Baby Sleep during the First Few Months
It’s perfectly normal and natural for a baby to have trouble sleeping during the first three months or so of life. After all, they’ve just taken perhaps the most incredible journey they will ever take in their lives. Add in the fact that infants’ tummies are so tiny and they have a tremendous amount of growing to do, and it’s no wonder that many parents feel like all their baby ever does is eat and sleep.
It’s important to understand a little bit about baby sleep patterns. During those first eight weeks in particular, a baby will usually sleep in a seemingly random pattern. They will sleep anywhere from 16 to 20 hours a day. Unfortunately for parents that sleep comes in roughly two hour increments. Your baby doesn’t yet understand the difference between day and night, either, so it’s just as likely that your baby will want to to be awake for a long stretch at night as it is for your baby to want to be awake for a long stretch during the day.
During those early months, your baby is learning to self-soothe. She’s learning how to fall asleep on her own. While there are some things that you can and should do in order to help your baby to sleep, the fact of the matter is that sleeping is really something your baby needs to learn how to do on her own.
One thing you can do, of course, is to make sure she eats well before bedtime. If your baby’s tummy is full, she’s more likely to stay asleep. By about 10 to 12 weeks of age, your baby may be able to sleep through the night if she’s been well fed. Try giving baby a substantial feeding at around 10 pm or midnight, and you might find that she sleeps in until 6 am or even later.
Finally, you also need to help your baby learn the difference between day and night. The simplest way to do this is to make sure that your home is a stimulating and interactive place for your baby during the day, and that your baby’s bedroom is a dark, quiet place at night that’s free of stimulation.
Baby Sleep Trouble at Six Months
By the time your baby hits that half-year mark, she’s going to be sleeping for a total of about 12 to 15 hours each day. She should be sleeping for longer stretches in one time; usually at least five or six hours. Her night-time sleep patterns have probably started to level out by the beginning of this stage. If not, don’t worry; they will soon. There are a couple of specific time periods during which your baby (and therefore you, as well) isn’t likely to get much sleep. The first of these is, of course, the newborn stage. During that stage, your baby is simply adjusting to life on the outside, and it takes some time for her to start developing those important night-time and daytime rhythms. Fortunately for most parents, those nights of having trouble falling asleep and experiencing constantly-interrupted sleep typically only last a few weeks.
There’s another period when babies often start to have sleep trouble, even if they’ve been sleeping fine. This often occurs right around six months of age (although it can certainly happen later or earlier depending on your baby’s development). At this age, babies are often learning to pull themselves up. They may be experimenting with walking, although walking may be some time away. In many cases, this can actually be the time your baby has the greatest difficulty sleeping.
When a baby at this stage of development wakes up at night, he will often pull himself up and not want to lie back down. Once he’s up, he’ll cry. He’s conflicted, to some degree. He wants to be upright, but he also wants to be asleep. He isn’t necessarily making the connection between sleep and lying down.
Six months of age is also a primary time for separation anxiety. This adds to night-time troubles, as your baby will become scared or frightened when he does wake up and can’t go back to sleep.
This time of restlessness often ends once your baby has been walking for a couple of weeks. At that point, she no longer has that irresistible urge to pull herself up and she’s also more likely to be so active during the day that she’s more tired at night.
There are different approaches on how to handle this. Some experts recommend laying your baby back down in his crib, and gently holding him in place. Sing softly, talk nicely and even rub his back, but help him resist the urge to stand up. Other parents prefer to just wait it out, comforting or even picking your baby up during this time. You need to decide what works best for you and your baby, and know that the problem will resolve itself within a few weeks.
5 Ways to Transition Your Baby to Sleep
Making the transition from being awake to being asleep is a hard transition for a baby to make at first. Your baby’s natural inclination is to just go and keep going until she passes out. Part of your job as a parent is to help transition your baby to sleep.
Here are several methods you can use to try to help your baby make the change from being awake and active to being restful and asleep:
Feeding. One of the most common ways to put a baby to sleep is with feeding. Nestle your baby close to your body and breastfeed or bottle-feed him as he falls asleep. Move your baby from a warm bath to warm arms to a warm breast or bottle to a warm bed.
Fathering. Another way to help your baby make the transition is for the father to nestle your baby’s head against the front of his neck, gently resting his chin on the top of the baby’s head. The deep vibrations of a male voice, combined with gentle rocking, will help your baby make the transition to dreamland.
Wearing down. Some babies are just extremely active. They get so excited and full of energy during the day that they have trouble slowing down at night. You can help your baby wind down by putting him in a sling and taking him with you around the house for about half an hour before it’s time for bed. When he’s asleep, ease him out of the baby sling into his bed.
