At birth, your baby had no idea that his arms and legs were attached to him. That's all changing now as he starts exploring his body. The parts he's discovering first are his hands and feet. Encourage his interest by holding his arms above his head and asking "How big is baby?" or by reciting "This Little Piggy" and counting his toes. Try moving his hands in front of his face so he can see and feel them at the same time. Babies have trouble regulating their body temperature, and their circulation isn't perfect just yet. Keep in mind that some of your baby's body heat escapes through his hands and feet. Make sure little toes and fingers are covered on cold days, particularly when the two of you go outside.
Along with the many other unpredictable phenomena that surround your new baby's existence, newborn sleep patterns may totally amaze you. Sure, he slept like a log for the first few weeks when he thought night was day. Now, at the four-week mark, he may sleep a little, wake a little, fuss a little, then start the process all over again, leaving you frustrated and fatigued.
The fact is that newborn infants do not have regular sleep patterns; it usually takes six to 12 weeks for them to establish a solid 24-hour schedule, with the longest period of sleep occurring at night. Plus, keep in mind that breastfed babies have a physical need to nurse, about every two to three hours during the newborn phase (formula-fed babies about four to five hours). The good news is that daytime sleep diminishes as a baby gets older, with the most marked reduction occurring around three months of age. By that time, most full-term, healthy infants will likely be sleeping through the night.
A few things to keep in mind:
- Fussing is a natural component of an infant's sleep routine. It's actually part of the learning process as he figures out how to self-soothe. Take a quick and quiet peek in his bassinet and you might spy him wiggling around, searching for a fist on which to suck as he tries to relax.
- Crying is your baby's only means of communication — if your baby is sounding off and he's not wet, hungry, or feverish, he might just be releasing tension as he settles down. Don't let it escalate too much, especially if it makes you uncomfortable, newborns can never be "spoiled" by rocking, swaddling or holding.
- Once your baby has settled into a good sleep-wake pattern, don't be surprised if these happy habits are disrupted by teething, illness, travel, or a move. Whenever that happens (and it will!), try to take it in stride and ride it out. These "sleep-bumps" will pass; and you and your baby can ease back into a regular routine.