The Fourth Trimester And Sleep
I’m going back to the bed beginning, to take a look at sleep during your baby’s first three months AKA the Fourth Trimester.
First time that you’ve heard of the fourth trimester? I’ve loads more to say about this here.
Your brand-new baby is born naturally nocturnal
Your new baby is naturally nocturnal during their first 3 months. This is because in the womb, your movement during the day would soothe them to sleep. Then at night, when it was calm (and there's less chance of a predator around!) they would wake, and nourish from the placenta. This usually settles all by itself once they've adjusted and sussed night and day, at around 8-12 weeks old.
Your baby doesn’t produce melatonin on a set schedule
Your baby doesn’t produce melatonin AKA the sleep hormone regularly, until around 6 months, and their circadian rhythm is fully developed. Only then do they start to produce melatonin on a set sleep schedule. This erratic melatonin production can also mean erratic sleep patterns!
Your baby's hasn't developed sleep cycles
Your baby doesn’t develop sleep cycles until around 3.5 to 4 months when they go through the 4-month regression. If this is the first time you’ve heard this, please read more about it here.
This means they need to wake frequently during the night to check in and make sure they’re safe.
So, as you can see, the first 3 months are a little unsettled, and a bit of a free of a free for all. In fact I call it the 3-month free for all! Sleep can be unsettled but it does get better.
What's really important for you and your new baby is:
- That you're getting to know each other
- That you're bonding with your baby
- That feeding is getting established
- That you remind yourself often that sleep will come
- Know that you can't spoil your baby. There are no bad bed habits to be made!
Help your baby learn night from day
Your baby naturally adjusts as they pass through the fourth trimester but you can help them along by:
Opening the curtains first thing and saying good morning to one or two things
Keeping their environment light and bright during the day
Getting out for some daily fresh air
Keeping your feeds chatty and sociable
Keeping up your daily life noise. It was noisy in your womb and your baby likes constant noise!
Meeting their needs at night is always the best response, but try to keep in on the down low by keeping the lights and your voice low
Nailing their naps
It can be tricky getting your baby, who’s naturally nocturnal, onto a nap routine. It's sometimes even more frustrating than taking their lead and going with the flow!
It’s also natural that your baby:
- Wants to be near or on you constantly
- Needs constant movement to stay sleep
- Struggles to sleep in a cot
- Wakes or cries the second you put them down
I promise you aren't doing anything wrong, and your baby isn't broken. They've just spent 9 months inside of you and life is a little different on the outside. I say nine months in, nine months out!
I always suggest following their lead with naps until 8-10 weeks when they've sussed night and day, making it a little easier to start a nap routine!
In the meantime white noise and a sling can be a life and sleep saver!
Swaddle to sleep
Your baby is born with a startle reflex called the Moro reflex. The muscles in their limbs and neck contract with a sudden movement, jolt or noise. This can disturb them as they're settling to sleep and sleeping. Safe swaddling can help your baby drift off to sleep and stay asleep.
If you do decide to swaddle to it's important to do it safely:
- Only swaddle with light materials
- Keep baby's room temperature between 16 and 19 degrees
- Always place your baby on their back to sleep
- Make sure you leave enough room for their legs to move up and out for healthy hip development
- Don't swaddle whilst co-sleeping
- Don't swaddle once they can roll
Bedtime routine is preparation for sleep separation
Going to sleep is separation from you,and your new baby needs preparing for this. It's never too early to start a little bedtime routine for your baby. Doing 3 or 4 things in the same order in the run up to their bedtime helps them to anticipate what's happening. They love things to feel familiar!
Here's my suggestions for starting a sleep routine:
- Bath: You don't have to bath every day but it let's your baby know bedtime is approaching and aids melatonin production. At your baby's age they need all the help they can get!
- Massage: This doesn't have to be anything fancy but some simple strokes can help your baby to settle especially if they have wind/colic
- Nappy and pjs
- White noise on
- Sing a sleepy song
- Big kiss and cuddle: It feels amazing and it also releases oxytocin which can help sleep
You've probably been told to put your baby down drowsy but awake. This is almost impossible for your new baby who's either awake or milk drunk. It's ok to help your baby to sleep by cuddling, feeding, rocking and stroking. You're not making a rod for your own back, there isn't one!
Meeting your baby's needs at night can never be the wrong thing to do. Crying is always communication and your baby isn't capable of manipulation! Going to your baby if they need you at night doesn't spoil them or mean they'll wake up out of habit. It does the opposite; they trust that you will come, it gets their needs met and everyone gets back to sleep ASAP!
- It's always ok to go to your baby and meet their needs
- It's ok to make eye contact and reassure them
- Reassure them with a sleepy sentence such as "It's ok Bobby, Mummy/Daddy is here. You're safe and it's sleepy time"
- Your baby is the manual and they know what they need. If they're feeding they're hungry!
- Change their nappy before a feed and/or only if it obviously needs changing. There's no great way of waking up your baby than whipping their nappy off!
IF you would like to find out more about me and my sleep services please have a look here