A baby sleeping is a wonderful thing to behold but they’re not like adults; A baby will sleep at different times to the rest of us. It seems that as soon as they are settled down and you are preparing for a rest, they start to wake up again…
New parents are usually exhausted. The excitement of the birth and the joy of having a new baby in the family are often tempered by the challenge of developing a new routine at home or returning to work. Babies develop quickly during the first year and their sleep needs adjust month by month until they settle into a regular pattern.
Newborn and How Much Sleep is Needed
Babies may sleep for up to 18 hours during the night and day. They will continue to need feeding during the night. Babies have not adjusted to their Circadian Rhythm and a baby still awake at night for the first few months is not uncommon. They will gradually start to sleep less during the night from around 4 months. By about 6 months their Body Clock will have developed and most babies will start to sleep through the night.
Infants and How much Sleep is Needed
Most toddlers sleep for up to 12 hours a night. They continue to need one or two daytime naps which usually account for up to two hours additional sleep time. Usually they will continue to need an afternoon nap up to 4 years. Many children (and parents) are reluctant to drop this afternoon nap, but most children can thrive with sleep consolidated into 10 – 12 hours sleep at night.
Why Babies Wake Up
Most babies sleep well and will wake when they have had enough sleep or need attention. Babies will wake when they are hungry, uncomfortable, or feeling unwell. There are several baby sleeping tips which might work you and your baby.
Parents may chose to have the baby in their own room or in a room within hearing distance or with an alarm that will alert them to baby’s waking. There are a number of useful baby sleeping tips more comfortably in a room that is slightly warmer than the ideal sleeping temperature for adults. The ideal temperature for adults is around 18 ºC (64ºF) and slightly warmer for babies. They should be wrapped in light warm cloths and their cot should be kept out of drafts.
Most newborn babies sleep better in conditions where there is some noise or movement. This explains why many babies stay stubbornly awake until you take them out in the car or push chair, and then wake up when you try to lay them down!
Family History of Sleeplessness
Babies and children differ in their sleep needs. Many parents discover, despite treating all their children the same, when it comes to sleep they may exhibit different preferences and habits. Research has shown that insomnia and other sleep disturbances can run in families.
Babies cry and wake up when they need attention. Usually their needs are easily recognised – food, a nappy change or a cuddle. If the baby has a high temperature, is unusually quiet or seems agitated and is either difficult to wake and unusually sleepy, medical attention should be sought.
Nightmares, night terrors, sleep walking, restless leg syndrome and other disturbances do not usually manifest until the child is older. Experts advise that these behaviours usually cause no long term harm and it is the parent’s anxiety that needs treating!
If your baby is not sleeping much, it could be that they have a sleep related breathing disorders (SBD) which should be investigated. Most breathing problems in babies and young children are due to a stuffy nose or congestion and may limit sleeping until the condition clears up.
Snoring and noisy breathing may be due to a blocked nose or other problems. Enlarged tonsils and adenoids may cause a restriction in breathing in young children. Snoring accompanied by difficulty in breathing or a cessation of breath may be a symptom of sleep apnea and require medical investigation.
Sleep and Food Allergies
Food allergies can cause restless sleep and insomnia. Most food allergies develop during infancy and go away by the age of four. Babies are also sensitive to environmental toxins and chemicals.
Helping Babies Sleep
Babies and young children will benefit from a regular routine at bedtime. Other useful baby sleeping tips include ensuring your baby gets plenty of activity, fresh air and a good diet as these will all help them expend all their energy during the day. Caffeinated drinks and food with colouring and additives should be limited. A warm bath, milky drink and a bedtime story all help settle an active child. Babies should also be introduced into a night time routine and encouraged to recognise the transition from ‘active time’ to the lull of the night. Soft lighting, soothing music and gentle rocking will help them feel secure and relaxed and can help your baby’s sleeping.
Bedrooms often double as playrooms and this may detract from sleeping. Although children often seem to wake quicker and need to play, they may also fight sleep if there are too many distractions…By trying to restrict television and other entertainment before bedtime or, if possible, keeping it out of the bedroom, they will find it easier to separate daytime activities from sleeping.
Parents and Sleep
Although baby may gradually adjust and start to sleep through the night, many parents find it difficult to readjust and get a good night’s sleep. Anxiety is one of the main reasons for insomnia. Being ‘on call’ waiting for baby’s cry or being worried about the responsibility of being a parent may make it difficult to switch off.
It is also easy for parents to neglect their own needs. Without adequate sleep there is a long term risk to health. Parents need to try and make sure that they find time to sleep. Alcohol and caffeine are best avoided in the hours before bedtime and some daytime exercise helps the body relax.
Babies and parents will both benefit from learning how to relax. Swimming, walking and activity groups provide fun and support for all ages. Yoga Classes and Baby Massage are both excellent ways to explore different ways to relax and are enjoyable for parent and baby.