This month, I’m back on the topic of sleeping babies. Last month we looked at getting baby to sleep in the first few weeks after birth. But the next step, getting baby to sleep from 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11 or 12 weeks of age, can be quite a hurdle for some parents.
In Getting baby to sleep 0-6 Weeks, I wrote about newborn babies up to about six weeks old. During this time you are probably still finding your way and getting to know your baby. But from around six weeks it’s time to start thinking about some routines.
Once your baby is about six weeks old, you might like to think about implementing ‘the 4 Bs’ – Bath, Breast/Bottle, Burps, Bed.
How do I Get My 6 Week – 12 Week Baby to Sleep?
I do this in the dark or very low lighting. I would try to be very consistent with this routine and around six weeks the babies most often will just fall into the pattern and it is not a struggle.
If there is a digestive issue at all, then this will possibly interfere with it, but persistent burping and picking up for a cuddle, then putting back down almost straight away will work with time and perseverance.
At about 10 weeks, I would also begin to cut back on any late afternoon sleep, if possible, so that your baby is awake from 5.30/6pm. This makes a 7pm bedtime easier to establish.
So, do you remember in my last post when I said that I would not feed before that time in the night? – well, here it is:
For a short time, your baby is likely to go back to two feeds in the night, but not for very long, and I cannot emphasise enough that it is short term pain (of sleeplessness) for long term gain of a good night time sleeper!
How to Get Baby to Sleep on Their Own
At around 6 weeks, I would put baby to bed at 7pm and not wake them up – let them wake themselves.
If they have already been going several hours, they will probably continue with this.
I find it is extremely valuable to not interfere with their natural sleep rhythm in the early hours of the evening as it helps them to learn to go for an extended period of time without food – and in my experience, sleep through the night quicker and better than those woken for a dream feed.
Typically, I would expect them to have a couple of nights of adjustment, where they get support, but not food if waking earlier than you would like. Patting, swaddling, shushing, a cuddle, a little suck of a dummy or clean little finger should work.
At this time, I would expect a baby to very quickly start to go from 7-11pm/12am and then start to extend until later. When the baby does start to sleep later than 1 am, this is when there will be 2 feeds in the night. A 1am feed would mean around a 5am feed as well (this one would ideally be smaller as it is close to the 7am feed).
As you might be able to see, by helping baby get through without relying on a feed, and working with a gentle structure, you can imagine that the length of time between that bedtime feed and the next just gets longer and longer… they can often get a little stuck at around 4am for a couple of weeks which is normal, and usually just extends by itself over time.
(If all else fails with the above suggestions, you could try to see if a dream feed would make a difference for 2-3 nights. If not, it won’t, so don’t carry on with it – I would suggest you just work through it as the phase that it is).
By stretching out – particularly the night feeds – with a pat or a warm hand firmly on their tummy, a gentle shushing noise, if necessary a cuddle, dummy, a little suck on clean small finger, you are always moving your baby in the direction of less food in the night, which is a great thing.
I don’t want to over complicate things here, but you could try to stretch out that 5am to a 6am feed and start the day then too.
Can You Sleep Train a 12 Week Old?
This is a question I commonly get asked. The simple answer is you can begin training a baby to sleep on their own from any age. But the better answer is that every baby is different.
There are certainly routines you can begin putting in place from around 8-10 weeks. And by around 12 weeks your baby should begin responding well to these routines.
Any good routines you try and implement at this age will make a huge difference over the next few months and years:
- Sometimes going 2 good long stretches in the night means that your baby will want to feed closer together first thing in the morning. This is fine, and a good way to encourage woken feeds.
- A baby that wants 2 feeds close together, but then sleeps longer in the next section also is fine earlier in the day. Try to keep the 4pm and 7pm feed on track as much as possible. If you have to do later than 4pm, consider a slightly smaller feed and not after 5pm, so that your baby is still hungry for a full feed no later than 7.15/30pm.
- A baby that wakes in between ‘feed times’ in the night (or even the day) is likely to have to burp, try picking them up, burping and putting back down to see if that’s all it is before moving on to a feed.
- I fairly consistently use shushing, and a still warm hand on their tummy when necessary to help them to go back to sleep.
- Encouraging your baby to go back to sleep with as little interaction as possible is the goal here. It will help them to learn to resettle themselves later on.
You may also want to read Getting Baby to Sleep – 6 – 12 Weeks, or start learning more about Getting Baby to Sleep – 6-12 Months. Or for more expert advice and sleeping tips, check out our Sleep section.