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Sleep

                                                              
                                                           

In some families, children simply go to bed when they are ready, or at the same time as their parents. In others, children go to bed early, giving their parents some free time. All of these approaches are fine, but you will probably find it helps both you and your child to establish a regular routine-what is sometimes called sleep hygiene. Making sure your child is calm and ready for bed will help everyone to enjoy a peaceful night. Many children and babies experience sleeping difficulties at some time. It is important to try to establish a regular bedtime sleep routine for your child by going to bed at a regular time each night.

You will most successful if you have clear rules and a set bedtime that you can stick to. Bedtime should not be so early that your child then wakes too early in the morning. On the other hand, being overtired can make a child too distressed to settle at night. Your child may also want to stay up later if he is afraid of the dark or is jealous of the fact that the baby or an older sibling gets to stay up with you. Do not give in to ploys to stay up. Be firm and consistent.

How much sleep is enough?

Just like adults, a child’s sleep patterns vary. From birth, some babies need more or less sleep than others. The following list shows the average amount of sleep babies and children will need during a 24 hour period, including day time naps.

  • Birth to three months: most new born babies spend more time asleep than awake. Total daily sleep can vary from eight hours up to 16-18 hours. Babies will wake during the night because they need to be fed.

  • Three to six months: as your baby grows, they will need fewer night feeds and be able to sleep for longer stretches. Some babies will sleep for around eight hours or even longer at night. By four months, they could be spending around twice as long sleeping at night as they do during the day.

  • Six to 12 months: at this age, night feeds should no longer be necessary, and some babies will sleep for up to 12 hours at a stretch at night. However, teething discomfort or hunger may wake some babies during the night.

  • 12 months: babies will sleep for around 12-15 hours altogether

  • Two years: most two year olds will sleep for about 11-12 hours at night, with one or two naps in the day

  • Three to four years: most will need about 12 hours of sleep, but the amount can range from eight hours up to 14. Some children will still need a nap during the day.

                                   Establishing a bed time routine
                           


Getting into a simple, soothing bedtime routine early can help avoid sleeping problems later on. A routine could consist of having a bath, changing into night clothes, reading a story, feeding and having a cuddle before going to bed. Your baby will learn how to fall asleep in their cot if you put them down when they are still awake rather than getting them to sleep by rocking or cuddling in your arms. If you get used to falling asleep in your arms, they may need nursing back to sleep if they wake up again.

As your child gets older, you might find it useful to keep to a similar bed time routine. Too much excitement and stimulation just before bed can wake your child up again. Prepare a comfortable environment for them to relax. Reading to your child at bed time helps them to unwind and relax.

 An example of a routine could be:

  • Bath, then put on night clothes

  • Glass of milk

  • Brush teeth

  • Go to bed

  • Bedtime story or sing a song/rhyme whatever soothes him

  • Make sure comforter (dummy, cuddle toy or security blanket) is nearby, then

  • Goodnight kiss and cuddle

  • You can leave a dim light on if your child is scared of the dark.

  • Avoid any kind of loud noise especially the noise of the TV

  • The key is to be consistent about the time and the routine

                                      Good sleep hygiene

This refers to the way in which a good sleep pattern can be promoted. Observing these principles may be enough to resolve a sleep problem.

The routine
  • Your child’s evening and bedtime routine should work towards relaxation and sleep.

  • His routine on weekends and holidays should be kept similar to that on weekdays within reason

  • Make sure daytime naps are well spaced and not too long

  • The bedroom should be quiet, dark and comfortable, familiar and relaxing. The bed should be associated with sleep rather than play.

  • To help your child relax in the evening, avoid any excitement in the hour before bedtime.

  • Your child should be put to bed when he is tired, even if that is before normal bedtime. Don’t wait until he is overtired.

  • A child should be able to fall asleep alone, without you being present.

  • Food, drink and setting limits to anxiety

  • Don’t give your child food and drink in the night. Children have to learn to eat at mealtimes and on waking the next day.

  • Don’t give in to requests for more stories or cuddle. This will just make the problem worse. Set your limits in advance and stick with them. Make sure these are followed consistently by all the adults involved in the bedtime ritual.

  • Avoid drink containing stimulants such as cola, cocoa, or tea before bedtime and limit them during the day.

                                   Some common sleep problems

My child will not go to bed

Think about what time you want your child to go to bed. Close to the time that your child normally falls asleep, start a 20 minute winding down bedtime routine. Bring this forward by 15 minutes every week until you get to the bed time you want. Try to set a limit on the amount of time you spend with your child when you put them to bed. For example, you could read one story only, then tuck your child in and say goodnight. Make sure your child has a favorite toy or comforter before settling into bed.

If your child cries, leave them for 5-10 minutes before going back in and settling them down again. Don’t pick them up or take them out of the bedroom. If your child gets up, put them back to bed again. You might have to repeat this routine for several nights. The important thing is to be firm and not to give in.

My child keeps waking up during the night

By the time your child is six months old, it is reasonable to expect them to sleep through most nights. However, up to half of all children under five go through periods of night waking. Some will just go back to sleep on their own, others will cry or want company. If this happens, try to work out why your child is waking up.

For example:
  • Is it hunger? A later feed or some cereal and milk last thing at night might help your child to sleep through the night.
     
  • Are they afraid of the dark? You could try using a nightlight on

  • Is your child waking because of night fears or bad dreams? If so, try to find out if something is bothering them.

  • Is your child too hot or too cold? You could adjust their bedclothes or the cooling in the room and see if that helps.
If there is no obvious cause, and your child continues to wake up, cry and/or demand company, then you could try some of the following suggestions:

  • Scheduled waking: if your child wakes up at the same time every night, try waking them between 15 minutes and an hour before this time, then settling them back to sleep.
     
  • Let your child sleep in the same room as a brother or sister

  • Teach your child to fall asleep by themselves: first check that everything is all right. If it is, settle your child down without talking to them too much. Over the next few nights, gradually increase the amount of time you leave them before checking. It might take a week or two, but if you keep the routine going, your child should start falling asleep on their own.

  • Nightmares: are quite common. They often begin between the ages of 18 months and three years. Although it’s upsetting to see your child distraught, they are usually nothing to worry about. Nightmares are not usually a sign of emotional disturbance. They may happen if your child is anxious about something or has been frightened by a TV programme or story. After a nightmare, your child will need comfort and reassurance. Give her a cuddle and reassure her until she calms down.

  • Night terrors: these can start before the age of one, but are most common in three and four year olds. Usually, the child will scream or start thrashing around while they are still asleep. They may sit up and talk or look terrified while they are still asleep. They are not usually a sign of any serious problems, and your child will eventually grow out of it. Just stay with her and keep her safe and cuddled until she settles.

Remember

It can take patience, consistency and commitment, but most sleep problems can be solved. Feel confident in yourself to know whether your child is really distressed or just restless. If your sleep is frequently disrupted by your child’s restlessness, arrange for a relative or your hubby to care for them so that you can get some sleep. Getting into a good sleeping routine will help make everyone’s life easier. Being calm and consistent can be the key to successful sleeping. If you are concerned that your child has serious difficulty getting to sleep, or does not regularly sleep through the night, discuss your concerns with your paediatrician.

 

 

 



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