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The first couple months of newborn sleep are a challenge, to say the least. But once you and baby make it to the third month, sleep life is about to get a whole lot easier with this helpful sleep schedule. This is also the time you want to be sure to pay attention to the clock and continue to keep baby on a regular sleep schedule. Her circadian rhythm is finally going to help you out dramatically so you want to use it! This is also the magical moment you have been waiting for in that baby is finally going to rock being put down drowsy but awake! If that isn’t something to get excited about, I don’t know what is! Trust me mama, you have so much to look forward to over the next couple months.
The Third Month
As mentioned previously in my article about the second month of newborn sleep, after the six week mark you want to focus on getting baby to bed nice and early. This alleviates her getting a second wind and becoming difficult to put to bed. You also want to continue to focus on getting baby back to bed shortly after her morning wake time. She will only be up between 1-2 hours in the morning before being ready for some more zzz’s. After her morning nap, she’ll continue to have a wake time of no more than two hours. Then she’ll be ready for a very consistent long afternoon nap.
Something that you may often hear a mom or someone around a really young baby who is crying and fussing say is that they are overstimulated. This is actually rarely the case if baby is getting the proper amount of sleep at the right times. Rather, baby has often been kept up too long. If a 3/4 month old (or younger) baby has been kept up longer than 1-2 hours, they are just overtired. They haven’t seen too much or been passed around to too many cuddling arms. They just want to go to sleep. This is why a sleep schedule can be so helpful in understanding what baby is needing.
With that in mind, the key during the third month really is consistency. It is what your little nugget is ready for. Without it, you’ll allow baby to develop really unhealthy sleep habits. So, think of consistency as the key to great sleep with a three month old. This includes consistency in a sleep schedule as well as your soothing of baby in preparation for sleep.
Baby’s sleep needs are routine and based on her natural circadian rhythm. Therefore, using a consistent schedule will help baby fall asleep much more easily than an erratic schedule based on the whims of the day will. So, a major focus before, during and after three months must be focused on a healthy and predictable day time and bed time schedule. A helpful schedule based on a baby’s needs at 3-4 months can be found at the end of this post or download it for easy reference.
As you get baby on a consistent schedule, you can help her know that it’s time to go to sleep by keeping your soothing routine exactly the same. This applies to when baby is getting ready to go to sleep as well as when they wake up and are looking to you for help to get back to sleep.
For bedtime, allow enough time to create a bedtime routine that is full of soothing activities. This can include:
- a feeding
- a bath
- a baby massage
- singing, reading and prayers
- rocking (but not as a means to put baby fully to sleep)
For nap time, you can choose to have a soothing routine also. If you have other children, keep in mind that this will need to be expedited due to their need for attention, so a short routine will be necessary. It could include:
- a feeding (this is typically needed after a two hour wake time and before the longer afternoon nap)
- rocking during that feeding (but not as a means to put baby fully to sleep)
- a short song
You also need to come up with a routine you will default to when baby is having a hard time going to sleep unassisted. This helps you stick with what you know to be comforting but not crossing over to doing things baby will come to rely on and need in order to get to sleep. This could include:
- rubbing baby’s tummy or back
- momentarily picking baby up for a quick soothing snuggle
- replacing a pacifier
- making a loud shhhhh sound in baby’s ear
- singing a lullaby or song
- replacing a swaddle
Consistency is key
The main point to keep in mind here is that you want to offer the same soothing behaviors each time baby has trouble going to sleep unassisted. This will help both you and baby stick with the plan of her going to sleep on her own as much as possible. Of course there can always be times when your go-to soothing methods don’t work. It could be when baby stayed up a tad too long and needs some extra comfort to get to sleep. This is understandable and you don’t need to stress about this. Simply help baby get to sleep and you can always get back to your routine at the next opportunity.
- Distractions- mama can easily get distracted with household tasks, running errands, being out and about without noticing the time, other kids who still have a lot of needs and demands for attention, meal prep (particularly at dinner time, which can easily coincide with baby’s early bedtime), etc.
- Lack of commitment to letting baby work it out herself. At this age, it is ok for baby to do some light fussing and crying. Remember, she is learning all this just like you are. She may not be a perfectly quiet learner, but that doesn’t mean that something is wrong. Fussing and crying is her only way to communicate, so she relies solely on it. Also, consider the experience of the mom with twins. Due to the fact that there is only one of mom, she attends to one baby at a time. It is not uncommon that while seeing to the needs of one baby, the other is lightly crying and after several minutes, falls asleep. This gives a mom of twins confidence that babies can endure a few minutes of light crying before falling asleep unassisted.
- Never asking for help- if you never ask for help, you may have a hard time keeping things consistent due to running out of energy to get all the things done plus take care of your newborn. This could be particularly true if this is your second, third or fourth child. Ask dad, a friend or your mom to help get some of the practical things done so you can keep things consistent with your babe.
