Sleep, Please Sleep

What’s the source of all these sleep problems that we and our children are experiencing? 80% of these problems come from bad habits.    Fortunately though, they are several simple ways to help get our child’s sleep back on track.

 

So, Whose Fault Is It?

 

Parents that spend hours and hours every night trying to get their little one to sleep, get up in the middle of the night to calm him down and then still take their fussy child to bed with them, are finally at the end of their strength. But who is really the guilty one in this story? Is it really the child? What if he’s only the victim of the bad habits his parents taught him? It’s not easy for parents to accept this possibility, because they mean well and they are convinced that they are doing the best they can to help their child sleep. They sacrificed their privacy, their rest and their sleep – and everything still turned out differently then how they expected.

These parents need to know it’s ok, because child raising is a path that often has its questions, mistakes and dead ends. The good news is that it’s always possible to take another direction.

 

The start of a vicious circle

 

Of course it’s completely normal if a child wakes up at night. We have learned that such awakenings are caused by physiological processes and thanks to them, every child wakes up between two sleep cycles. For a child to calmly fall asleep again, he needs to have the same conditions as at night. We don’t need to stress that you have a big problem if your child falls asleep only if he’s riding in a stroller around the apartment or around the house, if you let him in your bed for a while or if he plays with his mom’s hair as if it were his favorite toy. Because then logically, your child will demand the whole „falling asleep process“ (in its every detail) every time he wakes up. This is truly cruel to all parents that let themselves be dragged into this adventure…

 

Missing boundaries

 

Another possible cause for sleeping troubles could be an absence of boundaries. We shouldn’t want a child to „test“ his parents to see how resistant they are. A child needs boundaries for a healthy development.  Contrary to what many people think a child expects a confrontation with a strong „no“. Without this obstacle, what are they going to rebel against?

A bottle = a trap

 

A bottle of juice, tea or milk, without which a child won’t fall asleep, can often become a trap. Every time a child wakes up at night, he demands something to drink. As a result of this, he will always have a full bladder, which will prevent him from calmly sleeping.

 

The pillars of peaceful sleep

 

The whole life story of a child basically revolves around the fact that a child needs to feel the same way as he did in his mother’s womb. We can achieve this by giving our child love and tenderness, while still setting boundaries that will define his living space. If a child goes to sleep at eight every night, it should not be open for discussion. If you let your child know that mom’s and dad’s bed is off limits, it should stay this way. It’s not easy to maintain these boundaries, especially if you’re tired, if you have a lot of work and you’re scared your child will loose affection for you if you’ll be too strict… However, if a child looses the sense of firm boundaries and rules, his sleep can become troubling

 

No other choice then to re-educate

 

What is cooked at home is eaten at home – you probably will need to teach your child everything from the beginning. At first he needs to get used to falling asleep without the help of another, without a stroller, a car or his mothers arms. Then, he needs to understand that at home, mom and dad have the final word.

During such a „re-education“, don’t forget to be gentle to your child and make time explaining everything to him. This is not punishment, but help that you are offering to the child. Don’t make him feel guilty – your job is to be a parent.

 

5-10-20”, the winning time limits

 

Richard Ferber, an American expert on child’s sleep, introduced a special technique „gradual learning“ to parents. He recommends following a bedtime routine and then leaving the child alone in his room, even if he’s crying. After five minutes, return to his room and tell him that it’s necessary for him to sleep alone; then leave again. Don’t touch him, don’t caress him and don’t give him anything to drink. If he keeps crying, wait ten minutes this time and then make another visit in his room. After you assure your child about your presence, leave again. Don’t come back before twenty minutes have passed; keep a watch in your hand. If the child is still crying, keep the twenty-minute intervals between each visit. If you try this shock therapy, the problem will usually be solved within four to five nights. But only if you follow all the rules and time limits! Of course that doesn’t mean you can’t change them a little if you have a particularly anxious child.

There are many circumstances that could bring on sleeping problems in a child: the birth of another sibling, death in the family, separation anxiety in the eight month, starting kindergarten or school, times when a child is learning basic hygienic habits of when he’s learning to walk.

What is the father’s role?

