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The second month of baby’s sleep is going to start to allow you to get back to a more normal schedule, which will feel so great! You should be able to start to emerge from the haze of a 0-4 week babe who is on a 1-2 hour awake/2-4 hour sleep cycle. This coming month will be a great one and after peak fussiness at 6 weeks, things will calm down, resulting in a baby who starts to sleep more at night and have predictable day time sleep. Yay!
Also, I’ll provide you with a sleep schedule that you can aim for as you set the foundation for a great sleeper. You can find the schedule at the bottom of the article and you can snag it here to keep for easy reference.
Weeks 5 & 6
As I mentioned in regards to baby’s sleep during the first month, there is a general build up of fussiness. This grows and then peaks when baby is 6 weeks. It is really helpful to make note of this because this is around the time when parents start to wonder if something is wrong with baby. You will notice she is probably:
- fussy in the evening hours
- seems to be in pain
- is gassy
- has restless movements
The good news is that for the vast majority of babies, these are all normal experiences during this age. According to Dr. Marc Weissbluth, babies at this age are experiencing lack of inhibitory control so you may see that they twist and turn and even make jerking and shuddering movements. During this time they may swallow extra air, leading to a gassy baby. This could cause them discomfort so work on helping baby pass this gas by doing bicycle kicks which push her knees into her tummy each time you change her diaper. Doing it at this time just helps you remember to do it often and regularly, which can help ease baby’s discomfort. You can also make sure to get good burps out of baby at each feeding.
Even with all this, you will still likely have a somewhat fussy baby. It is actually totally normal for newborns to spend about 2-3 hours, out of 24, fussing/crying. Their fussiness will increase to these 2-3 hours up until 6 weeks and then decrease, mostly disappearing anywhere from 2-4 months. There is light at the end of a relatively short tunnel!
A Mayo Clinic study found that, of the average 2-3 hours a day that babies cry, time spent crying was attributed to the following:
- 36% of baby’s crying is due to hunger
- 21% of baby’s crying is due to a wet diaper
- 8% of baby’s crying is due to a dirty diaper
- 35% of baby’s crying is for an unknown reason
Baby needs comfort
See that?! More than 1/3 of the time a baby spends crying is for an unknown reason. This really means that you can’t do much for baby other than offer comfort. Comfort can be in the form of:
- a warm bath
- a gentle massage
- swaddling (these ones are the best and they are beautiful!)
- making a loud shhhhh sound in baby’s ear
- use a sound machine in baby’s room during sleep times (my fav can be found here!)
- holding baby close to your body
- making quick, small, side to side motions while holding baby
- hold baby in a ‘football position’ facing outward so she is on her side/stomach in your arms
- offer baby something to suck on
When is it colic?
You may feel like your baby is extra fussy, experiencing periods of fussiness that last longer or more often than what was noted above. According to the Mayo Clinic, your baby may be defined as colicky if:
- baby is healthy and well fed but is unsettled, agitated, has difficulty falling and staying asleep
- experiences ‘an unsettled, agitated, wakeful state that would lead to crying if ignored by parents’
- is fussy/cries for more than three hours a day, 3 days a week or more, for more than 3 weeks.
As I previously mentioned, this typically begins around 2-3 weeks of age (based on gestational due date, not delivery date) and in 92% of cases, takes place between 5pm and midnight. Sorry, mama….this causes your sleep to take a hit for this short period of time.
I know the sleep deprivation can really get to you, but I have found that understanding what is going on in baby’s mind and body can really help me have compassion rather that frustration. Baby has no control over what is going on in her body and it’s probably bothering her more than it’s bothering you! Look at what is happening in baby that is causing all her fussiness…
- At birth, high levels of melatonin (hormone that helps control sleep/wake cycles) cross the placenta from mom to baby
- This drops significantly after several days and then abruptly increases around 3 months (more at night, less during the day)
- Serotonin (a hormone that regulates mood, behavior, appetite, sleep, digestion) is high and present in infants during their first month and then drops around 3 months.
- Serotonin causes contractions on the muscles around the gut while melatonin helps relax those muscles
- A baby’s serotonin concentrations are at their highest in the evenings
- Theory: in some infants, these high serotonin levels cause painful gastrointestinal cramps.
- Weissbluth also found that extremely fussy/colicky babies had a ‘blunted rhythm in cortosol.’
Weissbluth’s overall findings are that colic can likely be:
- related to lack of sleep in the evening hours which creates an overtired baby
- due to hormone levels
The likely truth about colic: extreme fussiness/colic is something baby does, not something baby has. It is not a medical problem, but a stage of life.
So, here we are again, with our main goal being to do everything we can to avoid letting baby get overtired. It is the main enemy during these first months. And based on what you just read, there could be chemicals in her body that cause her so much discomfort in the evenings that she can’t get the sleep she needs.
