Getting your baby to fall asleep and stay asleep can be a difficult superpower to acquire. The first few months may seem like an endless 'round-the-clock battle. (It's no wonder sleep deprivation is considered a form of torture in some countries.) Although it may not seem like it, your baby is actually sleeping an average of 14 ½ to 16 ½ hours a day during the first eight weeks -- just broken up into a few hours here and there. "Then, between 3 and 4 months, your little one may begin to sleep a five-hour stretch," says Silva. "Sleeping through the night typically occurs at about 5 months, usually defined by a eight-hour stretch." There are many techniques at Supermoms' fingertips to help them achieve the coveted super-status of having a baby who sleeps through the night.
Whatever strategy you use, be sure to keep your baby safe. Always put your little one to sleep on her back on a sleeping surface free of blankets, stuffed animals and pillows to decrease the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). For more SIDS prevention guidelines, visit the AAP's new Website for parents: healthychildren.org.
Tiny bellies only hold so much, so you'll be feeding your little one a lot over the first 12 weeks. "Newborns should feed eight to 12 times in a 24-hour period," says Silva. "That means the average baby will eat every two to three hours." Whether you decide on bottle, breast or both, liquid power is all your baby needs in the first four months. Frank Greer, M.D., a member of the AAP's Committee on Nutrition, says breast milk is the optimal choice of nutrition for your baby for the first 12 months. "Human milk is the preferred food for all infants, including premature and sick newborns, with rare exceptions. The only acceptable alternative to breast milk is iron-fortified infant formula," he says. More feeding advice for new moms:
• Don't feel like the two- to three-hour rule is set in stone. Some infants like to cluster-feed. "They will feed every 30 minutes to an hour several hours in a row -- it can be very exhausting, yet normal," says Silva. "The same baby may give you four to six hours of sleep in a row." As long as there have been eight to 12 feedings in the previous 24 hours, and your baby is gaining weight, this is fine. Consult with your pediatrician if you have any concerns.
• Learn to read your baby's cues for when he's hungry or full. He may cry, suck on his hands, root with his head or make sucking motions with his mouth. As for when he's had enough, babies have a natural ability to self-regulate. They rarely overeat. So as long as he's meeting the requirements set forth by your pediatrician, he should be fine.
• Although spitting up seems to come with the territory, doing so after each meal could be a sign of overfeeding or gastroesophageal reflux. Consult with your pediatrician.