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Establishing A Sense-Able Routine For Feeding, Sleeping And Bathing In The First Six Months

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In the first two weeks, babies generally feed on demand. Thereafter, the frequency of feeds may become less. You are producing enough breast milk , or giving the correct amount of formula milk,  if your baby is having at least six wet nappies a day, is generally feeding two- to four-hourly and is content and sleepy in-between feeds.  You will thus be able to use your common sense to determine when he is  hungry.  So, offer him a feed if he is fussing and it has been a few hours since his last feed, but if  you have just fed him, then rather try an alternative method of calming him as he is most likely not hungry.  As your baby gets closer to six weeks of age, you will start to see a rhythm to his feeding pattern, where he may be able to stretch up to four hours in between feeds (wake him up to feed if he is sleeping during the day), with one longer stretch at night. Night feeds should be “strictly business” in a dim light with little eye contact and stimulation.

From  6 weeks

By now, your baby will be showing some pattern to his day.  Without even consciously trying, you know when your baby is awake and happy, when he is hungry, when he enjoys his bath time best and when his sleepy, grumpy, and crying times are.This is the time you can begin to instil a basic, but flexible structure to his day, working with what you already know about him to make it work.By now, he is settling into a sleeping and feeding pattern, and is also more alert and ready for interaction.  Provided he is gaining weight and is not ill,  you can stretch his feeds to as close to three to four hours as you can by encouraging hand to mouth or dummy sucking (non-nutritive), and by gently rocking and soothing him.  One of the night feeds (usually the 10:00– 11:00 PM feed) will fall away, and your baby may now sleep for a six to seven hour stretch before waking for a feed after midnight.  Watch for signs of over-stimulation and protect him from overload by encouraging regular day naps.  Limit his awake time to 60 – 80 minutes between day naps and plan your care-giving, outings and stimulation within this time.  At this stage, he may still need to be rocked and soothed to become calm enough to fall asleep.  Expect him to sleep for around 16 hours in a 24-hour cycle.

This is the age when your baby will recognise and thrive on familiar events in his world and will begin to understand and enjoy his predictable routine.  Hopefully being up for the whole night is a thing of the past, and your days should start to fall into a definite pattern, with clearer times of feeding, sleeping and playing.

3 – 6 Months

At around the age of four months, he may begin to pick up extra night feeds. If this is happening, it is best to consult your healthcare provider for nutritional advice to adjust his feeding schedule during the day.  He has the ability to self-calm now, so try not to respond instantly to any small noise or squeak you may hear from him (leave him be for five minutes).  If you allow him the opportunity to settle himself, he will soon learn to fall asleep without assistance, and put himself back to sleep during the night.

6 Months and older

Your baby will be eating solid food now, so you can expect a predictable day routine based on his milk and solid food intake.  He should be enjoying a variety of solid food from all the food groups three times a day, and his milk feeds may drop to one on waking, one after lunch and one at bedtime.  He may enjoy some finger foods mid-morning and mid-afternoon.

You can expect him to sleep for 8 – 10 hours at night without requiring feeding (provided he is not ill).  He will manage to be awake for approximately two hours in between sleeps during the day.  If he is unable to self-soothe at this age and is still waking frequently at night, some gentle sleep training is advised.

Ann Richardson is a speaker at the 2015 Johnson’s Baby Sense Seminars. These seminars take place on 1 August (PE), 15 August (Durban), 22 August (Cape Town) and 5 September (Johannesburg). For more information and to book for these informative parenting seminars, visit www.babysense.com.

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