Sleep cues, breastfeeding and returning to work

Sleep cues

As a newborn, your baby needs to wake up regularly to feed and the hormones that help regulate sleep patterns aren't established in her body yet. After the 11-week mark your baby's sleep patterns will begin to change and she starts developing cycles of light and deep sleep.

This can mean she can't nap for longer than 45 minutes in one go, until she learns how to move from one cycle into another, and make it through the periods of light sleep without waking.

Your baby finds it easier to drift off to sleep when she's a little tired than she does when she's really tired.

And if you're to have plenty of time to calmly settle her in her cot before she gets overtired, you need to recognise her early sleep cues.

She might yawn or rub her eyes, or just go a bit glassy-eyed and vacant looking. Too much extension of tiredness could cause her to get cranky.

Around 3-4 months, your little one will have 4-5 naps per day and around 2 hours awake time between naps.

Recognise your baby's tired signs and calmly prepare her for bed time.

About breastfeeding

Your 11-week-old is now more efficient at breastfeeding so feeds now might only take 5-10 minutes. Continue to let your baby finish at the first breast before you offer her the other; when she's had enough she'll turn away from the breast or fall asleep.

Breastfeeding is normal and natural and perfectly acceptable in public – after all, you are doing what is best for your baby. If anyone objects, politely and calmly tell them that you are legally entitled to feed your child anywhere you like.

If you're unable to be with your baby at mealtimes, you can still feed her by planning ahead and expressing milk.

You can safely store expressed breastmilk in the fridge for three to five days (at the back on a shelf, not in the door) and freeze it for up to three months depending on your freezer.

Returning to work?

In Australia, mothers receive 18 weeks paid parental leave, so you may now be starting to plan your return to work.

It's important to find child care that will make both you and your baby happy. If possible, trial your chosen option at least a week before you return to work to allow time for your baby to adapt to her new environment – it will be less stressful than leaving her there on the day you go back to work.

Here's a returning to work checklist:

• You can continue to breastfeed your bub either by having her brought to you at work or by expressing milk to be given by her carer.
• A routine will be vital for a calm transition to work. Prepare bags, clothes and food the night before.
• To ease yourself, and your family into it, try to work reduced hours in your first week back.
• Keep pre-cooked meals in the freezer so you don't always have to make dinner from scratch when you get home.
• Consider arranging for home services, such as a cleaner, online shopping or grocery delivery to reduce your domestic workload.
• If you're not happy after the initial settling-in-period, talk to your boss about a working arrangement that suits your family life better or explore other income options.