While you didn’t expect your newborn to sleep through the night from day one, you probably didn’t quite expect to be this tired all the time either.
You might feel like there’s just not enough time to get some shut eye – the baby wakes up every hour, your toddler wants your full attention all the time and you still have to do the laundry and try and fit a shower in between all your tasks. But, did you know that your brain can’t function properly when you don’t get enough sleep?
“Sleep is important for the physical and emotional wellbeing of both children and adults,” says Petro Thamm, a Specialist Sleep Consultant and Director of Good Night. It’s also particularly important for children as the growth hormone needed for tissue and muscle development is primarily released during sleep.”
How much sleep does my baby need?
Lee-Ann Stretch, founder of Sleep Matters says that although all babies are different, they should generally be able to sleep for about 8 to 10 hours from the age of three to six months and for 10 to12 hours from six to 12 months.
Why won’t my baby sleep through the night?
Some babies are self-soothers and have no trouble sleeping from a very young age while others battle to self-soothe and need assistance.
Problems arise when babies or toddlers wake up three to five times a night. This means they’re not connecting their sleep cycles and have not learned to self-soothe, so can’t put themselves back to sleep. These children are called ‘signallers’ and call/cry out for help.
There are various reasons why your child may not be sleeping through the night. Some include:
- Not getting enough sleep during the day
- Teething, ear or other infections
- Being too hot or too cold
- Over stimulation and a dirty nappy.
- However, it also depends on how soon you put your baby into their own room and whether you rock them to sleep or let them fall asleep on their own.
- No one likes to hear their baby cry. Any mom would rush to go pick up her crying baby, but this can cause sleep problems for your little one later on.
- Working moms often feel guilty for leaving their babies in someone else’s care all day that they, understandably, overcompensate at night and end up lying with their children until they fall asleep. This can create a problem later on as you will need to repeat this ritual every time your child wakes up, meaning you will eventually end up sleeping in your child’s room.
Leeann’s top tips for getting your baby to sleep through the night.
- Have a routine: Children thrive on predictability and knowing what they are going to do.
- Ensure there’s a calm sleeping environment: a dark room with black-out curtains during the day.
- Replace negative sleep associations with positive ones: don’t let your child fall asleep with a bottle or rock him to sleep because when he wakes up later he’ll need that association to fall asleep again. The aim is to teach your child to self soothe and fall asleep alone.
- Create a wind-down period before bedtime: no child can go to sleep after playing or running around.
- Be consistent and confident: make sure you’re ready to sleep train your child. If you stop in the middle you’ll confuse your child and make him more resilient the next time you try. Your child will also feel your anxiety and play on it.
More about the experts:
Lynne is a freelance journalist and content writer who has worked in the
magazine industry for many years. A regular contributor to Living & Loving,
her main passions are people and health. She holds the Pfizer Mental Health
Journalism award for 2012/2013 and specializes in lifestyle and wellness
topics for both the print and digital worlds.