Continuing to swaddle from 3-6 months is not a bad thing, many parents are keen to get rid of their babies swaddle as soon as possible. Unless they can roll from their back to their front, you don’t have to get rid of your babies swaddle at 3 months. I find many babies sleep better at 4 or 5 months with their swaddle than without. There is a big sleep regression to get through at 4 months, and having your baby swaddled will mean hands on no cry settling will be more successful.
The miracle blanket fits over the sleeping bag once your baby is 12/14 weeks and has outgrown the leg portion of the swaddle, a flat swaddle can also be used over a sleeping bag.
If you decide to wean your baby off their swaddle in this time, try one arm out for a few days, for naps only. Once you baby can successful sleep like this, try some night sleep with one arm out. Don’t rush the un-swaddling process.
- Sleeping bags
Once your baby no longer fits their swaddle you should move to a sleeping bag, the introduction of sleeping bags has been a major contributing factor to the reduction of SIDS in NZ and around the world. A sleeping bag keeps your baby warm and is safe and effective! Babies don’t lie still to sleep until around 3 years old, so any attempts to tuck them in with sheets and blankets are futile once they are mobile. Try a woollen sleeping bag or cotton for summer instead. A merino sleeping bag will regulate your baby’s body temperature and keep them snug over winter.
- Cat napping
Cat napping is a phrase given to a nap which is 30-45 minutes in length. Once your baby starts to produce their own sleep hormones around 8-12 weeks long, their sleep cycles become apparent, this is illustrated below.
Naps longer than 30 minutes are especially important because after 30 minutes baby is in a deep sleep and things like memory and immune system are strengthened in this time. Bones and tissues are repaired, appetite is regulated, growth hormone is released, energy levels are restored and stress is reduced.
After 1 hour or more babies get into REM sleep, here short term memory is transferred into long term memory, newly learnt skills are secured, brain connections are made, vision is sharpened and babies process emotions in this time and reduce stress levels again.
It is with these benefits in mind that we do our best to teach our babies to go back to sleep after a 45 minute sleep cycle, this can be an ongoing process, and some days you will feel more successful than others. Hang in there and email us if you need any more help with this. Often a timing issue is at play with cat naps, or the sleep environment is not quite ideal, or your baby needs to rely less on you to get to sleep.
It is very important that your baby is napping at this age, and they need 3 naps on average each day, if your baby does not nap over the day, this will lead to a huge surge in stress hormones and eventually this will result in poor night time sleep also.
By 3 months your baby can be having more regular naps as they leave the neurologically immature phase of their sleep development. We can begin to expect even the most stubborn cat nappers by 6 months to consolidate their sleep.
The morning nap will develop before the afternoon nap, so don’t panic if one nap is successful and the other not just yet.
- Sleeping through the night
A lot of babies will begin to sleep 8 hours at around the 12 week mark, whilst a lot of other babies will continue to wake for 2 feeds a night for at least 6 months. If you are concerned about your babies night sleep, and feel they are waking more from habit and less from hunger we can help.
If you are not concerned, please don’t feel any pressure from friends or family members to change your situation.
Ensure your baby gets plenty of natural sunlight, as this helps build serotonin levels, which in turn is converted into melatonin, this hormone needs to rise to significant levels over night to keep your baby in a drowsy state.
Ensure your baby is taking 4-6 good feeds of breast milk or formula over the day, don’t feel any pressure to formula feed to gain more night sleep, we see just as many exclusively breastfed babies sleeping through the night as we do formula fed babies.
Ensure your baby knows how to re-settle after a sleep cycle during the day, if they can’t do this during the day chances are they can’t at night, and they will be looking for your assistance each time they come into a partial or full arousal overnight.
- Sleep associations
By 3-6 months if you are not wanting to continue to feed or rock or bounce to sleep, now is the time to get rid of these associations and implement positive sleep associations which don’t require you to repeat an action over and over. These might be sleeping bags, white noise, and lovies or cuddles.
If your baby has a dummy at this age, consider if you want to keep it or lose it. It is easier now to teach your baby to sleep without a dummy than at 6-9 months. If you decide to keep the dummy, teaching your baby to find and replace their own dummy is paramount to everyone getting consolidated sleep. I love sleepytots which help a child to do this, whilst being a positive sleep association at the same time.
- Moving from Bassinet to cot
Most babies move from the bassinet to the cot at this age, and this can be a worry for many parents, they feel their baby sleeps well in their bassinet but they have out grown this space.
You can make the transition easier by placing your baby’s bassinet in the same space their cot will occupy. Then use the cot sheets on the bassinet for a few days, your baby will make these sheets smell like “sleep” to them, once you are ready for the transition take the sheets from the bassinet and place them in the cot, and the familiar smell will help your baby settle.