We are passionate about providing clear, informative and evidence-based information to our community and therefore will be doing a series on the key milestones and the impacts to sleep. Our aim is to enable you all to have a clearer understanding of what's going on so you can provide the best support you can for your little ones. We also find this knowledge is very helpful to enable parents to remain calm and consistent.
Let’s start at the beginning. 3 weeks old.
Your sleepy baby suddenly seems to ‘wake up’. What happened to that sleepy baby of yours that was previously sort of in that dopey/sleepy state?
It’s all about melatonin. Melatonin is an important sleep-inducing hormone but newborn babies don’t produce melatonin. However in the womb they have absorbed melatonin from your body. Around 3 weeks is when the melatonin they absorbed through you has been reabsorbed into their body. They won’t start producing this themselves until about 4-5 months old. If a mother is breastfeeding then the baby will be receiving a form this chemical that can be supportive of night sleep cycles but there will still be a greater alertness that occurs around 3 weeks compared to the previous weeks.
Why is it important to be aware of this milestone?
1. Milk supply concerns – sometimes breast feeding mums get concerned because their baby that was previously all ‘milk drunk’ is now still fairly perky at the end of the feed or the baby falls asleep on the breast but then a few minutes later suddenly wakes again. We sometimes see concerned mums then starting to over feed their babies or worried about supply because they are not seeing that same ‘milk drunk’ state.
The key message here is to know that babies are not actually ‘drunk’ on the milk because of the volume of milk they are getting. They are in this state because of these first weeks when they still have that melatonin circulating through their bodies. It’s also due to a few other factors but it’s important to know that when your baby is suddenly more alert around this time it’s not because your supply has dropped and they aren’t getting enough to become ‘milk drunk’.
2. Feeding to sleep issues – we often see parents that see a change in the way their babies feed to sleep in that it stops working, takes longer or takes a few attempts because their baby falls asleep while feeding but then wakes again a few minutes later. This can be a bit confusing if you don’t know what’s going on! For some people they choose to reassess feeding to sleep at this time.
The overall message here is that this new alertness is very normal and it’s a beautiful time where our babies start to take in the world around them a bit more.