All children have different patterns of sleep and all differ in the amount of sleep they need. The same applies to parents. The problems begin when the child prevents either parent getting the sort of sleep they need.

Sleep problems vary; one set of parents might find many disturbances a night acceptable, others might not. Feel it is important to establish what your sleep expectations are for your child, bearing in mind that a staggering one in three children are waking regularly in the night at 12 months. Obviously expectations will be different for a baby from those for an older child. Some children do not need as much sleep as we expect them to.

What is Sleep?

Sleep is divided into two different states which alternate through the night: deep sleep and dream or REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. As we pass from one state to the other we often wake, roll-over and go back to sleep totally unaware that we have woken. This is because we have sleep clues – dark room, comfy bed etc. A baby needs to learn’ his sleep clues. If his sleep clues are being breastfed, rocked to sleep or a dummy he will need these clues again when he wakes at night. You can teach him new clues which will enable him to fall asleep on his own.


How much should he/she sleep?

There are no hard and fast rules. It is unusual for a young baby to sleep through the night straight away. Young babies need regular feeds and attention. Parents are often made to feel that their baby should sleep through the night as early as possible, try not to be pressured in this way.

If you are concerned about how little your baby is sleeping, particularly if he is crying a great deal, consult your doctor to eliminate possible medical problems.


Establishing a Routine

Between the ages of 3-6 months a routine should start to emerge; ideally the baby will sleep more at night than during the day. Do not worry if this is not the case. Note down his feed and sleep times to see if there is a pattern emerging. Try to establish a bedtime routine as soon as possible; perhaps a warm bath followed by a quiet feed and a cuddle.

Checklist for Settling Babies (0-6 months)

  1. Try to put baby down awake allowing him to settle down himself. Do not go back at the first whimper. It is worth noting that young babies often need to cry for a period to get themselves to sleep.
  2. Young babies will often wake for a night feed: this is natural. However, try to keep feeds as low key as possible (no eye contact, no loud noises, subdued lighting). This will help baby distinguish between day and night and will hopefully prevent night feeds from becoming a comfortable habit as he gets
    older.
  3. Make sure that baby is comfortable (check nappy), well fed and not thirsty.
  4. Is baby cold or in a draught?
  5. Is baby too hot? It is very important not to allow baby to get overheated.
  6. Some babies like dark, others a soft nightlight
  7. Some babies like background noise. Various soother tapes are widely available and may help baby to fall asleep. Try the static noise from the radio which can have a soothing effect. Ordinary household appliances often work in this way too (vacuum cleaner hairdryer etc.). Sudden noises should be
    avoided.
  8. Music can often help babies to settle; try a mobile or musical cot toy. Rhythmic movement often calms babies. Themotion of a pram or motorised crib (e.g. Infantcare’s Soothe n Snooze or Mothers Dream Babysleepers) or a swinging seat can have an hypnotic effect. Baby slings provide continual movement with the additional comfort of closeness with Mum or Dad.

    Playthings on the cot can prevent boredom and make the cot a more enjoyable place to be, especially as baby gets to 3 months or older. Soft toys in the cot can act as insulation – avoid overheating baby.

Checking Routine For Older Babies (7-9 months)

This method, advocated by numerous child psychologists, has worked for many parents who have contacted the Cry-sis Helpline, and can also be used for the older child.

  1. Ensure both parents and baby are well. Give yourself 2 clear weeks when you are not going out in the evening or going away.
  2. Babies and children need a routine, especially at bedtime. Set a bedtime and stick to it. Make sure there is a good ‘winding down’ period: quiet games, stories and a relaxing bath
  3. Put baby to bed, tuck him in, say ‘good night’ and leave. Make sure he has any comfort objects with him before you go.
  4. When he cries, leave him for a set time (5-10 minutes) then go back, check’ him, tuck him in and leave. Do not pick him up. Do this until he goes to sleep; some parents leave the period of time between checking a little longer each time.
  5. If your child gets up return him gently but firmly to bed. Ensure he knows you mean business and that you are not going to give in. It may help to use the same repetitive phrase and tone of voice each time you go in to your child.
  6. Do not give drinks (unless it is exceptionally hot), cuddles or stories as this can be interpreted as a ‘reward’ for not going to sleep.
  7. Be determined. If you give in now he will try much harder the next time: If he knows you will give in the end.
  8. If baby wakes in the night do exactly the same as before. Go back as many times as is necessary to ‘check’. In this way you and your baby know everything is OK.
  9. Be consistent. If you have the support of a partner, make sure you work together.
  10. Be prepared for a battle of wills. Baby will not give in without a fight. Tell your neighbours what you are going to do and discuss it with your health visitor.
Information Courtesy of:
B.M. Cry-sis
London
WC1N 3XX
Tel: 020 7404 5011
Email: BM Cry-sis

Cry-sis
The Cry-sis Helpline and Serene publications provide support for families with excessively crying, sleepless and demanding babies and young children.

Publication enquiries:
SAE to
164 Gordon Hill
Enfield
EN2 0QT

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