Babies are totally adorable when they are sleeping, but they can create havoc if they don’t get enough sleep. There is a critical and positive association between sleep, memory and cognitive development in developing infants and young children. Sleep also influences the physical growth in children.
It is common to hear sleep-deprived new parents complaining about their child having trouble sleeping. As per a few studies, 23–27% of new parents report infant sleep problems in the first six months of life. Relax mothers and fathers, and read on to understand some scientifically supported steps to help make your baby (and you) sleep peacefully.
What impacts sleep in babies?
According to biology, there are two processes that govern our sleep cycle:
This is basically a sleep pressure that builds up the longer you stay awake. If you increase the duration of wakefulness, the homeostatic drive will get so powerful that you will not be able to resist.
This is the internal body clock that helps us consolidate sleep during the night. External cues like morning light, noise and activity and regular mealtimes aid in setting the clock right for us.
Having understood what impacts the babies sleep, it is essential to set a sleep pattern for them to ensure a less fussy baby. But before you turn to Google to look for baby bedtime routines, remember that our bodies are designed to sleep and your little one will eventually drift-off, even if their wails make you doubtful!
How much sleep is good sleep for babies?
Every child is unique and so is their sleep requirement. Generally, in the first few months of life, the amount of sleep they need will vary with each child. There are a lot of biological and environmental changes faced by your infant which makes them vulnerable to waking more often. By the time they are four to six months, most infants require 13 to 16 hours of sleep. At this age, they start getting more deep sleep but development milestones and cognitive awareness can, sometimes, disturb their sleep.
Is developing a bed-time routine crucial?
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A positive bed-time routine helps you and your baby have a good night’s sleep. You can decide on a routine that best suits you and your child. The series of consistent activities will train your baby’s natural sleep pattern and improve the duration of regulated sleep. Here are some tips to go:
- Identify what is soothing for your baby. Newborn babies like swaddling, rocking or white noise. Before you up your ‘bad-habits’ antennae, let me tell you that it is fine until three months of age to rock, hold or feed your baby to sleep.
- Keep the ‘place of sleep’ consistent. If your baby is in the habit of sleeping in the family room or his/her crib or in your arms, make sure that they fall asleep in the same place each night.
- Encourage napping during the day. Sleep experts say that in young children ‘sleep begets sleep’ which means the better rested they are during the day, the more easily they sleep during the night. An exhausted baby results in sleeplessness and tears for your baby. Look for your baby’s signs that indicate sleep, for instance rubbing their eyes, getting fussy or the most obvious one – yawning.
- Help your baby establish a constructive homeostatic pressure and keep your baby’s circadian rhythm in sync with cues such as adequate sunlight during the day, noisy daytime activities, systematic mealtimes etc.
- Dreamfeed your baby. It is the practice of feeding your baby right before bed-time. Drifting off to sleep after a hearty meal is natural. Stress and anxiety are mitigated with milk as hormones that promote satiety moods are secreted during feedings. Make sure you satiate your baby with sufficient milk to avoid mid-night wake-ups.
Is night-time nappy-changing a good habit?
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A wet diaper may interrupt your baby’s sleep. These days, the market is filled with dedicated night-time diapers that are super absorbent. Change your baby’s diaper before the dreamfeed which will give you the best chance at a full-night sleep. However, if your baby’s skin is sensitive and you fear might develop a diaper rash, it is advisable to change the diaper once in the middle of the night. Do it as quickly and quietly as possible, like a sneaky cat burglar (don’t worry, if you have a burglar alarm installation at home, it won’t sound when you behave like a thief so as to not wake your baby). When the baby wakes up, change the nappy and re-swaddle or pat him/her to sleep immediately following a quick night feeding.
Can acid reflux interfere with your baby’s sleep pattern?
Indeed yes! For adults of course, there are adjustable beds to help with acid reflux, but for babies that wouldn’t work. According to WebMD, infants sometimes spit up after a meal. This is often referred to as gastroesophogeal reflux or GER. It is simply the upward movement of stomach acid, including whatever the baby ate and drank, back into the esophagus. This ‘spit up’ sometimes may even come out of the mouth.
If you burp your baby correctly, before sleep, the chances of her acid reflux interfering with her sleep pattern are minimal to none.
In essence, it is inevitable to have sleep problems when you have a baby, but with healthy sleep habits, you can encourage a peaceful environment at home. Stimulating a good sleep-time routine at an early age will be beneficial in the long run. Don’t forget to rejuvenate yourself by engaging in time outdoors, socializing, regular exercise and other activities you enjoy – be ready to combat newbies!
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