Limit your babies awake time in between naps
Believe it or not, it is the awake time not the sleep time that drives healthy sleep patterns. An over tired, over stimulated baby will struggle to fall asleep without extensive assistance such being rocked or fed to sleep. A baby who is calm and sleepy will fall asleep with ease, and with little intervention.
Understand your baby’s signals
A lot of the time, an over stimulated baby will show signs of tiredness and sensory overload. These signals, such as irritability, pulling up of their legs, fisting of their hands, yawning, sneezing and hiccupping are often incorrectly attributed to winds and cramps. The caregiver then spends much time “fiddling’ with the baby, trying to break wind, checking for a dirty nappy and so on – all of which continue to over stimulate baby, resulting in ongoing fussy behaviour.
Have a consistent sleep zone
Having a consistent and calming sleep zone will ensure that your baby is able to fall asleep without resistance. This is especially so for older babies, who need a consistent and un-stimulatory sleep space in order to regulate themselves sufficiently to become calm so that sleep can follow.
The importance of routine
Children, especially toddlers, thrive on routine. A flexible routine is important to ensure a healthy balance between sufficient play and stimulation time and quiet and calm time. Day time naps are still important until well into the toddler years.
Early to bed
Children should, ideally, be in bed and asleep by 7pm every night. Depending on your baby’s afternoon sleep pattern, bedtime could be as early as 6pm. Delayed bedtimes cause over tiredness, cranky behaviour and high levels of stress. Don’t be tempted to keep your baby awake just because dad is coming home late from work!
Teach your baby to sleep
Because babies pass through light sleep states every 45 minutes at night (up to an hour in toddlers), it is not possible to prevent your baby stirring at night (due to sleep cycles) but it is possible for you to teach your baby to go back to sleep without your assistance. This means that you will give him a chance to see if he can put himself to sleep (or back to sleep). you do not leave your baby on his own for long periods of time and by portraying a message of consistency and confidence your baby will feel secure not abandoned.
When controlled crying for sleep training is done in the correct manner to meet your child’s needs on all levels, especially his emotional needs, there should be no negative effects whatsoever – in fact a well-rested child with well-rested parents plays an important part of creating a loving and secure home. Have the courage to be firm, without guilt or fear that your baby will resent or love you less.
Published with permission from Ann Richardson
Qualified Nurse and Midwife Ann Richardson, co-author of the international bestsellers, Baby sense; Sleep Sense and author of the international best seller Toddler Sense has worked in the midwifery and paediatric fields for over 30 years. Ann qualified as a general nurse in 1980 and specialized in midwifery in 1981. She has completed numerous post grad certificates including child health, sensory integration, vaccinology, asthma and allergy, nutrition and sleep medicine. Apart from running a busy well baby clinic focusing on child health, immunization, nutrition, growth and development, her specialization is the treatment of “difficult babies and toddlers”, in particular those with feeding and sleeping disorders. Ann introduced the first private well-baby clinics in South Africa, now a well-known phenomenon at pharmacies across the country. She is a regular guest on television parenting shows and contributes to nursing journals, childcare publications and magazines. Ann is passionate about her work and dedicated to ensuring that parents have the necessary knowledge to enjoy and rejoice in their children. She often lectures to both professionals and parents on various baby and childcare issues, in particular the effects of the sensory system on infant behaviour. Ann is married to Ken, has 2 daughters, and lives and practices in Johannesburg, South Africa. www.toddlersense.co.za