We know you're looking forward to the time when your daily routine will settle down, you can sleep for more than one-to-three-hour stretches ‑- and you finally know what your infant's different cries mean. Before that happens, it can be a topsy-turvy time as your baby's early sleeping and eating patterns turn night into day ‑- and day into night. But forty winks will be yours again once rituals and routines become part of your baby's life.
Many parents describe this time as "normalizing" their lives again, and as a time when they truly begin to feel like a family. This happy turn of events begins as your infant starts to develop regular feeding and sleep routines as a result of a predictable daily structure. This further promotes his overall growth and development. Here's a look at how rituals and routines help a baby move from mutual regulation, which occurs when the baby is in the womb, to self-regulation, which occurs during the first year of life.
Regulation begins during pregnancy with the mutual responses between a mother and her unborn baby. The mother's eating, sleep and activity patterns are experienced by her baby in the womb. Similarly, the mother knows and experiences her baby's patterns of movements, hiccups and sleep. The actual physiological responses occurring between the mother and her unborn baby are determining hunger and sleep patterns as well as emotional connections. This early pattern is referred to as mutual regulation.
Birth to 2 Months
At birth, an infant's sleep/wake pattern is determined by caregiving activities such as feedings, diaper changes and socializing. Most newborns sleep an average of 14 hours a day (the range is 12 to 16 hours), and at about two weeks of age they may sleep for one four-to-five-hour stretch (especially welcome if it occurs at night!). The usual sleep cycle lasts about 60 minutes and occurs in 20-minute segments starting with quiet sleep (no movements and regular breathing pattern), moving to active sleep (body and facial movements and irregular breathing pattern) and then on to a drowsy state (slight eye opening). When newborns become hungry or uncomfortable, they awaken and become alert instead of going back to sleep. If left unattended, they'll begin to fuss or cry. Once they're fed and changed, they'll be ready to go back to sleep.
Of course all sleep revolves around feedings. Newborn feedings vary over a 24-hour period from eight to ten times for breastfed infants to six to eight feedings for infants on formula. Feedings last from 30 to 40 minutes and usually require a 10-to-15-minute break about halfway through when the infant is burped, the diaper changed and parent and baby spend time socializing. Many parents assume that their baby has finished feeding because he begins to doze off, so they put him back down to sleep only to discover that he awakens again in about an hour, crying. This can leave parents puzzled about what to do.