Matt Bateman, our Vice President of Content at Guidepost Montessori (and an expectant father!) summarized for us the book, “Twelve Hours’ Sleep by Twelve Weeks Old“:
- Sleeping well is a skill the infant must learn and that the parent should help train. Sleeping well emerges from a good eating routine and a growing capacity for self-soothing.
- Weeks 1 to 6: Anything goes sleep-wise, but don’t create dependencies. That is, don’t consistently respond to crying with the same powerful soothing technique. Switch it up. Feed every 2.5 to 3 hours, even if waking infant is necessary.
- Weeks 6 to 8: Expect colic behavior. Still don’t worry about sleep training. Don’t be shy about soothing baby. Extend day feedings to every 3 hours. Don’t wake the infant for night feedings; let her wake herself.
- Weeks 8 to 12: Sleep training begins. Begin sleep training when infant weighs at least 9 pounds, is consuming at least 24 ounces of breast milk per 24 hours, and is at least 4 weeks old (older for twins and other tuples).
- Sleep training step 1: Focus on day feeding routine. Day feedings begin every four hours, bookending a 12 hour stretch. E.g. 7a, 11a, 3p, 7p. Goal is to gradually concentrate feeding to four times. More food = more time digesting, more time until hunger strikes. Extend breaks in ~15 min intervals. Focus on extending after higher-volume feedings. Do not proceed to step 2 without progress on step 1.
- Sleep training step 2: Focus on night feeding routine. Gradually eliminate night feedings during those 12 night hours. E.g. Eliminate feedings between 7p and 7a. Use infant’s natural variations to set new baselines that reduce night feedings. E.g. if she eats less during second night feeding, that amount is now the baseline for that feeding. If possible, don’t backslide. Be a ratchet; move monotonically towards target routine.
- Sleep training step 3: Establish rituals and problem-solving routines that allow infant to stay in bed for 12 hours at night. This means your toolkit for comforting baby should should not stimulate or entice her into wakefulness. Avoid eye contact, conversational vocalization, lights, picking her up, etc.
- Sleep training step 4: Nap/quiet time for one hour between first and second feedings, and two hours between second and third feedings. No napping between third and forth feedings.
- After 12 weeks, reinforce as necessary, especially after vacations, illnesses, and other sleep disruptions.
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