 

Some say that an overly tight bond between the mother and child can cause sleep disturbances. A child doesn’t want to go to sleep and separate from his mother and she also has a difficult time with physical separation from her child. That’s why a father can play a significant role. If a child cries, it’s up to the dad to calm him, because he won’t give in.  He should also help the child understand, that the mothers place is beside his father, not beside the baby’s crib

 

So many countries, so many customs

 

In many cultures, soothing a child is taken very seriously. Evil spirits could find a child thanks to his cries. For example, if a Chinese child cries at night, his parents write a magical formula on a yellow piece of paper. For this formula to have the right effect, it must be secretly put up on the street at midnight.

Putting Your Child to Sleep

Sometimes, a child needs to be calmed down after he eats in order to fall a sleep. Soft rocking or a lying in your arms can help him relax and fall asleep.

 

If you want him to fall asleep on his own, try to postpone these calming techniques until he is really fussy, or he’ll get used to it.

 

Sucking

A child often soothes himself by sucking, for example your clean pinky. Sometimes he sucks his own fist. If he wants a pacifier, give him one that has a natural shape. Try to take it away from him when he is 3 months old.

Calming Touch

You can calm your baby by rhythmically massaging his tummy. Don’t speed up the rhythm of the massage so that the baby doesn’t get alarmed and don’t stop until he closes his eyes.

Rocking

Rock your child in your arms until he falls asleep. It’s possible that he will wake up every time you stop and try to put him in his bed, but it’s still a proven way to get your baby to sleep.

 

Putting and older child to sleep

A child over six months old will be falling asleep easier if his whole routine of going to sleep stays the same every night  – babes like repetition and rituals.

A child of this age will have a harder time falling a sleep in an unknown environment and his sleep can be disrupted by any change, like a vacation, so try to keep up the normal routine even while you’re traveling. Make this occasion as comfortable and fun as your can.

 

Putting your child to sleep:

  • Every night, start with the same activity. Bathing is a good one, because it’s relaxing and fun at the same time. If your child doesn’t like bathing, a calm 20-minute game can be relaxing.

    Little girls sleep

    Little girl s sleep

  • If your child gets fed before going to sleep, feed him in his room, so he understands that his room is a nice place, not just a room where he is sent off to sleep.
  • Put his favorite teddy bear or another soft toy in his crib.
  • This is a good time to get the father involved; both of you should get involved in this night routine. The last half hour should bet he same every night, and should be the most comforting for the child.
  • Read him his favorite book so he can calm down; help him relax.
  • Don’t stop reading, even if it seems that he isn’t paying attention- he’s probably tired and doesn’t have the energy to respond to the pictures, but that doesn’t mean he’s not listening.
  • Wrap him up into his blanket along with his favorite toy and give him a kiss goodnight. Dim the lights or turn on the night-light. Don’t leave too quickly, stay in the room for a while longer.

 

Other methods:

 

Car ride

If you feel completely hopeless, try putting your child in his car seat and drive around the block – the movement of that car will probably put him to sleep. After returning home, carry your child inside in his car seat. Don’t forget to cover him with a blanket. Many parents believe that a car ride is a great method for putting a tired baby to sleep.

Lullabies and a rocking motion are old proven ways to put a child to sleep. A child doesn’t care if you can’t sing.

Recorded music can also help – a quiet calming music can help a child overcome his light sleep phase, out of which he wakes up easily. A child that doesn’t sleep well may appreciate music he could have heard in the womb.

 

Rhythmic movements

A child often falls asleep if we move the stroller back and forth even if he tries to stay awake and watches us. If this doesn’t help, try taking him out for a walk in the stroller. He should be well dressed and covered.

 

Wrapped babies

Wrapping up a newborn into light cotton blanked will calm him down. The room where baby sleeps shouldn’t be over 18 °C however. Don’t wrap your baby after he is one month old or you will restrict his movements and effect his movement development.

 

When should your baby go to sleep?

That depends on you and your partner. You should pick a time that suits you and that you can stick to every day. It should be a time when you both are at home, but shouldn’t be so late that it will take up your whole night. Pick a time between 6 and 8 pm to your baby to sleep.

 

Sleep, Baby, Sleep…

The first four months of a baby’s life are also called the „fourth trimester“, since the baby is adapting to the world outside of his mothers womb in which he had everything he needed. Now he has to learn to satisfy his needs through adults. That’s why a baby’s sleep patterns are not getting stabilized and there is no „wrong“ or „right“ at this point yet.

