Newest Review: ... parents for almost all of our evolutionary history. Additionally, if anything does go wrong - Mom is right there. My oldest did have some p... more
Your Baby and Sleep in general
Member Name: sandemp
Your Baby and Sleep in general
Advantages: Those sleepless nights will eventually fade into memory . . .
Disadvantages: . . . . it might not happen until they leave home
Having a baby is a momentous occasion, full of wonder, joy and those sleepless nights. Before having a baby we thought nothing of spending our nights partying, getting in during the small wee hours, falling asleep in our clothes then getting up a couple of hours later to get ready for work, while our parents had sat up waiting for us to get home.. But when our little bundles of joy make an appearance all of a sudden, we find surviving on a couple of hours sleep a night steadily becomes more and more difficult, until we feel like zombies. I'd love to say that everything will work out in the end, that every baby will eventually sleep through the night, and there will be a time when all those sleepless nights fade into the distant past. But that never really happens, even the best sleeper will have a bad night and some children never manage a full night's sleep. It doesn't even get any better when they "grow up", as you then become the one that's sitting up waiting from them to stumble through the door after a night partying. So now I've crushed all your hopes, I'm going to try and share a little of my knowledge and experience of helping five babie master the art of getting a good night's sleep.
Even before your baby was born he or she had a sleep pattern of sorts, being awake and kicking for short periods and then sleeping. If they were anything like mine then the periods when they were awake were spread fairly evenly over a twenty-four hour period, with them waking you up by wriggling and kicking just when you were in bed enjoying a particularly vivid and pleasant dream. It's no surprise, therefore, that the newborn has absolutely no concept of night and day and will wake pretty much any time that they feel hungry, thirsty, wet, hot, cold or generally uncomfortable. Add to this the fact that a newborn's stomach is only the size of a walnut, and you are going to be woken at frequent intervals. It's not your fault, it's nothing you've done wrong it's just nature's way of making sure your baby has all the energy he needs to grow and develop.
All the same this is the stage when I've always started to establish a bedtime routine, even with knowledge we're probably going to be getting up at least two or three more times during the night. During the day I encourage lots of interaction during and after feeds, chatting to baby as he feeds, but during the night I keep interaction at a minimum and the lights dimmed. I also try to make the last feed before bedtime a very special time, we'll normally start with a warm bath, followed by the feed and cuddles with singing or a book to share, then it's time for bed in a darkened room, trying to ensure they are still awake when you put them down so they start to learn to settle themselves to sleep. Where you put your baby down to sleep is completely up to you, as newborns they really don't care and will happily sleep anywhere that feels secure. You could put them straight into a cot, although I've always felt that a newborn looks a little lost in a cot, or you could use a crib, Moses basket or even carry-cot. If you do buy a Moses basket or fancy crib and it has one of those very sweet little quilts on it, then put that quilt away as they aren't actually recommended for babies under six months. So you shouldn't use a quilt, and you also shouldn't use a pillow, so what do you use to keep your baby warm? My own recommendation is to buy a number of flat sheets and waffle blankets so that you can add or remove layers depending on how warm the room is. I know I'm preaching to the converted, but always lay your baby on his back (unless advised otherwise by medical professionals) and so that his feet are at the bottom of the cot/crib/Moses basket. Since this became standard advise along with preventing baby from over-heating the number of cot deaths has dropped dramatically. As to keeping baby warm or cool enough then you could rely on a room thermometer, though I've always believed in trusting yourself and working by the rule that baby needs one more layer than you. If you're feeling cold then chances are baby will be feeling cold too so they may need an extra blanket. Similarly if you're feeling hot, then swap the blanket for a sheet. Although all the gadgets have their place, trust your instincts, we were given them for a reason, but remember a newborn cannot regulate their own temperature (they have to learn to do that) so you need to regulate it for them. Rather than feeling their heads to see how warm they are, check the back of their neck as I find this a far better indicator.
If your newborn is constantly waking themselves up by flinging their arms and legs (the startle reflex) then you may like to try wrapping them tightly in a blanket or sheet (depending on the weather), using a technique known as swaddling. There was a time when all babies were swaddled and new Mums were taught how to do it, but it's something I rarely see done now (I was the only one on the ward that swaddled my youngest when he was born last year). It's a tricky technique to master, but once you've worked it out you can easily swaddle a baby in seconds. If you cannot master the technique or have no-one to teach you then you can now buy special swaddling blankets that take the work out of it by using Velcro or poppers to hold the blanket tightly round the baby.