Swinging. Wind-up swings have been around for decades and today’s wind-up swings are friendlier than ever. Many even operate on their own power so that you don’t even have to crank them. In some cases, the gentle moving of the seat will help your baby transition to sleep even better than your arms, because the swing is more perfectly in rhythm and, ultimately, less stimulating.
Driving. Some babies can’t stay awake in a car seat, no matter what. If your baby is one of those, put her in her car seat and drive her around until she falls asleep. Make sure to take her out with a clean nappy and pyjamas. You can let her sleep in her car seat until her first waking in the night, after which you can move her to her bed.
Best Baby Clothes for Bed Time
One of the most enjoyable parts of parenting a baby is being able to shop for baby clothes. They’re all so cute. And the pyjamas are absolutely adorable. Cuteness aside, though, there are some sleeping clothes which are better for babies than others. If you’re like most parents, you want to help your baby to sleep as soundly as she possibly can. The last thing you want is to have a pair of pyjamas (no matter how cute) irritating your baby and waking her up.
When it’s hot outside, many babies enjoy sleeping either in just a nappy or in an ‘onesie’. If you use a blanket, make sure that it is tucked in snugly and that it doesn’t have ribbons, buttons or holes for baby to get fingers caught in. As it gets cooler, of course, you should put your baby into some kind of pyjamas. Generally speaking, one-piece pyjamas are more comfortable for sleeping in than two-piece pyjama sets. With two-piece sets, the bottom of the shirt and the top of the pants can irritate baby’s skin, especially if they have an elastic waistband.
Regardless of which style of pyjamas you put on your baby, you should look for outfits made of very breathable materials, such as cotton. Many synthetic materials keep the air from circulating and don’t allow baby’s skin to breath. This can lead to irritation or even a rash. The bottom line is that it can be uncomfortable and make it harder for baby to sleep as soundly as she should.
Many parents now use a sleep sack, especially for younger babies. This is essentially a blanket which the baby wears. It resembles a small sleeping bag, except that it fastens up loosely around baby’s neck. It allows baby to move around as much as she likes (and is able to) while ensuring that she stays snug and warm. Sleep sacks can be used with or without other pyjamas, depending on how warm it is. Many parents simply put baby in the sleep sack wearing a onesie. One of the major advantages of sleep sacks is that they help prevent babies from flipping over onto their stomachs. Sleeping on the stomach is commonly-believed to be a cause of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, or cot or crib death). While most doctors don’t recommend flipping baby back over if she flips over herself (you’ll just wake her up and make it difficult for her to get needed rest), using the sleep sack is a safe way to stave that off for a couple more months.
Baby Sleep Problems and Food Allergies
Many paediatricians suggest that one of the leading causes of baby sleep problems may be food allergies. They especially recommend considering the possibility that a food allergy may be responsible for your baby’s sleep problems if baby is restless for a significant part of the night and has gas.
If you suspect your baby may have a food allergy and you are feeding her formula, the solution is often quite simple. You can try switching to breastfeeding or you can try a different formula. In either case, you should be prepared to give the switch at least a week, and preferably two weeks, to see if the change in diet is helping your baby. If you are breastfeeding, your baby may be having an allergic reaction to something you are eating or drinking. The most common culprit is cow’s milk. Eliminate cow’s milk from your diet for a couple of weeks and see if your baby sleeps more peacefully. Of course, if you eliminate cow’s milk, you will need to supplement your calcium intake, either by switching to goat’s milk or buttermilk, or by taking a calcium supplement.
Other common foods you may be eating which could be causing baby to have problems sleeping include nuts, eggs, corn, soy, or wheat products. Unfortunately, figuring out exactly which food is causing the problems for your baby is a bit of a guessing game. In most cases, your best bet is to eliminate one food at a time, for a week or two at a time. If baby’s sleep improves, you have probably identified the cause of the problem.
Of course, food allergies are only one of several things which can cause your baby to have difficulty sleeping. If your baby is having excessive trouble falling asleep, or if the amount of sleep she is getting isn’t within the normal range for her age, consider consulting her paediatrician. While food allergies are not the only cause of baby sleep problems, they are one of the most commonly overlooked.
The key here is to make sure you’re allowing enough time for your baby to sleep. Pay attention to your baby’s sleep schedule, and even if it means sacrificing some quality time in the short term, in the long haul it will help her to grow up much more well-adjusted. A baby whose schedule is too busy will, as a matter of course, have sleep problems.
The New Nappy Rules
One of the easiest fixes for a fussy baby is to change her nappy. Most of the time, when you have to go into your baby’s room at night and you know it’s not time for a feeding, you go right for the nappy. Yet you need to resist the urge to change her each time.
Instead, use a high-quality nappy designed for night-time use. When she wakes, take a whiff to see if it’s soiled or not. The fact of the matter is that the cold baby wipe on your baby’s bottom might wake her up much more quickly than a wet nappy.