A note about crying
Mama, there are so many ideas and do’s and don’ts and judgments around this topic of letting your baby cry. Honestly, you have to do what you feel most comfortable with. My goal as you make this decision, is to arm you with a lot of really good information that helps you understand what is going on in baby’s mind and body so that you can make a decision you feel really confident in. It is helpful to have all this information in the back (or forefront) of your mind as you deal with baby fussing before she goes to sleep. It helps you understand what is going on and that she really is acting according to plan.
Also, keep in mind the experience of the mom with twins. She has an advantage of being forced to allow a baby to lightly cry at times due to being one mama with two needy babies. She is able to learn early that babies are much more capable than we give them credit for.
If you are still wondering about letting baby cry, read this article about allowing baby to cry while sleep training.
Start with naps
Dr. Weissbluth’s states that day time sleep is the first to organize. When I read this, I took this as a clue to work first on baby’s daytime naps. In my experience, as I did that, they naturally slept through the night without any extra effort on my part. You may read that the drive to sleep is stronger at night time, therefore doing your sleep training at that time is most beneficial. However, you can’t argue with science. Through much research and observation of thousands of babies and their families, Weissbluth has accurately concluded that day time sleep is the first to organize. And because day time sleep effects night time sleep, we can use that to our advantage! Work to help your baby sleep at the natural times she wants. Then, you’ll see her start to sleep longer stretches until she is sleeping right through the night!
The biggest mistakes that are made at three months
According to Dr. Weissbluth, the biggest mistakes parents make with three month olds include:
- using motion to get baby to sleep. This could be by rocking, driving baby around or putting them in a baby seat that vibrates, rocks or swings. Stationary sleeping is the goal by this age.
- keeping baby up too long. Babies at this age should be up no longer than 2 hours. Make sure to act immediately when you see drowsy signs from baby. If drowsy signs are not present but the clock is telling you that nap or bedtime is coming, start your soothing routines so that baby his the crib at the right time.
- using an inconsistent soothing method. Keep it as consistent as possible and this will help you both!
- lack of sticking to a schedule. Your daily routine will revolve around baby getting the sleep she needs at the right times. These should be your typical days. And because your baby will be well rested, you’ll be able to have a couple days a month where you operate outside of your routine for special events or outings. Baby will recover just fine from these days she gets less sleep. She will recover so well because she will not be a chronically overtired baby.
If you want to learn even more about how to use consistency to help your baby sleep so much more smoothly, be sure to check out my newest ebook, Every Mom’s Guide To Nap Time. The information you will find in this book will not only teach you everything you need to know about helping your baby sleep well during the day, but will also explain how I used a great nap schedule to help my babies sleep through the night as early as 5 weeks old! That’s right, your baby could be sleeping through the night right now! This book will be a game changer!
What’s new this month
By four months old, 70% of babies are able to sleep from midnight to 5am. And within another 4 weeks or less, over 50% of babies can sleep for 8 hours. This does not mean that they sleep without rousing, however. It means that they are able to sleep all of these hours without any assistance in falling back asleep once they do rouse.
Also, it is helpful to note that a baby’s ability to self regulate her sleep by getting quality, consolidated hours of sleep happen most quickly within the first four months. The take away from this is twofold:
- Don’t delay in helping baby work towards a healthy sleep schedule with an early bedtime.
- Commit to offering baby an environment that allows them to get all the sleep they need (quiet, dark, cool, no motion).
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 baby. I will use a 1.5-2 hour wake time as an example.
A Sample Sleep Schedule
7am Wake Up
This is a good time to start the day to keep a schedule that helps baby sleep during her natural sleep cycle that you started to work with in the second month. A consistent wake time is the first step you take each day towards helping your baby sleep well during the day.
8:30-9:30 Morning Nap
Back to crib when drowsy (don’t wait until baby is tired!). Because this is still a continuation of night time sleep, baby is building up to a two hour wake time. She may be close to that in the afternoon but is still more comfortable around the 1.5 hour mark in the morning. Either way, look for drowsy cues and head to bed as soon as you see them. Additionally, if baby has had a hard night of sleep, this nap could also be harder to achieve. Night time sleep is the foundation for this nap, so keep that in mind so you can anticipate when some extra soothing may be in order.
11:30-2 pm Long Afternoon Nap
This is baby’s long afternoon nap! Yay! As always, watch for drowsy cues, even if it’s been less than two hours awake. Each day may be slightly different though naps should generally be within 30 minutes of the same time each day.
3:30-4:30pm Late Afternoon Nap
This late afternoon nap is a bridge to get baby to last happily until her early bedtime, which you want to take advantage of now if at all possible. Babies will experience the first third of their nighttime sleep consolidation around this age, so the hours of sleep before midnight will start to be a nice, solid stretch. Make good use of this knowledge by using a short nap here and then aiming for an early bedtime.
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.
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