Although the average newborn sleeps for up to 16 hours a day, these will be in periods of anything as short as an hour up to three or four hours. This means that you will be short of sleep during the night, because we seem to have lost that art of instantly falling asleep. So it's very important during those early days to grab sleep when we can. It doesn't matter that the ironing needs doing, or the vacuuming or even the washing up, try to grab a nap when baby is sleeping.
As your baby gets older and his stomach starts to expand he starts to be able to take some more milk and so last longer between feeds. By a month, you've hopefully got into a some sort of routine and life starts to feel as if it's getting back to normal. Hopefully you've established a bedtime routine that's laid the foundations for sleep in the months and years to come, but it's not a given. All babies will go through a growth spurt at about this time, when they suddenly demand more frequent feeds. Breast-fed babies may also start to cluster feed, meaning they feed almost constantly for several hours during the evening/night. And then there is the dreaded colic, which nobody knows what it really is or how to cure it. One of my older children had severe colic, which left me with an inconsolable baby from about seven in the evening until three or four in the morning. Twenty years on I still remember spending hours pounding the streets in the early hours trying to settle him in his pram. Nothing can prepare you for the horror that is colic and it then becomes even more important to grab sleep when you can, as a exhausted and distressed Mummy is not going to help your baby to sleep.
So the colic's over (normally clears by twelve weeks all by itself) and baby is starting to settle for longer, by three months your baby might even have dropped a feed during the night and you may be getting close to that magic day when you can say your baby is sleeping through. All babies are different and hit this magic milestone at different ages, so even if your first baby sleeps through at three months, your next might not manage the feat until they are a year. Of my five children, they have definitely all slept through at different ages, with two being between three and four months, another being about five months, another six months and one over a year. Of course when I say sleep through, no baby actually sleeps all the way through the night, they all wake at some point, but the trick is when they learn to settle themselves without your help. Because this is again something that babies need to learn, I do believe that it's not a good idea to go in to a baby on the first whimper. I'm not saying ignore your baby if they are screaming, but give them a chance to drop back off if they're whining.
==Into The Cot==
Unless you started by putting your baby into a cot to sleep, there's going to come a day when you are going to need to make the transfer from that snug, secure, little bed into the much larger space that is a cot. Understandably some babies find this a stressful experience, they've been used to the security of the Moses basket and are moving to a relatively wide open space, but there are some things that you can do to make the transition a little easier. First thing's first, try to make the cot a comfortable, pleasant place to spend the night without making it over-stimulating. There are some really nice cot mobiles and other cot toys available that will help give your baby something to occupy their minds while dropping off without over-stimulating them. Next I would recommend that if you have used a Moses basket or carry-cot, for the first few nights place this inside the cot so baby can get used to his new sleeping place while still having the security of the old.
While it's tempting to kit the cot out with co-ordinating linen, to be perfectly truthful this really isn't a good idea and can even be dangerous. Cot bumpers are really not a good idea and I don't know any health professional that would recommend them. With very young babies they pose a suffocation risk, and then with older babies they provide a very convenient step when trying to climb out of the cot. As with Moses baskets, those gorgeous quilts are not recommended for babies under six months and don't give the flexibility that flat sheets and blankets do for older babies. I do however think that sleeping bags are brilliant for babies that have become a little more active and kick off their blankets. I really don't know how we used to manage without these and really would recommend that you try them if you have a restless baby.
Although the current recommendations are to keep baby sleeping in your room until he is at least six months old, the day is going to come when you want to move them into their own room, if only so you can have a little privacy to attempt to practise making more babies without worrying that a certain someone is going to wake up. This can be a scary process, both for baby and yourself and is often the time when your sleep is going to be once more disturbed (if only because you're lying awake wondering why baby doesn't seem that bothered). I find using a baby monitor makes the transition easier for Mummy and Daddy, and there are all manner of different monitors available, from the simple ones that simply transmit sound, to movement monitors, to two-way monitors that allow you to talk to baby to video monitors that provide a picture as well as sound.
Having an established bedtime routine in place helps make the transition easier for baby and ensuring that he has all his familiar cot toys also makes this easier. Another thing that can make the transition easier for baby is something that smells of you. This may sound slightly strange, but if baby has spent his first six months sleeping in your room, he's used to being able to smell you, so if you put something that smells of you near his cot (a pillow case you've left in your bed overnight), he'll have that comfort of being able to smell you.
