Saturday, June 20, 2009

5 tips for better sleep during baby's 3rd month.

The first two months of a baby's unpredictable sleep routine can really take a toll on a new parent. The wakeful nights, the crying and gas, it is a constant struggle for parents to get enough sleep of their own at night. Though the magical "end of the third month" when sleep is supposed to even out, is just around the corner, there are a few things you can do in the meantime to help prepare your baby to slip naturally into a long and healthy sleep routine.

If you have followed my baby tips for better night sleep during the first two months, hopefully your baby is only getting up to eat 2 or 3 times during the night. The tips from the second month still apply to babies who are in their third month, as a matter of fact, if you have successfully extended the times between your babies feedings by 15 minutes, for the third month I would suggest that you attempt to extend the time further to 25 or 30 minutes. Your goal in doing this should be to have at least 4 hours between the start of each feed. Here are 5 more things you can do to encourage longer periods of night sleep during your baby's third month.

1. Integrate aromatic associations into bedtime routine.
I know I have mentioned in other posts how smell is our most powerful sense tied to memory, and one of the most fully developed senses that our babies have, but this is a different use for that association. As you begin establishing a bedtime routine, if you integrate a special soothing scent into it, your baby will begin to associate that scent with bedtime. As your baby grows, and sleep disruptions occur, when you need to re-establish the bedtime routine, using the scent will help remind your baby that night is a time for sleep. I used a lightly scented lotion to massage my son as a part of his bedtime routine for his first 8 months after coming home from the hospital, so he has that scent associated with relaxation, mommy and sleeping. When he is sick I will rub a little of the scented lotion on the collar of his pajamas, and it soothes him even now at 2 years old.

2. Try different swaddles.
At different stages of development your baby will resist different types of swaddling. For a few weeks you may need to leave one of your baby's arms free, or use a swaddling technique that folds your love-burrito's arms across his chest instead of straight down to his sides. Nearly all babies will insist on having their feet free after the second month, which is fine. You can return to a full swaddle any time if your baby's sleep begins to suffer.

3. Establish a bedtime routine.
Now is the time to start creating the a routine that will signal to your little snuggle-bug that it is time to bid farewell to the conscious world for awhile. The exact elements of your routine don't particularly matter, as long as they are calming and consistent. Since you will need to perform the exact same routine every night from now on you will probably want to choose elements that are easy and flexible, like reading a story, "brushing teeth", baby massage, singing a song and rocking together. If you want to include a bath in your bedtime routine, try to have it earlier. Baths can be more stimulating than relaxing for babies, and are hard to remain consistent with especially while traveling. Feeding will most likely be a part of the bedtime routine, but I do encourage parents to try NOT to have it be the very last part. It is a good idea to wipe out your babies mouth after eating especially before night sleep to reduce the risk of thrush, and eventually that mouth-wiping out part of the bedtime routine can be replaced with teeth-brushing. Whatever routine you develop be sure that everyone who puts the babies to bed for night sleep maintains a very similar version, since consistency is the real key here. You do not need to use this same routine for naps because of the amount of time involved, but if you find that it works for you, then there is nothing wrong with it either.

4. Reduce your baby's night feeding amount.
Your baby still needs a large amount of food spread over full 24 hour periods. However, in order to begin reducing subliminal expected feedings, try to offer your baby about half an ounce less than you would normally offer at night feedings(for breastfeeding mothers this would translate into reducing the time spent breastfeeding by about 3 or 4 minutes, though you should probably pump afterward to completely empty your breast, in order to preserve your milk production). This will most likely be difficult at first, and if your baby insists that she is still hungry after about 15 minutes of after-meal soothing, bouncing and burping, go ahead and give her a little top-off. In time your wee wiggly giggler will be satisfied with less at night and will instead bulk up by eating more during the days.

5. Soothe your baby while laying down.
Wherever your baby sleeps at night, when he begins to fuss, try to sooth him back to sleep while he is still in bed. If it is obvious that he needs to be picked up, try to pick him up when he is not crying. Of course, this is not always possible, so if your baby is beginning to get really worked up, pick him up immediately. If you can soothe your fluffy little nightingale back to sleep at night, or at least into a calm state before being picked up, it will help to create the expectation in your baby that comfort can be found without being swept up into your arms every few hours or so. This change in expectation lends itself very well to the development of natural self-soothing habits. Quiet long-sleep periods at night are reliant on your baby's ability to develop healthy self-soothing techniques.

Though it may seem like the third month will never end, if you have some things to focus on in the meantime it will help time to pass while laying a useful frame work for any kind of sleep training that you might want to do in the future. Whether you think that a no-cry solution will work best for your family, or if you are leaning toward a quick-but-painful cry-it-out method, the process will be easier and faster overall if your baby has some of the skills she will need to adapt. I do not recommend that parents plan on implementing any sleep-training on the eve of their baby's third month "birthday", it is rare that any baby will develop so exactly as to actually change over night from an infant who needs on-demand-feedings to a baby that is ready to adjust to a whole new sleep schedule. If you watch your baby's schedule closely you will see a subtle shift over the fourth month, and at some point it will be apparent that your baby does not need to wake for food, but is waking more out of habit. This is when you will want to be ready with your sleep training plan already decided upon. What ever your parenting philosophy is, it will be easier once you start being able to get a decent amount of sleep at night again. Chin up, keep your eye on the ball, and keep telling yourself: "It DOES get easier" (for another tip that might help when laying your baby down to sleep check here). Happy parenting!


  1. You say to be sure to pump after night feedings to keep your milk supply up. When I think about that statement it really doesn't make sense to me. Any practice that would dry you up unless you use artifical methods doesn't seem like the right course of action to me.

  2. As with all of my tips, some will work for you, others may not. But they may work for someone else. Thank you for your feedback.