Typical Newborn Behavior
Nursing Your BEST
Every parent wonders if they are feeding baby enough, or too little.
Research confirms that misunderstanding a baby’s behavior can interfere with the developing parent-child relationship and cause a parent to add human milk substitute (formula), begin solids prematurely, or give up nursing altogether. New Mexico WIC has teamed up with Hug Your Baby to help you understand how your baby will grow and change during the first year of life and how those changes might impact your nursing experience.
Types of Sleep
Babies have 2 types of sleep. Both types of sleep are important and healthy.
Your baby needs light sleep for the brain to grow and develop. This is when your baby dreams.
During light sleep your baby:
- Moves around and makes noises.
- Has eye twitches or opens and closes eyes quickly.
- Has fast and slow breathing.
- Wakes up easily.
Your baby needs deep sleep for the brain to rest.
During deep sleep your baby:
- Doesn’t move very much.
- Has relaxed and floppy arms and legs.
- Has regular steady breathing.
- Makes sucking movements.
- Doesn’t wake up easily.
Newborns fall asleep dreaming in light sleep. Wait for signs of deep sleep before laying your baby down. This may take 20-30 minutes. It’s normal for baby to fall into a light sleep while nursing and still need additional time to fall into deep sleep. Consider it extra snuggling time!
Some babies need more sleep than others. As your baby gets older, her sleep will change and become more predictable. It’s normal for your baby to be hungry and wake to nurse in the middle of the night.
This is what you can expect
Newborn to 6 Weeks
During the first 6 weeks, your baby’s sleep will be hard to predict. Your baby is getting used to the new, surrounding world. You can expect that your baby will sleep for only a few hours at a time and will wake up many times throughout the day and night. It’s normal and healthy for baby to be hungry and nurse in the middle of the night. Look for hunger cues and bring your baby to the chest as soon as you see them.
Cluster feedings are common during these early weeks. This is when the baby feeds almost continually for several hours. Your baby may have a series of short feedings that are close together or one or two long feedings. Baby will still get enough sleep even if she wakes often to feed, and this frequent nursing will help you establish a good milk supply.
Watch Video here
Credit to Jan Tedder/Hug Your Baby
Misinterpreting Active Sleep as a feeding cue in a one month old may cause a nursing parent to begin solids earlier than recommended.
6 to 8 Weeks
Starting at around 6 weeks, your baby may sleep more at night because baby is awake more during the day. Waking at night to nurse is still normal and healthy. Remember to nap when your baby does—even a little sleep can help you feel more rested.
About 3 Months
Now your baby will start to sleep for longer periods of time at night, but will probably still not sleep through the night. It’s common for babies to wake to nurse once or twice per night—or more frequently if they are going through a growth spurt. Soon your baby will begin falling into deep sleep faster so you can lay baby down sooner after nursing.
Distractibility and rolling over at 4 months often change baby’s eating and sleeping patterns. Mothers who do not anticipate this change may give up breastfeeding altogether.
Watch Video Here
Credit to Jan Tedder/Hug Your Baby
About 6 Months
Your baby may sleep for up to 6 hours at a time. Some babies sleep through the night, but many do not. Nursing during the night is still normal and healthy, even after your baby begins eating solid food.
About 8 Months
Your baby’s sleep schedule will become more regular, and your baby will probably take two naps during the day and sleep about 6 hours at night. Nursing at bedtime will help calm your baby, but baby may still cry when you leave the room. This can make naps and bedtime more difficult. Keeping a regular routine will help your baby feel more secure and learn to calm herself. Some babies are able to self-calm around 8 months, but others learn this skill later on.
Throughout the first year, babies may have times when they wake up more often because of growth spurts, sickness, teething, or changes in routine.
Some babies take a long time before they sleep through the night. As long as your baby is happy and growing well, there is no reason to be concerned. Talk to your doctor if you are concerned about your baby’s sleep schedule.
Your baby needs your protection even when asleep.
Here are steps to follow every time baby goes to sleep.
- Always put baby down to sleep on the back.
- Baby should sleep on a separate, firm sleep surface with no pillows, blankets, stuffed animals, or toys. Avoid curtains or window shades that could be pulled into the sleep area.
