Once the maternal melatonin (your sleep hormone you have passed on to your baby) has worn off at 4 weeks, things really start to get interesting.
Four to six weeks is quite an in-between time. Some babies will still be very sleepy. But most likely, your newborn will be very wakeful. Come to expect this. They have lost all of the maternal melatonin in their system and their body is not yet making it's own sleep hormone to compensate. This three week period may require a lot of assistance on your part to settle them to sleep.
What to expect:
1. More awake time: At this point their awake time will likely stretch to 60-90 minutes. This is from waking up to being asleep. If you know that it may require 10-20 minutes of your time to help your newborn transition to sleep, factor that in to your 60-90 minutes of awake time.
What you really don't want is to ignore tired signs during play time, peak at the time, realise it's been 90 minutes of awake and play time and THEN begin transitioning them to sleep. You'll have one tired, grumpy baby on your hands and you may have missed the window of opportunity for transitioning to a long nap. This is one of the most common new parent mistakes for newborn sleep.
2. You'll also notice that their day sleeps are shortening at this stage. That 2 weeks old's 2.5 hour nap may become a 1 hour nap. Are they happy and alert after an hour? Are they healthy and thriving? Don't worry about resettling after an hour, then.
Day time sleeps will be 4.5-5 hours total over the day. While night time sleeps will begin to cover 11-12 hours over the night.
You'll begin to notice their sleep cycles becoming regular. REM (light or active) sleep will possibly stretch from 20-45 minutes.
Some 4-6 month olds will cluster feed at night and not go down to bed till 9pm. You'll know that this is a successful cluster feed if they then sleep for several hours after being put to bed, maybe only waking once or twice for a feed and change till morning. If, however, they are waking before or at 12am, this is not successful cluster feeding. This is mostly just an over-tired baby. Attempt to settle them to bed earlier in the evening, if this is the case.
3. Another completely normal event during this stage is PEAK crying at six weeks. Yes. It is completely normal for a six week old to spend several hours over 24 hours crying.
4. On the flip side, you will momentarily forget about all the crying when ... get ready for it ... your six month old melts your heart to complete mush when it smiles at you! Yes, at 6 weeks your sweet newborn will have learned to "socially smile". No, this is not gas and you'll know it. There will be full eye contact and your precious bundle will flash you the most dazzling grin of complete and utter love.
Doctors use this developmental milestone to asses the infant's neurological age. If your newborn was 2 weeks late and they are smiling at four weeks, they will assess them "neurologically" at 6 weeks. Was your baby born 2 weeks early? They might not smile till 8 weeks.
5. You'll be glad to know that breastfeeding is really getting established by this point. They should have a nice good latch and have become more efficient at suckling and receiving the milk they need.
6. At this stage, Doctors will also assess if some sleep or crying problems are due to Reflux. This is when light doses of reflux medication might start to be administered.
7. Keep swaddling your baby. You may have found that the first three weeks they were sooooooo sleepy that you found no need to swaddle. Keep at it. With this time period they need all the help they can get to be comfortable and snug and settled for sleep.
8. Introduce "White Noise" at this stage. This will remind them of the noises wooshing around them in the womb. It will also help focus their brain when helping them sleep. To be effective, make the white noise as loud as their cries. As loud as a vacuum cleaner. As their cries settle down, lower the noise of the crying. You can download an MP3 of our White Noise at www.cradle2kindy.com.au/sleep-solutions-mp3
9. Your newborn's weight gain during this stage will average between 150-210gr. Any less than this, speak to your doctor or lactation consultant. A great way to assess if a breastfed baby is getting enough milk is to weigh it immediately before and immediately after a feed. Some breasts do not pump efficiently and pumping is not a clear indication of how much a baby is sucking.
10. Six weeks is a great time to bring a Parent Coach in to begin a sleep plan for your family. Sleep cycle patterns are beginning to emerge and parents have a good idea now of where they are struggling and may need a helping hand to boost their confidence. Contact Cradle 2 Kindy Parenting Solutions for a free 20 minute consultation.