Your Baby's Sleep Schedule
"Establishing a consistent sleep schedule for your baby is crucial to the ultimate goal of helping her to sleep through the night. A key aspect of doing this is to provide a substantial late night feeding. Starting as early as the third day of your baby’s life, define one focal feeding time. This should be in the late evening, probably sometime between 10 P.M. and midnight. Then make sure that you feed your baby every night at this time. Do not be afraid to wake and feed him if he fails to wake on his own. Because babies are so unpredictable in their wakings and feedings during the first weeks of life, there might be times when you have just put your baby down as late as 9 P.M. Still wake him at 11 P.M. It is from this late evening focal time that we will “stretch” the early morning hours until we have achieved an eight-hour uninterrupted sleep for you and your baby.
Make sure that this late evening feeding is substantial. We are especially concerned that the breast–fed baby have a complete feeding at this time. Because breast-fed babies have to suck harder to get the milk flowing, they can become tired and fall asleep before becoming completely satisfied. If your baby has this problem, try to keep him awake by unwrapping him or gently jostling him. Or you can try wiping his forehead with a moist washcloth. If he falls asleep after the first breast, try waking him up by changing him before you offer the other breast.
If you adopt the above routine of waking and feeding your baby at 11 P.M., he will most likely fall into a pattern of waking again around 1 or 2 A.M., and then again around 4 or 5 A.M., for additional feedings. Continue these demand feedings during the early weeks and don’t be surprised if there are time variations. Be sure, however, that you wait to pick your baby up until he is really complaining. In this way, you can begin to train yourself not to respond to non-distressful whimpers or a little cradle fidgeting. Soon you will learn to distinguish between real distress and simple infant wakefulness.
It is important to never wake your baby for any nighttime feeding after the late evening focal feeding time (at about 11 P.M.). If you are a nursing mother and your breasts are unbearably full, express your milk and put it in the freezer. If you are fortunate enough to have your baby asking only once for a feeding between 11 P. M. and 7 A.M. before he is five weeks old, you are somewhat ahead of the rest of new parents. Give yourself a pat on the back."
Excerpted from "Helping Your Child Sleep Through The Night" by Susie Schevill and Joanne Cuthbertson, all rights reserved.