 

Parents usually have a crib ready before the birth of their child (later in the article you’ll find out which one is the best). But parents cannot know ahead of time how their little one will sleep in it. Our first tip: if you ever hear an advice that you should get your baby used to a regular sleeping regime, forget about it for now (you can try that later). First, try to get tuned in to what the baby’s sleeping needs are. Basically, allow him to sleep and eat whenever he wants; let him lead you.

Even though you child’s sleeping regime may be unpredictable, you should go through this „unorganized“ phase with him. Your baby will learn to communicate with the world by observing your reactions to his needs and behaviors. In the first four months of his life, go ahead and put your baby to sleep in your arms (while rocking or feeding) without fearing that he will learn bad habits. It’s not good to practice the let-him-cry-until-he-falls-asleep-method on small babies, since they don’t know how to soothe themselves down yet.

Around a baby’s fourth month, he is developed enough to get used to a regular sleeping regime; or perhaps his sleeping patterns will stabilize on their own.

 

What’s the Average Sleep Time?

A newborn usually sleeps when he is full and satisfied, being that anytime during the day and night. The need for sleep is different with each child, so consider the following lines approximate:

•  A newborn can sleep up to 20 hours a day.

•  Around his second month, a baby starts separating his night and day sleep. Also, his day sleep time is now slowly decreasing. A child now sleeps around 14-18 hours a day, individual differences are big.

•  A one-year-old child sleeps around 12-17 hours a day.

•  A three-year-old toddler sleeps around 10-16 hours a day.

 

What Are the Best Cribs and  Mattresses?

The crib should be made of natural materials and painted with non-toxic paint color.

The slats on a crib rail should be 45-75 millimeters apart. You can find many types of matrasses to choose from. The important thing is for the matrasses to not be too soft, since then the baby may sleep in a dent that could be bending his spine. Another important thing to remember is that the crib should only be used for sleep, not for daytime activates such as playing.

 

What Sleeping Position is Safe For Your Baby?

It’s been said that the only safe position for a newborn is on his back. Sleeping on the side can lead to the baby rolling over on his stomach. Sleeping on the stomach can lead to an increased risk of suffocation and to sudden infant death. When the child is four months old, he is capable of turning into a position that suits him best. We should let him do that.

On the other hand, a several old week baby should spend some time on his stomach when he is awake – this helps develop his mental and motor skills and abilities.

Do not put a pillow or a large quilt into a crib of a nursing baby up to his twelfth month of age (or longer). For the sake of a proper spine development, a pillow is not recommended for a child under three years of age. The toys in a crib should not have a string longer than thirty centimeters and all things that could disrupt a baby’s sleep or create potential safety hazard should be removed from the crib.

In the first 6 months, a baby can sleep at home or in a stroller. Later though, this could be dangerous, since the child can fall of the edge of the stroller when he wakes up.

 

What Should the Room’s Temperature Be?

For day sleeping, the temperature should be around 22 °C, while for night sleep the temperature should be less – around 18 °C. A child should be properly dressed.

 

Putting a Child to Sleep at Night

Putting a child to sleep at night slowly becomes an important routine. If you repeat the same rituals before putting your child to bed, he will then get sleepy just from the pre sleep atmosphere alone.  Such sleep rituals include:

•  bathing (can be combined with a massage)

•  dimming lights

•  changing into pajamas

•  feeding

•  nice quiet music or singing

A child should be fed, bathed and put to bed at the same time everyday, ideally between 6-8 pm. A half-hour before sleep should be dedicated relaxing. There should be no light in the child’s room (or wherever he sleeps). If he sleeps alone in a crib, he should be properly dressed or put in a sleeping bag that will keep him warm all night.

 

Can a Child Sleep With His Parents?

It’s been said that in terms of safety, it’s best if a baby sleeps in his own crib that is close to his mother’s bed. This also makes night feeding easier. Night feeding can also be made easier by letting the baby sleep in your bed, between you and your partner.

