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New parents find that getting baby to sleep even just a teeny bit longer than he normally does can really be a big struggle. They follow tips from their friends and then still struggle for weeks afterwards as the pattern continues. But before we get onto tips that will really help your baby sleep longer or better, as young parents, you need to also realize some important facts about your baby and his typical baby habits.
First you need to understand a tiny baby; why he won’t generally sleep right through the night in the yearly days, even months. Here are six facts that you might not have realized about your little angel sleeping there in his cot. Knowing them might help you as parents to trouble-shoot some of the challenges you face and which might be reasons to the tips later to try and help your baby to sleep better. See if you recognize some of these:
6 Things to Realize About How Your Little Cherub Operates
1. Your baby can take a number of minutes to reach only a sleeping-lightly stage, which means if he wakes up in within those minutes of say 20-45 minutes, he is probably only really in his mid-nap. You could try to get him back to sleep so that he can finish his nap.
2. Babies spend half their time in REM or rapid eye movement sleep. 50% of their sleep is light sleeping. In his light sleeping phase, he will probably wake often. You might need to be extra quiet in this light sleeping time so he is not distracted by noise.
3. Babies often take up to around 20 minutes to actually reach their deep sleep. If he wakes after only 5-20 minutes after starting to fall asleep, it’s likely he has not reached his deep sleep. But don’t think this is probably because he is not tired. Give the baby a chance again to fall back to sleep independently before going to tend to him.
4. Typically the ideal length of time for a baby to nap is from 1½-2½ hours. Your baby would probably have had a god nap at 1½ hour. Sometimes a pacifier for example might extend the time if you would like to lull him back to sleep.
5. Babies sleeping patterns only really settle down when he reaches between 3-6 months. In this time, babies enter their deep sleep quicker and stay sleeping longer.
6. “Sleeping through the night” is just a saying, meaning different things for different babies and parents. All babies are different. Some parents will say their baby slept through the night if he achieved a 6 hours in a stretch. Some experts will say that a baby over 6 months who is healthy can sleep from 10-12 hours every night. But if your baby is over 6 months, this certainly does not mean there is something wrong if he is not sleeping through the night! Far from it. Watch your baby and you will see how everything just falls into place gradually.
Right, Let’s Get Down to Some Tips That Will Help Baby Sleep Better
Now that you know about babies and their sleeping habits and ways, there are some helpful hints that will also help your baby to sleep better. Good luck!
1. Swaddling Baby
Babies have a “startle reflex” action when they are newborns, where you might see him suddenly jerk in sleep. He can even awaken in this time. Wrapping him up or “swaddling” him will keep him comforted, secure and warm to let him sleep longer and better. You must have heard the words “snug as a bug in a rug” – it true! Baby will benefit from this snugness.
2. Baby’s “Dream Meal”
The “dream meal” is the feed you give the baby just before you as mom go to bed. It kind of settles the baby and helps him from waking up immediately you have put him down to sleep, hoping to catch some close-eye as well (hopefully). A dream feed can help a newborn baby sleep longer, something you can try out with your baby until he is about 4 months old.
3. Limiting the Length of His Naps During the Day
Sometimes you just cannot bring yourself to wake your sleeping baby. But sometimes sleeping long at a stretch in the day time can rob him from his night time sleeping. Say your baby sleeps beyond the typical 1½-2½ hour mark; you could wake him up, then feed him and keep him awake for a while, only then letting him take another nap. You might however feel that your baby needs that longer nap, and you can allow him to sleep longer if you feel it is right. But by breaking up his sleep during the day, you will help your little newborn baby sleep better at night.
4. Use White Noise
If your little baby is wide awake and alert because he is amidst all the fun and noise going on around him in the house, it might be harder for him to get to sleep initially and then to stay asleep. A fan humming next to the baby over the other noises can help a baby to sleep if it’s impossible at that time to find your little lamb a quiet place to sleep.
5. Try and Abide By the Eating-Waking-Sleeping Cycle
Baby will wake from his sleep and then want to eat. Then he will be awake for a bit for some play, and then he will want to sleep again. But this cycle comes with a few purposes, good ones. It encourages a full feeling because it allows the baby to eat on waking, when he has his most energy, inclining him to probably take a full feed and then go longer between his feedings. By feeding your baby after his sleep rather than before his sleep, the cycle will prevent the baby linking food to sleep or even using the food as a sleep prop except for his dream sleep meal of course.
6. Routine and Structure the Order of The Day
Most of us know that a baby and children for that matter thrive on predictability, routine and structure. When you are consistent with your baby, you bring order and calmness to a chaotic world. Choose routines that work well for you. Giving your baby a pre-nap routine like putting him in his room, closing the curtains, turning on a little song or his humming fan with some cuddles and happy sleep words to him is exactly what he needs and thrives on. The bedtime routine could include a similar process. It’s all about following the same routine consistently. This will be the cue to baby to sleep – he will learn quickly that sleep follows his pre-nap and bedtime routines that you go through with him.
7. Sometimes it’s Time to Drop Some Naps
Babies are experts at letting their parents know they are simply not tired. Sometimes naps can be dropped because of this. