I Made it Through the Newborn Stage... Now What?
Updated: Mar 10, 2022
The newborn days are over! Baby can hold her head up, maybe she’s even rolling over, and laughing at you like you tell the funniest jokes she’s ever heard. What a relief to realize that the “fourth trimester” has ended, those grueling days (and nights) are behind you. Saying goodbye to the newborn stage can feel so bittersweet, and also present with its own set of challenges. Baby is still rapidly growing, developing, and changing, and some things at home might be changing as well; maybe he’s starting daycare as mom returns to work, or transitioning from mom & dad’s room to sleeping in the nursery. Let’s talk about what we can expect in the 4-6 month range, and how to troubleshoot some common sleep problems.
Sleeping through the night, maybe?
I get asked all the time: “when will my baby sleep through the night?” I must have googled this a million times myself in those first 3 months. The short answer is, it’s different for every baby! Most healthy babies can sleep through without eating by 9 months, but many will do so much sooner. I encourage you to check in with your pediatrician regarding night feeds and if/when your baby needs them, and just be patient. 1-2 night feeds is still so normal at this age. You can help nudge her toward sleeping through by offering plenty of milk or formula during the day, this helps to decrease the need to eat overnight. Independent sleep is also a really helpful component here too; if baby can fall asleep independently at bedtime, it will be easier to do so during the night! Don’t stress if you’re not there yet but just know that if he is waking more than 1-2 times a night, not going down easily after eating, or waking very shortly after bedtime, it may not be hunger and could be a schedule issue, or a need for independent sleep skills (more on this soon!)
Starting daycare is so bittersweet. Whether you’re chomping at the bit to get back to work or doing so only out of necessity, the one thing I want you to know is: your baby will be fine. And, you’re an amazing mom. Ok, that’s two things, but both are so important! Sometimes starting daycare can be a little disruptive and hectic at first. There are so many moving parts- bags to pack, bottles to wash, learning how to function at work as a new mom (especially if you’re pumping). Baby will be adjusting to a new place with new caregivers, which can make sleep a little tricky. If your little is especially struggling, you can chat with your daycare provider about timing naps according to your baby’s ideal schedule and consider bringing in a white noise machine to have them use. Over time baby will absolutely figure out how to sleep in this environment and you will learn to thrive in your new role as a working mom. You can both do this!
Frequent nighttime wake ups (Hello, 4-Month Sleep Regression!)
The … what? I know, I know, baby FINALLY started to lengthen out his overnight sleep, and now I’m telling you it’s about to change again (if it hasn’t already). Somewhere between 3-6 months, there is a permanent shift in the way babies experience their sleep cycles. They begin spending more time in light/REM sleep, experiencing partial arousals after each sleep cycle, and learning to check in on their environment before drifting off to sleep again. This can happen in a big way causing frequent wake-ups, protesting bedtime, and a change in naps as well… or maybe it won’t be such a big deal for you, just a few disruptions that resolve after a week or so and you’re back to normal! It can be hard to predict exactly how this change will affect each baby. If independent sleep is important to you and you’re struggling, it may be time to sleep train. This doesn’t have to mean “Cry It Out”! There are so many other methods that can help you and your baby achieve quality sleep.
If sleep training isn’t your jam, you may be able to improve sleep without it! Now is the time to optimize your sleep environment to make it very dark, cool, and quiet; a good white noise machine will help block out household noises and is a positive sleep association. You can also start to work toward a conducive nap schedule which will help to regulate body chemistry and optimize sleep quality.
Even if you sleep train, even if the “4-Month Sleep Regression” is behind you... those short naps might linger just a little longer. You’re so not alone! This is developmentally normal, and often naps will lengthen on their own around or just after 6 months. Usually, you’ll see the first one come together first, and then the second follows suit. The third nap will stay short, about 30-45 minutes, until it goes away on its own sometime before 9 months. You can help lengthen short naps by giving some time to fall back asleep when baby wakes, but now is not the time to panic- hang in there! Again, timing those naps just right will help make sure baby is not overtired when going down or going down too soon, as both of these can lead to waking early with trouble going back to sleep.
It’s not all struggles!
I promise! While it is so important to have realistic expectations about some of the challenges at every age group, it is also necessary to find the joy in every stage. Your sweet baby is learning to interact, make associations & form attachments. Soon her sweet coos will be replaced with endless babbles and she’ll have you laughing at the surprising number of things she can grab and shove in her mouth! Motherhood is an endless balance of joy and hard work, and the most extraordinary journey you’ll ever embark on. It’s all worth it, Mama, and you’re doing an amazing job.
Thank you for being here. Schedule a free 15-Minute Introductory call with Victoria to learn how you can improve sleep for your infant, toddler, or child as well as your whole family. You may also follow along on Instagram for more sleep tips and weekly Q&A.