At 6 weeks, your little one can sleep for up to 6 hours, but for the benefit of good development, you may still need to slot at least one feed session into this time. Sleeping for 6 hours straight or a little longer usually only occurs from about 6 months of age when your baby has transitioned to solids, which take longer to digest.
The stark reality of a newborn’s sleep habits is that a mother has to adjust to her baby’s sleep timetable. This is very taxing on new mothers, and most are desperate to get their little ones to sleep through the night.
Babies have a different sleep cycle from adults, but as they age, their sleep pattern conforms more and more to that of adults.
No baby or adult really has an uninterrupted 6 or 8 hours of sleep as we all experience moments of slight wakefulness during our sleep, and adults mostly fall back to sleep without issue. Babies, on the other hand, react differently and tend to have difficulty falling asleep again without being comforted.
Many factors influence a baby’s sleep pattern. The big question is, are mothers empowering their babies to sleep better, or are they promoting dependency through their own loving actions?
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What does “sleep through the night” mean?
Sleeping through the night has a different meaning to individual mothers. To most, it means at least 6 hours of continuous sleep. For a 6-week-old baby, sleeping for 6 straight hours depends on hunger cues, so although it is possible, don’t expect miracles so early.
Newborn babies sleep for about 17 hours in a 24-hour cycle but need to feed every three to four hours. Their stomach is tiny, and the milk they drink is digested rather quickly, relative to their fast growth and development over this initial period.
Feeding your baby once or twice a night where your baby feeds and immediately falls asleep again is also considered sleeping through the night.
Babies usually have their days and nights mixed up, so to correct this, it’s necessary to introduce a night sleep routine that is complemented with up to four short daytime naps to start. Naps during the day help to prevent overtiredness, including the problems of getting your overtired baby to sleep and staying asleep.
At the age of 6 weeks, your little one can sleep for up to 6 hours, but for the benefit of good development, you may still need to slot at least one feed session into this time. Sleeping for 6 hours straight or a little longer usually only occurs from about 6 months when your baby has transitioned to solids that take longer to digest.
Formula-fed babies can go longer between meals because formula takes longer to digest, but the amount of sleep per day remains the same for formula and breast-fed babies.
Infant feeding patterns
New mothers are ushered into baby care based on their baby’s feeding pattern, which for many new moms leads to absolute exhaustion. Not because babies feed so much, but it’s more to do with the frequency and slow pace of these tiny feeding sessions that steal mom’s sleep.
Sleep deprivation is a gauntlet all mothers face. This is why there is so much emphasis placed on getting the little one to sleep through the night.
The first three months are by far the toughest because, in this time, your baby will mostly feed and sleep but will need some help distinguishing between day and night and will have to adapt to the sleep routine you are trying to create.
Full-term healthy newborn babies need to feed every three to four hours for the first three months, at least. Interfering with this natural cycle by shortening the time between feeds during the day and lengthening the time between feeds at night can retard normal weight gain and development.
Breastfeeding mothers who do this prematurely before settling in the breast milk supply and demand routine may run the risk of their milk supply dwindling or dealing with clogged milk ducts.
Once babies have been introduced to long night sleep sessions, diaper changes and feeding sessions will wake your baby but not stimulate them enough to be fully awake and demanding attention.
Your baby will feed and allow you to change their diaper and will fall asleep again, almost immediately.
Establishing a good sleeping routine for your baby
Establishing a sleep routine early will help your baby adjust to the introduced schedule a lot easier as sleep habits have not quite formed yet. The sleep routine you introduce must clearly define day and night, and you have to be tactful enough so your baby associates the “pleasant” routine with sleep time.
Feeding and holding your baby in your arms to fall asleep in the evenings will lead your baby to associate this behavior with sleep time, which could enforce separation anxiety.
When your baby wakes up at night, and you’re not there, you’ll be woken up with screams and sobbing. Your baby will then only fall asleep again in your arms.
Here is a basic guide to help you set the stage for night sleep:
- Your baby’s sleep environment should mimic the womb in a way. It should be dark and cosy with perhaps some white noise in the background. You can co-sleep with your baby in the same bedroom for care convenience but not in the same bed. Your baby should have a crib fitted with a firm breathable baby mattress and fitted sheet but no added loose blankets, sleep supports, plush toys, or anything that can be pulled over your baby’s nose and mouth.
- Feed your baby well in the lead-up to wind-down time.
- Wind-down time will begin with phasing out stimulating activities followed by a bath or gentle wipe down, a soft massage, fresh diaper, soft music or reading a fairy-tale, and of course, a little TLC cuddling.
- Your baby will cue bedtime by yarning, rubbing eyes, tugging at you with disinterest, or becoming fussy. Swaddle your little one (mimic the womb) and place him or her on their back in the crib. This is the recommended sleep position for infants.
- Sit with your baby and hum softly while either stroking or softly patting their bottom. You’ll see fluttering eyes as your little one slips into dreamland.
- Babies move in their sleep and if your baby’s arms are left outside the swaddle, he or she may suddenly awaken by being startled with an impulse movement of one or both arms. Learning to correctly swaddle your little one for sleep helps to limit sleep interruptions and will benefit both you and your baby.
- The most important part of establishing a healthy sleep routine is consistency. Being consistent gives your baby a sense of security and helps to promote good sleep behavior.
When to seek help?
You will undoubtedly have discussions with your doctor on your regular mom and baby check-up visits, but a lot can happen in between, and getting help when you’re unsure is the best course of action.
Here are a few behaviors that may require immediate attention:
- Your baby has difficulty breathing.
- Your baby has difficulty waking up.
- Your baby shows no interest in feeding.
- Your baby shows no interest in activities and constantly shies away
- Illness, a high fever, or injury.
- You have difficulty soothing your baby which could be signs of colic, reflux, or another medical problem.
Never hesitate to seek help. In most cases, the issues that concern you are easily resolved. There is no shame in keeping your baby’s well-being a priority.
Is it fine to put my baby to bed with a pacifier?
Yes, using a pacifier helps reduce the risk of SIDS but hold off until breastfeeding is established, which will take about three weeks.
At what age do most babies sleep through the night?
Generally, around the age of three months, a baby will sleep about 5 hours during the day and ten hours at night with one or two feeding sessions during the night.
You can expect your 3-month-old baby to sleep for 5 to 6 hour stretches at night, but babies differ, so you could be blessed with longer sleep sessions.
Will my breast milk production be affected when my little one begins sleeping longer?
The general answer is no; your breast milk production will synchronize with your baby’s demands. Less at night and more during the day will still keep your supply flowing; however, there are circumstances like illness and stress that may cause your supply to dwindle. It’s best to consult your doctor if you notice any issues with your milk supply.
What is the best sleep temperature for babies?
The recommended sleep temperature for babies is between 68° and 72°F (20° to 22.2°C) and the ideal sleep temperature for adults is around 65°F (18.5°C).
As a general rule, dress your baby 1,5 warmer than yourself for sleep but be sure not to overdress your baby. Overheating can have serious consequences.
Establishing a sleep routine early is the best way to work toward your baby sleeping through the night. Your baby is dependent on you for everything, but try to avoid fostering dependency on feeding and holding your baby in your arms for your little one to fall asleep. Work on making your baby feel secure through daytime and pre-sleep activities so you can place them in the crib when you see signs of sleepiness.
Be mindful of your baby’s need to feed regularly, and don’t rush or force through-the-night sleeping. Your little one needs time to grow and develop, and seeing your bundle of joy as a unique little person should make you excited to share in the journey of sleeping through the night.
Help your little one reach the milestones that will shape them into becoming a well-adjusted child.