A first time mother walked in with her 3 month old daughter; looking haggard, tired and quite frustrated. She uttered most oft repeated words, “Doctor, my M has unique sleeping pattern; she sleeps through the day and stays awake the whole night!”
I am certain every mother must have faced this dilemma and uttered similar words. I told her the same and added, “I have yet to meet a mother whose infant slept through the night and played all day!”
Most parents crib that as soon as they have settled down to relax, the kiddo wakes up. “Doc, I am only sleeping only 2 hours in the entire day and that too in 5-6 shifts” “Doc, my son hardly sleeps!” etc etc. Well, some amount of planning is a big help for managing children and sleep.
Infants usually sleep for nearly 12-15 hours in a day (till 4 months); 2-3 hours in the day and 10-12 hours at night. Although sleep is very important for baby’s normal development; it is much more important to keep mothers (parents) sane! ‘Need based feeds’ is the mantra for feeding an infant; but when it comes to sleep, it is recommended to fix a ‘sleep’ schedule and follow it consistently. This definitely helps in preventing frequent wake-ups at night – and causing misery to parent(s) – since infants derive great security from familiar things and that security helps them sleep better.
How do we make sleep time familiar so as to provide a feeling of security?
Follow a nightly bedtime ritual; Give the baby a warm, relaxing bath; sing a lullaby to him/ her; play for some time; it doesn’t matter what you do, just ensure you do the same routine night after night. This will be enough to create familiarity.
It’s not only their sleep time that should have a set routine, even their daytime activities should be very consistent. If you try it, you will realize it makes things easy for mothers as well. Most young mothers do not organize their day especially since they have taken a break from work and feel there is plenty of time to do things. There should be schedule of kid’s all day-time activities. Waking up, early feeds, bathing (& massage), feed, sleep etc.
Letting them sleep on their own
I am sure we all recall trying very hard to go to sleep but sleep eluding us? Same is with kids. Whatever hard you may try, best is let them fall asleep on their own; we have to give them plenty of chances to fall asleep on their own. Put the child down, dim the lights and stop noises when you realize baby is sleepy but still awake.
Signs that baby is sleepy
Learn to pick up signs that baby is tired – rubbing eyes, pulling on the ear, wanting to be carried, wanting you to stop working or just being more fussy than normal? If these or any other signs of sleepiness are spotted, an attempt to put him/ her to sleep is likely to be immediately rewarding. Very soon, you’ll know instinctively when your child is ready for a nap.
Teach them difference between day and night
The most important is teaching them difference between day and night; this can be started from the time baby is 2-3 month old. Interact with the baby as much as you can during the day, when the child is awake (& alert); keep the house and the room where he/ she spends more time well lit and bright; don’t try to reduce regular daytime noises like the phone ringing, mixer grinder working, playing music etc. If the child tends to sleep during breast feedings, try waking him/ her up by talking to them. Similarly, don’t play with them at night/ when they wake up. At night, when they wake up, keep the lights and noise level low; never put on full light and don’t spend too much time talking/ playing. Before you realise, your child will begin to figure out that night time is for sleeping.
Finally, stop worrying. All babies, eventually, sleep through the night. Trying these tricks will ensure that happening sooner because if baby sleeps, mother sleeps!
Dr Chander Asrani, father to three daughters and grand father to one, is a post-graduate in Family Medicine. He has over 35 years in clinical practice, launched www.growingwell.com in 2000 and since then has been writing on various subjects. Know more about him at about.me/drasrani.