Ask Dr. Marla: What can I to help my nine-week-old have a regular sleeping pattern?

By Dr. Marla Shapiro on June 13, 2013
I am still having challenges regarding my nine-week-old’s sleeping pattern. If he naps in my arms and then I put him down, he will wake up right away and then he fusses and cries before he goes back to sleep. What can I do?

Answer:

Your baby is new to you and the world and often can take a while to develop routine sleep patterns. Nine weeks is early to have this all figured out! First step is to take a deep breath and realize that this will get better with time.

A recent study in the journal Sleep showed that a consistent nighttime routine can help your child sleep better. More than 400 children, including more than 200 infants between one month and 18 months, were studied. Detailed records of the sleep patterns were kept. The mothers who were diligent in establishing and sticking to a ritual sleep routine had children who fell asleep faster, with fewer and shorter night awakenings.

At nine weeks of age your baby is just sorting out eating and sleeping patterns and likely does not know which is day and which is night. You can help to establish that by making sure nighttime feeds are done in a quiet and darker environment. A fussy baby that is given a chance to settle rather than immediately picked up, will likely learn to self soothe. While there are proponents of the “let your baby cry it out technique”, this is for babies who are older than six months and I am not endorsing this for a nine-week-old infant.

According to Dr. William Sears, founder of the Attachment Parenting movement, your scenario is not unusual. You may think your baby is fully asleep after being rocked, but in fact he might not be. He says that babies need to be parented to sleep, not just put to sleep. Some babies can be put down while drowsy while others need parental help by being rocked or nursed to sleep. Some babies are better at selfsoothing than others.

Dr. Sears advises learning to recognize your baby’s sleep stages. Wait until your baby is in a deep sleep stage before transitioning her from one sleeping place to another, such as from your bed to a crib or from carseat to bed or crib.

As your baby grows, so will its sleep pattern. The first 12 weeks will see your baby likely sleeping for less than a four-hour stretch, but you will see in the next while that your baby will increase the time he sleeps and develop a sleep routine with your help.

Got a health question? Submit it to Dr. Marla.

Originally published in ParentsCanada magazine, July 2013.

By Dr. Marla Shapiro| June 13, 2013

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