As I mentioned in the article about baby’s first month of sleep, you are laying the foundation of a very well rested newborn so that when she is ready for a more reliable schedule, she can easily transition to it. And she is so very close to being ready! Yay!
If you want to make sure you know everything there is about how to get your baby napping consistently during the day, be sure to check out my newest ebook, Every Mom’s Guide To Nap Time. This book is a game changer, mama! Not only will this book get your child napping consistently by helping you learn everything there is to know about daytime sleep, I will share with you how I got my babies napping through the night as early as 5 weeks old by solely focusing on their daytime sleep schedule! Yes, it’s possible! And I want to share with you how you can do it, too!
Weeks 7 & 8
You should start to see a great decrease in baby’s fussiness during these weeks. It will feel so glorious! You’ll return to the land of the living as you get more sleep at night and start to rely on a more predictable sleep schedule during the day. It is during these weeks that baby will be able to have an earlier bedtime and have longer, more organized night time sleep.
Now that the serotonin and melatonin have gotten their acts together a bit more, you should be able to lay baby down early in the evening, sometime between 6-8pm. You will have to work to find the sweet spot here, but the earlier baby can go to bed in that window, the better. This is true for three reasons:
- baby can get a second wind if you miss her evening bedtime, making it much harder to lay her down drowsy but awake. This will cause her to quickly get overtired.
- baby will start to get a 4-6 hour sleep block in these early evening hours and it will occur before midnight. So, aiming to get baby to bed around 6pm will give you the best shot at her getting a 6 hour sleep block.
- if you avoid an early bedtime, you will extend the fussiness we have been discussing. In fact, the crying will not decrease in the evening hours and will increase substantially. This will no longer be normal newborn fussiness and instead will be your sweet darling tell you that they are being sleep deprived. And a sleep deprived baby is a sad baby.
What has changed from the first month?
Now that baby is just a few weeks older, there are just a couple things to keep in mind.
- baby will be able to stay awake a bit longer, but still never more than two hours at a time. This is vitally important to keep in mind to avoid an over tired baby.
- you must still lay baby down drowsy but awake. As she is becoming more aware of the outside world, she may begin to resist sleep. She may easily drift to sleep when laid down and she may not. At this point, it is ok to allow some soft crying. If you prefer not to, that is also ok. You can pick baby up and try to lay her down after consoling her. Don’t forget the power of something for baby to suck on! A pacifier (or thumb) will do wonders to help baby sleep as does a good swaddle!
- as baby is more aware of things, her sleep environment begins to be more important. Sleep will now be more easily interrupted so you must allow baby the opportunity to sleep in a quiet, dark and cool room that has a noise machine running.
Use these points as motivation to protect baby’s sleep in evenings and guide her wake times during the day. And with all that you have read thus far regarding baby’s sleep needs, here is a sample schedule you can use as the base for planning out baby’s day. This is the schedule I have used with all my babies. You can use it as a guide and can make adjustments that suit your family and your newborn.
A Sample Schedule
7am Wake Up
This is a good time to start the day to keep a schedule and help baby sleep during her natural sleep cycle that is beginning to emerge. This is also a short wake time (basically a continuation of night time sleep) so baby will be drowsy again soon.
Back to crib when drowsy (don’t wait until baby is tired!)
9:30am Wake Up
Hopefully baby can work towards being awake for two hours during weeks 7-8. Just be patient and always observe the rule: drowsy = head to bed, tired = too late.
This is baby’s long afternoon nap! Yay!
1:30/2pm Wake Up
This is another two hour awake time
This nap is necessary to keep your baby happy and well rested as well as make it till bedtime. It can be 45-60 minutes.
4/4:30 Wake Up
This is baby’s last day time awake window. During this time, feed baby and get the bedtime routine going nice and early in order to ensure baby is able to be in bed by 6pm.
Night, night baby! Take the time for a bedtime routine of a bath, then snuggles and feeding in a dark, quiet room. This sets day and night time sleep apart and helps baby settle in for the longer night sleep.
Well, mama, there you have it. There is so much growth going on with your sweet babe. She is getting used to being in the world and is learning so much. She’s trying just as hard as you are to figure everything out. Be patient with her. Be patient with yourself. Ask for help when you need it. Other mamas know what it’s like, so you don’t have to pretend it all going smoothly. Find the girlfriend who will come fold your laundry while you snuggle baby. Ask daddy to take over a round of wake and sleep time after you’ve fed baby…or give dad the opportunity to feed baby with one expressed milk bottle a day. This is proven to be beneficial for you, baby and dad.
Overall, remember to take of yourself as you take care of baby. Avoid baby getting overtired and you’ll be well on your way to a baby who takes great day time naps and sleeps through the night. Which means you’ll get to shower again, have some relaxing evenings and get back to sleeping through the night yourself. You got this!
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