Establishing a sleep routine is one of the most important milestones parents strive for during the first year of a baby's life. Prior to birth, babies make their own sleep schedule in the womb. Transitioning to life outside the womb can be difficult for some babies, especially a 4-week old who is still waking every three or four hours to eat. At this age, a baby should be sleeping more than 12 hours per day, including during the day.
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KidsHealth.org suggests a newborn may sleep as many as 16 hours in one day. How a baby divides these hours up throughout the day can vary. By 4 weeks, the infant may be on a regular schedule of sleeping three or four hours at a time followed by a short period of eating and a little time awake. At 4 weeks, it is still vital that an infant spend most of its time sleeping. At 4 weeks of age the baby may still have no concept of day and night. If an infant is not sleeping during the day she is not likely to be getting the necessary 16 hours of sleep each day.
Making sure a baby gets the minimum amount of sleep can promote healthy brain development. It also prevents a baby from becoming over-stimulated or over-tired. When this occurs, a baby can be fussy for long periods of time, which frustrates parents and can make it even more difficult for the baby to sleep. If the baby stays awake all day, she will likely fall asleep for a long period of time at night. This is not necessarily a positive outcome for such a young baby. Her calorie requirements still need to be met and most likely she will sleep for a longer span of time but wake feeling very hungry.
Expecting too much out of a 4-week old baby can lead to frustration and disappointment for the parents. Understanding why a baby is unable to sleep during the day can guide the caregivers to a solution. Some babies may be ready to sleep alone in a crib but if the baby is fighting day time naps, parents should examine other options. Co-sleeping, rocking, placing baby in a swing or wearing baby in a safe sling are all ways to provide the baby with comfort, which may lead to sleeping. BabyCenter points out that during the first few months of life, an infant's sleep patterns are likely to be erratic. The most important thing is that a baby gets enough sleep and enough food. A good sleep schedule will come with time.
When a baby continues to struggle to sleep during the day despite numerous attempts to soothe him by the caregiver, consult a health care professional. Various discomforts can make sleeping difficult for a baby. This includes things such as gas, milk intolerance and colic.
Co-sleeping is a highly debated sleep solution. KidsHealth.org points out that allowing an infant to sleep on a soft surface or one with pillows, blankets or a parent who may roll onto the baby can lead to SIDS, or sudden infant death syndrome. Other schools of thought believe co-sleeping is necessary or helpful during the early weeks and months of a baby's life because he is used to being close to his mother.
While many sleep training methods are not quite appropriate for a 4-week old baby, establishing a routine at this early age paves the way for good sleep habits in the future. KidsHealth.org recommends responding to a baby's cries within a few minutes to establish confidence and security. Caregivers can focus less on forcing the baby to sleep and more on teaching the baby when it is time to sleep. For example, going into a quiet room, playing soft music, reading a book or putting baby in the same spot every time he is going to sleep will eventually teach the baby that it is time to sleep.
If all of baby's needs, including hunger, stimulation and warmth are being met but he still fights sleeping during the day, it is a sign that he needs help soothing himself to sleep. This is a skill a baby develops over time and should not be expected at 4 weeks of age. "Crying it out" is a common solution to sleep training a baby, but a 4-week-old is not ready for this method. A health care professional, such as a pediatrician, can advise a parent on when crying it out is acceptable. During the first few months of life, an infant eats every four hours and this is just as necessary as sleeping most of the day.