Newborn babies don’t really know the difference between day and night. Their tiny stomachs can hold very little breast milk or formula to keep them satisfied for a long period of time. They need food every few hours, no matter what time of the day or night it is. New parents discover the crucial importance of sleep in the first few weeks of parenthood. Sleep, or lack of it, is probably the most discussed topic between new parents and pediatricians. The quality and quantity of an infant’s sleep affects the well–being of everybody else in the house. Over a period of time, an infant’s sleep only changes in form. By the time the child grows and moves from crib to the bed, instead of crying he/she either “Pleads”, or refuses to sleep.
Well, actually it’s not all that bad, it depends on the age of the infant. There are many questions parents would like to have answers to. “How do you get them to go to bed even as they cry, scream, plea and refuse to sleep?” “What should be the infant’s bed–time routine?” and, “How much sleep is enough? Or for that matter, “What should you do when your kids wake you up?”
How much sleep is enough?
There is no magical number of hours required by kids belonging to certain age groups. Two–year–old Anu might sleep from 8:00 p.m. to 8:00 a.m., while two–year–old Ahkil on the other hand, may sleep only from 10:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m., and be just as alert the next day.
Every child is an unique individual with different sleeping patterns and needs. Most children’s sleep is based on how old they are. Here are some approximate numbers based on age, accompanied by ‘Age–appropriate pro–sleep strategy’. A newborn may sleep as much as 16–20 hours a day or even more, often in stretches of three to four hours at a time. Babies also have different phases of sleep: drowsiness, REM (rapid eye movements) sleep, light sleep, deep sleep, and very deep sleep. Their periods of wakefulness increase as they grow.
Short stretches of three to four hours of sleep may be annoying to you, as they interfere with your own sleeping pattern, But, have patience. As your baby grows and begins to adapt to the rhythms of life this will gradually change. At first, though, the need to feed will overshadow the need to sleep. Many pediatricians recommend that a parent shouldn’t let a newborn sleep too long without feeding. So, you have to feed your baby every three to four hours or so.
Where and how should my baby sleep?
For the first few weeks, parents should place their child’s crib in their own bedroom. The baby should not be kept in a separate room at this early stage in his/her life. For safety reasons, your infant should not sleep in the same bed with you.
Parents should have different locations for diurnal (daytime) and nocturnal (night–time) sleep. For instance, if you let your baby snooze in a stroller during the day, and only put him/her into the crib at night, he/she may become accustomed to the “Difference” between day vis–Ãƒ –vis night by means of association with regard to the change of scene.
Do keep “Sleep–safety” in mind. Do not place anything in the crib that may interfere with the baby’s breathing. This includes soft toys. Avoid objects with cords and any objects with any kind of sharp edges or corners. Make sure the crib you have been using is in keeping with today’s safety standards. Healthy infants who are placed on their backs or sides to sleep, and not on their stomachs, sleep well. The back or side position for sleep might be safer. Various studies suggest that babies sleeping on their backs or sides have a somewhat lower risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) than babies who sleep on their stomachs.
What should you do?
You could convey, through your actions, that night–time is for sleeping. Avoid stimulation while feeding the baby at night or changing the baby’s diaper. Try and keep the lights dim, and resist the urge to play or talk with your baby.
You should begin to create some sort of bed–time routine like bathing, reading, singing that would help your baby to relax when he’s a bit older. Your newborn may be too young to understand the signals yet, but you can set up the bed–time drill early enough so that you are on the right track later. What if your baby is fussy? You can always rock, cuddle, and sing to your baby as he/she settles down. For the initial months of your baby’s life, “Spoiling” is not a problem. Your child could be fussy due to various conditions like hunger, illness, being overly tired, colic, tight clothes, etc.
Sleep for 1–3 years of age
A simple bed–time routine, should be established and if it remains the same night after night, it is your best bet for fighting the toddler’s cry of “I don’t want to go to bed!” Of course, he doesn’t. When mum, dad, and older siblings are still up and active, and the world is an exciting place of endless discovery, he doesn’t want to miss a thing by going off to sleep.
As your child progressively becomes increasingly aware of the outside world, and various stimuli begin to disturb him more at night, his growing imagination may start interrupting his sleep as a result of it.
How long will your baby sleep?
There’s a wide range of what constitutes “Normal” when it comes to sleep, but generally between the ages of one and two, a toddler requires about 10–13 hours of sleep every day. Whether your child continues to snooze during the morning or afternoon is quite up to his/her individual choice.
Some parents feel their child needs that nap during the day, while others might discover that as their child grows, day–time napping interferes with a good night’s sleep. Sometime during this period, you’ll have to deal with the prospect of combining two short naps into one, or doing away with the nap altogether. It may take several weeks of experimentation to arrive at the right combination of rest/sleep. Just make sure your toddler gets enough rest. It could mean the difference between a happy, sunny disposition and a cranky, hard–to–manage child. Try to become attuned to your child’s needs and personality.