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

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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?


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.

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