Whoever coined the phrase, “sleep like a baby” must not have been a parent. As all exhausted parents will tell you, babies tend to sleep sporadically, at best. One night, your baby may sleep all the way through, but the next may have you getting up three or four times.
After several months, most babies do settle into a predictable sleep pattern, and there are a number of things that parents can do to help their babies get the idea that nighttime is for sleeping.
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Getting Ready for Bed
One of the best ways to encourage your baby to sleep well at night is to establish a regular evening routine. Allow enough time each night to give your baby a warm bath, then settle in to snuggle and read a story. The last feeding of the evening should be in a quiet, relaxed atmosphere so that your baby is able to unwind and be ready for sleep.
While many parents enjoy rocking their babies to sleep, know that if you do this on a consistent basis, your baby will come to view rocking as part of their going-to-sleep routine, and may have difficulty falling asleep without being rocked.
A Sleep Friendly Environment
It is important to provide an environment for your baby that is conducive to sleeping. Dress your baby in soft, comfortable pyjamas or sleep suit and keep the nursery at a comfortable temperature. To ensure your baby sleeps safely, the room should we warm but not overly hot, since overheating is a known risk factor for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) or Cot Death. Also, be sure to put babies to sleep on their backs in a cot free of pillows, stuffed toys, or blankets that the baby could become tangled in.
While many experts recommend that babies sleep in the same room as their parents for the first six months, the practice of co-sleeping gets mixed reviews. If you choose to bring your baby into your bed to sleep, exercise caution and keep a few guidelines in mind. Babies should never sleep in bed with a parent who is ill or has been smoking, drinking, or taking drugs.
Also, place your baby away from the edge of the bed to reduce the risk that he or she will fall out. Finally, be certain that your baby doesn’t get tangled in or covered up by blankets or pillows.
Causes for Sleepless Nights
Most of the time, restless nights are no cause for concern. Typically, sleepless babies are merely hungry, in a wet or soiled nappy, or in need of comforting. Occasionally, however, a baby who typically sleeps well may remain awake due to an ear infection or upset stomach. If your baby seems unusually restless and exhibits any other symptoms that could indicate illness, check with your GP for advice.
Normal sleeping varies from baby to baby, and according to age. There are guidelines below but remember that each baby develops a sleep pattern, like all other growth milestones, in their own time. Remember, too, that premature babies will usually take an additional month or two to sleep like other babies of the same age.
Birth–2 months:Babies may sleep about 16 hours each day, but often this is in two-hour stretches. 3–6 months:By now, your baby is able to sleep for longer spans, so it is wise to begin establishing regular daytime naps. By six months, most babies are able to sleep through the night. 6–9 months:Teething and the first stage of separation anxiety may have babies who were sleeping through the night once again getting up one or more times. 9–12 months: By this age, most babies sleep well at night and when they do wake up, they typically hope to play. Be sure that babies of this age are getting sufficient sleep during their daytime naps, since overtired babies are often cranky and unable to rest. 12–18 months:By about 18 months, most babies are ready to take one daily nap, rather than two, and should be sleeping well at night. It is also time to consider eliminating one daytime nap. When children over 18 months old refuse to go to bed, it is usually because they are beginning to assert themselves. It may be helpful to give them choices, such as which pyjamas to wear and what bedtime snack they prefer. Often, such simple measures will make a child much more cooperative.
The Ferber Method
While it remains a controversial concept, many parents find success by implementing the Ferber Method. Dr. Richard Ferber is an American paediatrician who recommends putting babies over six months of age to bed fully awake and then gradually increasing the time that you take to respond to the baby’s cries. His conclusion is that babies will naturally learn to self-soothe and become good sleepers without needing constant parental reassurance.