Weeks 11 – 16
While there are still varying degrees of “normal” for three-month-old babies’ sleep habits, most will develop regular, predictable patterns with longer periods of being awake and sleeping. Of course some babies are still waking every two hours around the clock (read our tips on how to cut down on night feedings) and others have erratic, unpredictable schedules, but this is what you can generally expect at three months:
- The total amount of sleeping, including napping, will usually be cut down to a total of 12 to 15 hours a day.
- Most babies will still wake up once throughout the night to eat, but multiple feeding requests might be more to do with comfort than hunger.
- There are generally two camps of moms: One that desperately needs a regular eating/sleeping/playing routine to set a watch to, and the other that is more inclined to parent on demand, following their baby’s lead. Neither way is better than the other and many factors including personality traits and lifestyle, will determine which is right for you. If you’re feeling stressed that your baby isn’t conforming to an ideal schedule, it doesn’t mean he or she will grow up in an unstructured environment. At the same time, if your baby seems to have fallen into a regular rhythm, don’t expect it to be that way forever. The best you can do is to roll with the punches and follow whatever course works best for you (and your baby) without feeling pressure to prescribe to a particular philosophy.
- For those craving a schedule, hold off on intense sleep training for at least another month or so. However, there are some measures you can take to nudge the baby into a more regular routine (check out our sleep and feeding schedule guide):
- Record the time and duration of each nap and bedtime for about a week to try and pinpoint consistencies. This will make it easier to create a framework for your baby to fall into.
- Resist any strict scheduling that denies food or sleep when your baby is asking for it. At three months old, there’s no possible way you can spoil your baby by responding to cries – in fact, it’s important in helping him or her feel loved and secure. There will eventually come a time when your baby will cry for attention, but this kind of game playing is learned as time goes on.
- Try putting your baby down to sleep at consistent times each day, but remember to be flexible and listen to what your baby is telling you.
- Regardless of schedules and sleep training, most babies need to sleep after 90 minutes to two hours of awake time during the day, and many are taking three to five naps, even if they are just 20 or 30 minutes. Watch the clock instead of sleepiness cues, because eye rubs, pulling at the ears, red eyes, etc. can mean your baby is overtired.
- 7 p.m. is a magical bedtime. Babies get the best total sleep throughout the night when they go to bed early. Make sure your baby has at least two hours of awake time before bed, and then try practicing an earlier bedtime. Many babies have a hard time falling asleep or wake up frequently because they are overtired and went to bed too late.
- You’ll hear well-meaning advice to put babies to bed while they’re awake so they can learn how to self-soothe without eating or rocking. While this is a good first step toward healthy, self-sufficient sleep habits, it’s not likely that a three month old can go from alert to asleep without any assistance. Try shushing, patting and rocking the baby until he or she is drowsy, but not soundly asleep, and then putting him or her down. If you can’t stop your baby from falling asleep at the breast or bottle, don’t stress it. This can more realistically be accomplished closer to the six-month mark. However, when the opportunity arises, allowing your baby to fall asleep on his or her own is one step closer to a refreshing full nights sleep.
- If your baby is having a hard time falling and staying asleep, try putting him or her down earlier. Being too overtired can actually make a baby sleep less.
- If you haven’t done so already, start a bedtime routine to add some regularity and comfort to your baby’s life. Develop whatever ritual works for your family, which might include bathing, massage, changing, singing a consistent song, reading a consistent book, feeding and bed. Try to stick to the same order every night, and you can even dim the lights and play soothing music to further instill the concept of bedtime.
- Keep in mind that even if your baby is sleeping six hours at night on a consistent schedule, things might be different next month or even next week. Teething, illnesses and developmental milestones (like rolling over, crawling and walking) can all temporarily disrupt sleep – so don’t get too comfortable.
- Continue to put your baby to sleep on his or her back to reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).