Baby is here and it seems he or she has taken over the household. Babies do tend to be the center of attention, at least for the first few months. But my! Doesn't the little one sleep a lot?
For the first three to four months, babies tend to sleep sixteen to eighteen hours a day, but that sleep seems to come in spurts - sleep two or three hours - wake up for a feeding, or a diaper change or just because. And sometimes it's not easy to get the little one back to sleep.
Babies have more periods of light sleep than do adults. Often while passing from deep sleep to light sleep, baby will awaken, and won't know how to get back to sleep. This is when the fussing starts, the need to be held and cuddled and rocked.
Just like adults, sleep needs vary from baby to baby, and so do sleep patterns. Every child is different, and you will have to adjust your sleep patterns to match baby's.
By the time baby is six months old, daytime sleep should have decreased to three or four hours, and there should be fewer nighttime awakenings. However, again remember that toddler's sleep needs differ as well. Some may need as much as eighteen hours of sleep while others require only eight or nine. This trend of fewer awakenings continues as the months roll by, and hopefully parents have started to catch up on the sleep lost during the preceding couple of years.
Unfortunately, not all parents are that lucky. There are numerous disorders that can throw baby's sleep patterns out of whack - and yours along with them.
There are things you can do to promote better sleep in your baby or toddler. Of course, these tips won't solve all your problems and won't work for every child, but they are a start.
1. Hunger - Make sure baby isn't hungry when he or she goes to bed.
2. Gas - Did you burp baby? It's important to get rid of all those gas bubbles so there are no tummy aches to disturb sleep.
3. Diaper - Is the diaper clean and dry? It's difficult to sleep in a wet or dirty diaper.
4. Quiet Time - The period before bedtime should be a relaxing time. Toddlers should play quietly. No rough games or stimulating television shows.
5. Routine - Set up a bedtime routine - things that you and baby do every night prior to bedtime. This can serve as a wind down from daytime activities and may include a bath, bottle or snack, maybe a story or a bit of cuddling.
6. Rocking - You rocked your baby before he or she was born. As you carried baby in your womb, the motion of your body lulled him to sleep. Baby still loves to be rocked, and, quite often, rocking will still lull him to sleep.
7. Night-light - Is your child afraid of the dark? Many children are, especially if they are prone to bad dreams. Install a night-light to illuminate the room, or leave a light on in the hall.
8. Reassurance - If your child awakens in the night, all that may be required is a bit of reassurance. Go in and talk to him, assure him that you are nearby and he is safe.
This is where people may differ in there methods. Some parents advocate picking baby up for cuddling and loving.
There is a second train of thought on this. Even the experts can't agree. Dr. Spock says to put baby to bed, say goodnight, leave the room and don't return, even if baby cries furiously.
The American Academy of Pediatrics advises not to rush into the child's room the minute he or she whimpers, but not to let the baby sob and cry for hours.
A book by Dr. Marc Weissbluth, Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child, advises: "Once your child is in bed, he is there to stay, no matter how long he cries." Some parents who have tried the methods in Dr. Weissbluth's book thank him for his sleep restoring advice. Other parents say his methods are too harsh and too hard on the child.
Again, it all comes down to the differences in children - and in parents.
Published On: September 02, 2008