Shorter nap, so he’ll be ready to sleep again at 10.)|
|8:30 pm||Family Playtime/Walk/Bath|
|9:30 pm||Begin Bedtime Routine |
|2:00 am||Possible Feeding|
Obviously, if Ned is still sleeping at 2 am, I would be an absolute idiot to wake him. Let sleeping babes lie. The older he gets, the more likely he’ll sleep the night through. Yay!
Once he hit’s the 8-hour sleep marker, I’ll start moving that last feeding (the 9:30 one) back by 30 minutes…inching our way to the 7:00 bedtime that is customary for 4-5 month olds.
A Few Choice Words About Napping
Don’t get discouraged about napping. It’s going to be all over the map in these weeks.
Some days he will be a rock star napper. Other days he’ll flatly refuse. Every day is going to look a bit different. You will have to adjust your rhythm every few hours to match his cues, or he will get overstimulated and meltdown. If that happens, do your best to get through the day and try again tomorrow.
Typically the crappiest nap at this age is the afternoon nap. Just try to squeeze out 30 minutes if you can. This means, don’t go to the crib unless he’s really screaming and it’s obvious to the world he’s not going to fall back asleep.
If that’s a stretch, sing, stroke his tummy, hold his hand…anything to try to extend the nap as long as possible. Sometimes it will work, sometimes it won’t.
- Try to wean him away from napping in swings in the third month. Start him on a lower swing setting for each nap until it’s off, then transition him out of the swing entirely.
- “Napping on the go” will backfire on you at this age. Work hard to allow the first and second of the naps to occur at home, in a bassinet or crib. Those two will be the most critical.
- Even if you’re co-sleeping at night, have him nap in the bassinet or crib during the day to help him learn to fall asleep alone.
- The end of the 3rd month is the idea time to switch to the crib from the bassinet (if you haven’t already). If he hates this, start napping him in the crib the week before the move.
If your baby hates sleeping in the crib, put on your Sherlock hat and do some investigating. Let me show you how to reclassify the crib from Nuclear Zone to Nap Central.
My usual recommendation is to “wing it” during this age regarding naps. But if your baby has his nighttime sleep down and you think he’s ready for a more consistent nap schedule, or if you’re the type of parent that likes to know what’s coming before it arrives, sign up to take my Napping Know-How Webinar. It’s the most comprehensive napping class available, and I give you all kinds of tools to help your baby’s daytime sleep get better and better.
Start Practicing “Sleepy But Not Sleeping”
One of the most important life skills your baby will need to learn in the first year is self-induced sleep.
All humans go through sleep cycles that cause us to periodically wake up. As adults, our minds have been trained to put us right back to sleep. Usually.
Your baby’s brain hasn’t learned that skill yet. That’s why newborns require so much rocking, holding, singing, cuddling, to lull that brain. This is pretty easy when they’re newborns because they are naturally habituating.
Not so anymore! That newborn is quickly changing into a BABY. And babies can’t habituate.
Provided that your baby doesn’t have any medical conditions like colic or reflux, you can teach him that skill without making him scream it out.
The key is putting your baby in his crib when he’s good and sleepy, but not already sleeping. Understand?
So use one of these 62 different sleeping baby tricks to get him yawning and glassy-eyed.
Then lay him down to finish the final journey to slumberland on his own.
You won’t always get it right, somedays he’ll fall asleep too quickly. Somedays he’ll fight sleepiness altogether. Keep trying! Practice makes
perfect! gradual sleep-happy improvements!
The SINGLE exception to this “Try Sleepy Not Sleeping” Rule would be the middle of the night feeding.
“Drowsy but awake” is one of the sleeping rules advocated from my favorite sleeping expert:Kim West.
Nursing to Sleep:
Should You? Or Shouldn’t You?
You shouldn’t feel guilty if your 2-3 month old likes to nurse to sleep.
Breastfeeding releases a lullaby-hormone that makes both of you relaxed and sleepy during nursing session. It’s a physiological response. You can’t prevent it.
Besides, nursing to sleep is one of the sweetest mom-moments we have with our babies! That said, there is always a danger that it can become a dreaded sleep-crutch months from now when your baby can’t fall back to sleep without a suckle.
So what’s a mom to do? Well, there are two approaches to avoid making nursing-to-sleep a sleeping crutch later on.
Method #1: Stop Nursing to Sleep All Together
In this method, you decide that nursing and bonding is fine without the sleep, so you work on keeping your baby awake throughout the entire nursing session.
This doesn’t mean he can’t close his eyes, it just means he doesn’t fall asleep.
- Nurse with the lights on.
- Strip baby to his diaper and wrap him with a warm blanket for a change of pace.
- Gently blow on that cute little nose.
- Using a warm washcloth, gently dab his hand or cheek when he starts nodding off.
Method #2: Add a Step to the Bedtime Routine
In this approach, you allow your baby to fall asleep on the breast, but then you wake him before putting him down inside the crib/bassinet/co-sleeper.
You do this by…
- Reading him a bedtime book after nursing.
- Changing his diaper after nursing.
- Singing a song and making eye contact after nursing
- Giving him to Dad to finish the bedtime routine. (Babies know Dad can’t nurse!)
You’ll have to test these things to your child’s temperament. For example, if you have a Spirited Baby, looking into your eyes may actually get him all excited and riled up…completely ruining your chances of putting him down drowsy but awake.
A Few Final Sleeping Tips
When it comes to getting your baby on a schedule that seems natural, here are some final tips:
- Avoid visitors or trips during the late afternoon and early evening hours. Usually the best time to run errands is in the morning, when your baby is more alert. (Test this to see if it applies to your baby.)
- Make sure your baby’s tummy is being completely filled during feedings and he’s not snacking. 5-10 minutes snacks are not going to cut it. Understand his feeding personality and make adjustments. (That linked article is written for breastfeeders, but it’s completely applicable if you’re using formula.)
- The Fussinator is especially strong in the 5-7 pm time range, right when work is over and Dad gets home. Encourage the working parent that this cranky baby is going through a growth change and is not sharing any “I don’t like Dad” feelings. He will plow this season and be Dad’s number 1 fan again in no time.
These weeks with your infant can be some of the hardest times of the year.
Have you noticed any emotional changes in your baby during these weeks? How have you handled them?