Newborns rarely sleep more than two to four hours at a time, frequently leading to exhausted, sleep-starved parents. Many parents expect that their baby will start sleeping for longer periods of time when the baby is 2 months old. Infant sleep schedules vary wildly,but you can focus on establishing good sleep habits and patterns to improve the quality and duration of your baby’s sleep.
While some 2-month-old babies follow a somewhat predictable sleep schedule, others still sleep and wake erratically; both extremes are very normal for this age, according to Dr. Steven Downshen of the website KidsHealth. By 1 to 2 months of age, babies often differentiate between nighttime and daytime sleeping, staying awake longer during the day and sleeping more at night.
Pediatrician and child development expert Dr. William Sears suggests that a baby’s night-waking patterns provide important survival benefits. If babies slept as long or deeply as adults, they might miss important hunger or warmth cues and endanger their well-being. He suggests that a 2-month-old baby’s tiny tummy makes her wake from hunger every four hours; as she matures, her feeding and sleep patterns evolve as well. Sears discourages parents from using “cry it out” techniques or sleep-training methods that encourage 2-month-old babies to sleep for extended times.
The term “sleeping through the night” means different things for a 2-month-old than it means for an older baby or adult. These babies usually sleep for a five- or six-hour stretch, not the eight hours many people associate with the term. Sears says that a four-hour stretch is normal for babies of this age, but some babies do sleep a bit longer.
You can encourage your baby to develop a sleep schedule by helping him learn the difference between night and day sleep, and creating a nightly bedtime routine. Play with him as much as possible when he wakes during the day. Open the windows in his room and throughout the house, and allow him to grow accustomed to daytime noises, such as the ringing telephone and hum of the vacuum cleaner. At night, keep your interactions with him brief and matter-of-fact. Avoid turning on the lights or playing with him. Change his diaper, feed him and place him back in the bed promptly.
Incorporate a soothing bedtime routine into your evening schedule to signify the beginning of “night sleep.” Follow a warm bath by reading a book or singing a lullaby, then cuddle with your child and kiss her goodnight. Jodi Mindell, author of “Sleeping Through the Night,” suggests putting your baby down awake, instead of rocking or nursing her to sleep first, to teach her good sleep patterns from the very beginning.
Expect your baby to sleep longer stretches at night and shorter ones during the day as he grows older and more alert. According to Dowshen, by age 3 months many babies sleep about 15 hours of a 24-hour-day, with two-thirds of the sleep occurring at night. By 3 months, your baby might settle into a consistent pattern of two or three “naps” during the day, with a six- to seven-hour stretch of sleep at night.