Sleep baby with fatherOpinions on whether a child can sleep in his parent’s bed vary; some pediatricians don’t recommend it while others do. A pediatrician Nils Bergman from the University of Cape Town encourages parents to let their children sleep with them. According to his latest study, children that sleep in their own bed from an early age are less rested and more stressed out at night. He recommends that children sleep in their parent’s bed until they are three years old. The director of education in the Children’s Mental Health Center in London and an author of parenting books Margot Sunderland says children should sleep with their parents even longer; until their fifth year of age. Until then, children can suffer from separation anxiety, which can affect their adult life as well. According to Sunderland, thanks to “co-sleeping”, children grow up as calm, healthy adults.

 

The Desire for Safety: Sleep Associations

Some children only require falling asleep in their parent’s bed, and can continue sleeping calmly in their own bed after their parents carry them over. Other children often wake up at night. In this context, we are talking about „sleep associations“, which are certain conditions and activities that affect a child’s sleep.

A sleep association can be anything that a child associates with falling a sleep: a parents arm, a mother’s breast, a pacifier, rocking, a closeness of a parent… During the night, a child assures himself that his safety has been maintained – that’s why he wakes up, cries and demands the same conditions he had while falling asleep.

Children older than four months can usually soothe themselves after waking up at night in different ways: by sucking their thumb, moving their head from side to side, by singing or humming, moving their arms, holding their stuffed animal, etc.

 

Night Feeding

You should remember to differentiate infant’s night and day sleep. When you feed your baby at night, do so in a quiet, dark room.

Night feeding is a must until the child is six months old. Gradually, night feeding should be shortened so that the child drinks less and is put back to bed shortly after burping. It’s easy to say, but harder to do.

After the child is six months old, he can often sleep through the night without being fed. Individual differences, again, are big. Especially breast fed babies require one to two feedings per night even when they are older. To deny them this at all costs wouldn’t be right. All of this also depends on the upbringing of the child.

 

Day Sleep

A child needs to sleep during the day, so he can gain energy. Children should sleep regularly after noon feeding around 1, 5 to 2 hours. Nursed babies under 9 months sometimes sleep before noon, between 10 am and 12 pm. This sleep is usually shorter than an afternoon nap. Because a child sleeps at a higher temperature during the day, dress him accordingly.  Don’t overheat your baby.

Newborn Children Sleep

Newborn sleeps as much as it needs; the only problem is that it sleeps at different times that suit you. At first he sleeps in short periods anytime during the day or night.

After a certain time the longest period of sleep will happen during night and the child stays alert longer during day. Of course there are differences between children. Don’t worry if your newborn child won’t sleep all night straight away even though it was predicted or even hoped for.

Emphasis on the difference between day and night

Since newborn age make sure you differ between day and night sleep to teach your child when it is a play time or a sleep time. Put a child to sleep in a carrier, pram or a basket during the day and if you have a cot put the newborn child to sleep in the cot only for the night sleep. You can place a pram in a shade outside, don’t forget to put a mosquito net over, and always put the brakes on. At home make sure that your pet doesn’t attack your child in the child’s room. It is not necessary to have a complete quietness. When the  newborn baby cries, pick it up and take advantage of it being up and alert – help him to associate the day with playing. For a night sleep wrap the child well to prevent sudden movement of arms or legs which could wake him up and put it to bed/cot. Turn the lights down. When it wakes up for feeding feed it calmly using low voice or don’t speak. It will soon get used to night time for sleeping and not for playing and it will soon learn to sleep throughout the night.

Daytime sleep

About the sixth month putting to sleep should become part of an important daily routine of child life. The child should be tired out and prepared for its sleep to be able to sleep all night. It also needs daytime sleep to uptake energy for its active life. Daytime sleep is necessary until the age of two or three years. But don’t let the newborn child sleeping too long. Let it sleep for about two hours (if it doesn’t wake up earlier) and then wake it p. If it was in a deep sleep it could become confused and rather upset, leave it at peace for a while before you prepare another activity.

newborn child sleepNewborn Child Safety

Don’t use pillow for a child younger than two years old, it could suffocate.

Put child to sleep on its back. According to doctors it is the safest position. It seems that children sleeping on their stomachs are more prone to a sudden cot death.

The mattress in the cot should be firm with appropriate sheet.

Child should not be too hot or cold.

Don’t smoke or expose your  newborn (and even older…) child to passive smoke.

Put the child in the cot feet to the banister into the bottom part of the cot so it cannot slide under the cover.