For many, many parents the transition to baby's own room runs smoothly, but there are some where it quite simply doesn't. With some baby's they become distressed at the idea of being on their own and find it really hard to settle themselves. There are three main schools of thought when it comes to dealing with this problem, the first being controlled crying, the second being "settle and leave" and the final being the separation method. In all cases you should check that baby isn't crying for a reason before starting the technique.
This is probably the most controversial method of sleep training, and is not suitable to be used on babies under a year old. Personally, while I have tried this method it's the method that is most difficult to carry through. After checking all the obvious signs as to why your baby is crying, you need to allow baby to cry for two minutes before going in and soothe him, without switching the lights on, picking him up or making eye contact. Once he's settled you once more leave the room and should he start crying you wait for four minutes before going in to him, continuing to double the time between going into him until you are waiting 15minutes before going in to settle. Now I do know of people who praise this method and state that by using it they managed to sleep train their babies within a week. But it is an extremely harrowing process for the parent and personally I feel it's also distressing for the baby. My toddler knows that I will always be there if he needs me and the thought of allowing him to cry and maybe lose that sense of security is just too much. However, as I've stated I did try with one of my older children, the only trouble is I didn't even last a night.
If you are going to try this method, then I would strongly recommend that you warn your neighbours and make sure you have someone with you to give you emotional support.
==Settle And Leave==
With the settle and leave method you put baby to bed and if he starts crying you pick him up and comfort him until he stops and lay him back down. Should he start crying on as you put him down then you pick him back up and once more comfort him and so on until he settles himself to sleep. To be perfectly honest I've not really attempted this as, as far as I'm concerned this is certainly not going to produce the results I want, which is my child learning to settle himself to sleep. But again there are people who swear by this method.
==The Separation Method==
This is the method that I, personally, have found works best both with babies and toddlers and I've tended to use this with each child with great results. The separation method works by you putting your child to bed, switching off the light and then sitting on the floor so that they can see you, but not so you can make eye contact and stay there until they fall asleep. Each day you position yourself a little closer to the door, and eventually you spend a couple of nights sitting outside the door before finally your child/baby is able to settle themselves without you being there. This is a long term method that can take anything up to a month, but I personally feel it's less distressing for the baby and better for teaching them to settle themselves back to sleep. This is a method I've successfully used with five babies, including one who had to be re-sleep trained after a serious illness where he got used to me sleeping in his bed with him.
It wouldn't be fair for me to write a piece on babies and sleeping without at least mentioning Co-sleeping. Although Co-Sleeping is common in many cultures, it's not really recommended in this country as it is considered to add a risk factor in Cot Death. While I personally have never and would never co-sleep I have nothing against anyone that allows their baby to sleep in their bed with them. Co-sleeping is where your child sleeps in your bed rather than a cot, and if you do decide to take this route then please follow the safety guidelines, such as not to share your bed if you smoke, have drunk alcohol, taken drugs (legal or otherwise that affect your level of consciousness).
Now while I can see the advantages of co-sleeping, especially when breast feeding, such as being able to feed your baby without having to lift them out of a crib and then put them back, for me it's never really been an option. As far as I'm concerned the one place in the house that is simply for me and Daddy is our bed, and while I'm happy to share a cuddle in that bed in the mornings, at night time it's a purely grown-up place. I also feel that if had allowed any of my children to sleep in the bed, it would have made teaching them to settle in their own bed even more difficult. So while I've been perfectly happy to sleep next to them in their own rooms when they've been unwell (either in their bed or on the floor), I've never allowed them to sleep in mine.
OK, so this is now quite long enough and yet it feels like I've only just scraped the surface. Hopefully there's something above that's helpful to you or strikes a cord as you work through that first year from a newborn in the crib with all the sleepless nights to a toddler who sleeps in his own room and hopefully allows you at least an occasional broken night. The next big adventure will be moving your toddler to the big bed, but that's a whole new story.....
Summary: If only there was a magic answer
More reviews in the field of Parenting Issue
- Adventures in Fatherhood
- Green Nippers Scratch Mittens that stay on
- This really helped me get through my Labour!
- Child-hood memories both good and bad!
- Obstetric Cholestasis ~ itch, itch, itch!
- As natural as birth
- My Experience of Breastfeeding and Bottle Feeding
- Something About Mary Poppins...
- Numbness in foot and calf muscle in right leg only
- working mother=bad mother???