In the first 12-16 weeks, your baby will have a very chaotic sleep pattern and will not have settled into a natural circadian sleep cycle. Instead of sleeping mostly at night, your baby will sleep in mini-cycles at seemingly random times. At somewhere between 2 and 8 weeks, your baby will usually fall into a pattern of 4 hours sleep followed by about half an hour of alertness.
When your baby is not sleeping as expected, you may panic. You may even find yourself frequently using the best pulse oximeter for nurses to check whether the baby has the right amount of oxygen when asleep.
You should not try and manipulate this natural sleep pattern as your interference at this early stage can actually delay the onset of a more stable sleep pattern. The only things that you should do are make sure that your baby is exposed to as much natural daylight as possible during the daytime and as little artificial light as possible at night.
At around 12 weeks maybe a little later, you should consider trying to teach your baby some healthy sleeping habits. The following are some of the things that you should consider implementing:
A Consistent Bedtime Routine
Keep your bedtime routine relatively short (30 minutes max) and make sure that it is consistent and calming. You should do the same sequence of events every night, in the same location and under the same conditions. Babies with a well designed consistent bedtime routine sleep longer and better with fewer night wakings.
Develop Regular Naptimes
Try to put your baby down for naps at the same time every day. You should also have a mini routine for naps that only lasts for about 5-10 minutes. The same principles apply as for the bedtime routine.
Make Sure that Your Baby is Safe and Comfortable
This means making sure that your baby continues to sleep on his or her back and is not in danger of becoming entwined in the bedding. Make sure that your baby is kept at a temperature that is neither too hot nor too cold.
Do Not Provide Inappropriate Sleep Onset Associations
This means not nursing your baby to sleep, rocking your baby to sleep, using a pacifier until sleep, driving around the block with your baby in the car etc. You can use these devices but stop before your baby falls asleep or you will have created a sleep crutch that is hard to break and you will almost certainly have problems with night wakings further down the road.
Wait for Your Baby to Self Soothe
When your baby wakes in the night, try and wait for a couple of minutes before rushing to his or her assistance. Obviously, if your baby sounds very distressed to attend immediately but otherwise, give him or her a chance to self-soothe and fall asleep on his her own.
Put Your Baby to Bed Before He or She is Overtired
An overtired baby will not sleep as well and will have more night wakings.