Sudden cot infant death

Every year several infants suddenly and unexplainably die in their sleep. Experts don’t have any explanation but they set a few recommendations to lower the risks. If you put your child to bed on its back make sure it is not exposed to cigarette smoke and keep watching that it doesn’t get overheated. The danger of sudden cot death can be radically increased.

Temperature suitable for newborn children

The danger of sudden cot death is increased if a child is excessively wrapped up especially when it has a fever or doesn’t feel well. But make sure it doesn’t get too cold. The ideal room temperature in the bedroom is 18 deg C which is also comfortable to an adult in light clothing. At this temperature we cover the child, in his body sleep suit, with a sheet and three thin blankets or light quilt. Newborns sleep best wrapped up in thin blanket to prevent waking themselves up by sudden leg or arm movements that happen while falling asleep. It also calms them up. But beware of overheating and do make sure not to put too many covers on. Do not use feather guilt for a child younger than 1 year old. If a child has a fever do not add any more covers or hot water bottle nor use an electrical blanket and do not turn the heating up.

Placing a newborn child into the lower parts of the cot

Place the baby with its feet near to the bottom of the bed and cover it so the cover reaches its shoulders. Tuck in the bottom of the cover under the mattress so it cannot slide under the cover with its head. It could increase the danger of sudden cot death while being overheated.

Newborns regulate their body temperature via the skin on their face and head. If a child slides under the cover the regulation is impaired. Make sure to adapt the cover accordingly for safety. If the room isn’t too cold don’t covet the child’s head with a hat.

Sleeping on the back

According to doctors sleeping on the back is the safest position. There is no evidence about newborn infants suffocating by bringing digested milk up.

The benefits of sleeping close to your baby

Having your baby sleep close to you or even co-sleeping can have numerous benefits for both you and your baby. Whilst not everyone will choose to have their baby sleep in the same room as them, it is good to know what benefits may be gained from this bedtime arrangement.

Better Bonding

If you work during the day, co-sleeping can give you and your partner extra time spent with your baby. The closeness and nurturing that occurs during the night helps to create a stronger bond between you and your baby.

Sleeping next to your baby in adjacent beds can help a nursing mother to synchronize her sleep cycle with her baby’s, meaning more quality sleep for both mother and baby, as a gentle reassuring hand can sometimes be enough to calm a baby back to sleep without fully awakening either party.

Peace of Mind

It eliminates a lot of the nighttime separation anxiety that your baby may feel, allowing for a more restful sleep for both you and your baby. Having your baby close to hand allows you to relax more and have a better quality sleep, rather than fretting about how your baby is in another room.

Co-sleeping babies tend to stay awake for much shorter periods of time through the night than those who sleep alone and they may also cry a lot less too. By sleeping close to your baby, you can quickly respond to any coughing or crying during the night, without the worry of whether you will hear them or not.

Co-sleeping babies don’t tend to wake as often as babies who sleep in another room and also tend to go back to sleep quicker. However, some babies can soothe themselves back to sleep much more easily than other babies, so co-sleeping won’t necessarily help your child sleep through the night any quicker.

Easier to Attend to Baby

Some studies suggest that mothers who sleep with their babies will breastfeed more, yet it disrupts the mother’s sleep less. Sleep-sharing mothers also tend to feed for longer periods of time, perhaps because it is less disruptive as they don’t need to leave their beds.

Mothers can easily reach out for their babies who are crying, or are about to cry and comfort or feed them without either mother or baby fully waking up. This is impossible if you need to get out of bed and enter another room, as this will cause both mother and baby to waken fully, making it harder to then return to sleep.

Good Habits

It is suggested that co-sleeping babies are more independent, more confident and more outgoing as children. It’s also suggested that they have better stress management skills and higher self-esteem and are more comfortable with intimacy as adults than people who slept alone as young babies. However, you cannot determine your child’s personality by sleeping arrangements alone.

Sleeping close to your baby will help them develop a healthy attitude toward sleeping. Helping your baby to grow up regarding falling asleep as a pleasant sensation, as well as being a fearless state to remain in, will give your child a lifelong healthy sleep attitude. This is one of the best investments you can make.

Zoe is an avid blogger and experienced freelance writer, and loves to share her knowledge through content on the internet. Zoe is currently writing on behalf of bed superstore Archers Sleep Centre. Follow Zoe on Twitter: http://twitter.com/bloggingstyle.