Tips to ensure that baby and you get a good night’s sleep
Many parents must find themselves wondering where the idiom ‘sleeping like a baby’ comes from, considering the hours of crying, feeding and frustration that usually make up the night time norm. The good news for sleep-deprived moms out there is that there is a slumber-filled solution – it just takes some patience to pull off!
Sleep and your baby
“Just as babies must learn how to sit, talk and understand the world around them, they also need to learn how to fall asleep on their own,” says Liz Senior, Occupational Therapist and Founder of Clamber Club. “And as with most of baby’s developmental milestones, there’s no better teacher than mom and dad,” she adds.
To start with, it is important for parents to understand how babies sleep. “Babies spend more time in the REM sleep (active sleep) phases than adults because they have so much information to process,” explains Petro Thamm, Clamber Club Expert and Founder of Good Night, a certified Sleep Sense Consultancy. “This means that a parent may think that the infant is sleeping, when in fact, as soon as baby is put down he wakes up because he has not yet settled into a deep sleep.”
During the night, babies have sleep cycles that are considerably shorter than adults – 45 minutes long compared to 1.5 hours for adults. Quiet sleep comes at the end of the sleep cycle so when it’s over, your baby either begins the cycle again (re-entering active sleep) or he wakes up.
By the age of four months, your baby will be sleeping for six to eight hours a night and by six months, he should typically be sleeping for between 10-12 hours.
Thamm offers parents five tips for raising an independent sleeper:
- Eliminate ‘sleep props’
Children need to develop self-soothing strategies so they’re able to fall asleep independently and put themselves back to sleep when they wake in the night. If they depend on a ‘sleep prop’ (nursing or a bottle, pacifier, rocking, bouncing, patting or riding in the car), they will need someone to help them every time they wake up!
- Implement an early bedtime
An early bedtime is best to ensure that baby doesn’t become overtired, which makes it more difficult for her to settle down and fall asleep. Based on your baby’s age and the timing of their last nap, you should pick a bedtime somewhere between 6–8pm.
- Create a predictable routine
A bedtime routine is most effective when it is about 20-30 minutes long, and the majority of it takes place in your child’s bedroom. Some activities that work well include a bath, massage, going potty, brushing teeth, reading, sharing thoughts or a favourite song, and cuddling.
- Keep baby awake while feeding
Feeding (whether breast or bottle) is the number one sleep prop children begin to rely on. Keeping baby awake during feedings will help break the association that sleeping and eating go hand in hand. She will then be awake when she’s put back in bed, letting her practise her self-soothing skills.
Consistency is probably the most important part of teaching your child the skill of becoming an independent sleeper. Once you choose your method, you need to be consistent 100% of the time! If you give up or change rules every night, you will frustrate and confuse your little one. Keeping all sleep situations the same also sends a clear message about what’s expected of them.
It’s not always easy, but do your best to stay committed to the process, and try not to fall back into bad habits when you’re exhausted. Having a child fall asleep on her own really is the best lullaby a parent could ask for!