I remember when my daughter was only 5 weeks old and I rushed onto an internet forum to see what her day should look like. I felt like her feeding and sleeping was all over the place and I was a failure as a mom because every day looked totally different and I couldn’t for the life of my see any pattern or routine emerging. I had no idea how to get her to follow a routine and felt like life was going to be a big unstructured mess forever. I had been told that things get easier when babies get to 6 weeks of age, I was nearly there, and nothing had changed!
Well guess what. My newborn is now a grown up little girl who has a very predictable day. She wakes up at the same time, eats at the same time and goes to bed at the same time every day.
After having 9 months in the womb it is a great deal to ask a little baby to settle into a routine. For their entire life to date they have had continuous nourishment (that they haven’t had to work for) and been able to sleep whenever they have felt like it, often being rocked to sleep by their mom’s movements. Life on the outside is very different and if you think it is taking you a while to adjust, just think about your little one!
So what should you expect of a newborn baby? What is typical?
A typical newborn will feed every 2-3 hours, and sleep lots. Sometimes they will sleep for 20 minutes, sometimes 5 hours. It is often very random and unpredictable.
Newborn babies tend to wake up a little at around the 3 week mark, often not sleeping for as long, taking a little longer to drift off to sleep and sometimes they get more difficult to transfer from one place to another without waking them up.
At around the 5 week mark most newborns will go through their first regression period, a significant growth spurt at 6 weeks, and then start to settle into a more predictable pattern.
By 8 to 9 weeks of age, newborns are exiting the ‘newborn’ phase, are extending their night sleeps and having more predictable naps during the day (I say more predictable because there are usually more defined periods of wake and sleep than for a 2 week old for example, who can drift in and out of sleep very quickly and randomly).
Before the 8 week mark it is a lot to ask a baby to abide by a routine or schedule, and definitely up until the 6 week mark you are best off taking your baby’s lead, especially if you are breastfeeding.
If you do want some tips for gently helping your baby towards a more predictable day and night pattern, I would recommend reading about awake times for babies, and basing their nap times on how long they have been awake (rather than what the clock says).
Photo from Flickr and used under Creative Commons License. Converted to B&W by babysleepschedule.net.