When your baby is first born, they might sleep A LOT over short bursts in a 24 hour period. Some newborn babies can sleep for a few hours between feeds, many can nap virtually anywhere, and sleep even better when they are close to a parent. Over the first month at home, it might feel like you are finally getting into a good groove, only for things to change around the six week mark. It happens to all of us (yes, even sleep coaches!). With my now 9 month old, I remember pacing around the house staring at this wide eyed babe wondering how it was humanly possible for a baby to stay awake so long. I know that as a new parent, it can be concerning when your 6 week old suddenly stops sleeping well. It is hard, stressful and exhausting to have a baby that is not sleeping during the day or is having trouble going back to sleep after a night feeding.
So, why exactly is your 6 week old not sleeping? If you are like I was, and your 6 week won’t old go back to sleep as easily, or your one month old is fighting sleep, read on to find out why and how this pattern is happening.
What the heck is the 6 week
The 6 week sleep regression is a period of time around 6 weeks of age where your baby’s sleep patterns may become disrupted. During this time, your baby may suddenly start waking up more frequently at night and have a harder time settling back to sleep. They may nap for shorter periods or begin to stay awake for longer amounts of time. This can be frustrating for both you and your baby, but it’s important to remember that it’s a normal part of their development. And this is why calling it a sleep regression and developmental progression is important. Your baby is growing, learning and changing at an extremely rapid rate.
Why does it happen?
Like with any “sleep regression”, it is thought to be caused by a number of changes happening in your baby’s brain and body. When your baby is first born, they have a sensory barrier which dulls a lot of the sounds, sights and smells around them. Around the six week mark, your baby begins to observe the world around them. This can be overstimulating and can lead to a baby who becomes easily fussy and harder to put down. There is also a growth spurt around this time, which may cause your baby to cluster feed, meaning they want to feed almost around the clock.
How do I deal with the 6 week
The good news is that this period tends to be short and there are steps you can take to help your baby through this stage. Here are a few tips to try to support borth you and your baby's sleep:
1. Continue to Feed On Demand
Especially if you are breastfeeding, this is not the time to start scheduling feeds or trying to stretch time between feeds. Not only does your baby need the extra calories, but if you are body feeding, feeding on demand will ensure you can maintain your supply.
2. Keep Baby Close
Skin to skin contact is a great way to regulate your baby. Try contact napping or babywearing to help you get some hands free time.
3. Get Outside
Exposing your baby to natural sunlight during the day helps them develop their circadian rhythm (their inner biological clock that helps them differentiate day from night). Exposing YOURSELF to sunlight and fresh air helps to combat the cabin fever many new parents feel from being inside all day and is a known strategy to improve mental health. Even sitting on a park bench for 10 minutes can be hugely beneficial.
4. Watch Wake Windows
Babies this age usually cannot stay awake for longer than 45 minutes and this could be as short as 15 minutes! Keeping a baby up for long periods of time can make them overtired, which increases overnight wake ups and leads to short naps and bedtime battles. If you are finding your baby is harder to soothe, check out the 5 s’ by Dr Harvey Karp as way to help calm them for sleep.
5. Take Care of Your Own Needs
Six weeks out from childbirth, you are still recovering physically and emotionally. Finding support to help you get the rest you need during this time is essential. Even one hour where your partner or a family member holds your baby so you can rest, can give you the energy to get through the day.
At the end of the day (or night), remember that the 6 week sleep regression/progression is usually a short one. Stick to your routine, prioritize your own sleep and remember that this period of sleep disruption is normal, healthy and WILL PASS.
Do you still have questions about how to best support your baby's sleep and maximize your own rest during this time? Check out our FREE NEWBORN SLEEP SURVIVAL GUIDE HERE. It is full of easy to read information about setting up stress free sleep for the whole family.