- Baby should sleep in the same room with you but not in the same bed. You can bring your baby into your bed to nurse, but baby should be returned to a different sleep surface, such as a crib or bassinet, after each feeding.
- Baby should never sleep on a sofa or other soft surface.
- Baby should be dressed appropriately for the room temperature. Babies don’t need to wear extra layers of clothes. A sleeper or sleep sack should keep baby cozy if the room is cool. Some young infants feel more secure when they are swaddled, or wrapped in a blanket. Swaddling may help calm a fussy baby, but the blanket should be removed before going to sleep.
- All caregivers should know and follow these safe-sleep practices.
Tips for Sleepy Parents
New parents can expect to get less sleep. For a few months, most of your sleep will be in short stretches. These tips will not make your baby sleep through the night, but they may help YOU get more rest.
Keep Baby Close at Night
Put your baby to sleep in your room in a crib or bassinet for the first few months. When your baby wakes up and needs something, you won’t have far to go. It will be easier for you to recognize baby’s hunger cues so you can bring baby to you right away.
Try Some "White Noise"
Play music softly or turn on a quiet fan so you won’t wake up with every little sound your baby makes. You will still be able to hear your baby when baby really needs you.
Keep the Lights Low
Keeping lights low while you feed, burp, or change your baby’s diaper during the night will help you get back to sleep more quickly. Turn the lights on if you are giving medicine or doing something else that requires your full attention.
Sleep When Your Baby Sleeps
Even a short nap will help you feel more rested.
Ask for Help
Ask family and friends for help at home.
Crying is normal. It is one of the only ways babies have to tell you that something needs to be different. As your infant gets older, baby will get better at letting you know what is needed-and will cry less.
Beginning at about 2 weeks, many babies start to cry more than they did when they were first born. This time is also sometimes called the “period of purple crying.” Some babies cry a lot and others far less. This is the time to learn how to calm your baby and how to keep yourself calm if your baby won’t stop crying. While it can be frustrating for parents, know that this time is temporary, and will probably end by the time baby is 3 or 4 months old. Be sure to watch for early hunger cues, because baby may be too upset to eat if he’s been crying for a long time.
Increased crying at two weeks can be misunderstood as a nursing problem and cause a nursing parent to add human milk substitute (formula).**
Watch Video here
Credit to Jan Tedder/Hug Your Baby
How to calm a crying baby
Try to figure out if there is a reason for the crying. Check:
- Does baby need to be burped?
- Does baby need a clean diaper?
- Does your baby have gas?
- Is baby too hot or cold?
- Is baby tired or sleepy?
- Is baby lonely or afraid?
- Is baby overstimulated?
- Is baby sick?
- Is baby hungry?
Respond to the problem by gently cuddling your baby and repeating the same action or motion.
Try ONE of these at a time:
Speak or Sing Softly
Try saying a simple, calming phrase such as, “It’s okay, baby. It’s okay, baby. It’s okay, baby.”
Gently rock, sway, or bounce your baby, repeating the same motion over and over again.
A Gentle Massage
Gently massage baby’s back, arms, and legs.
If You Think Your Baby May Have Gas
Try using the reverse football hold to comfort baby. This position puts gentle pressure on baby’s tummy, which can help get the gas out.
Place baby lengthwise along your forearm facing down with his head next to your elbow.
Place your hand between baby’s legs and use your forearm for support.
Use the palm of your hand to apply gentle pressure to the tummy.
Use your other hand to gently rub and pat baby’s back.
Calming your baby takes time. Stick with the same action for several minutes—this can be the secret to success. If your baby continues to cry or becomes more upset, move on to something new.
How to cope with a crying baby
It takes time to calm a crying baby. Know that during the first few months, some babies cry for no reason. They may cry for long periods of time even when they are well cared for and healthy. This can be very frustrating for parents.
- Ask a friend or family member to give you a break by helping with your baby.
- If you start to feel angry or overwhelmed, lay your baby down in a safe place for a few minutes and take a break. Do not ever shake your baby.
- Remember, things will get better. Babies cry less as they get older, and you will get through this!
- Contact NM WIC or your doctor if you think your baby is crying too much.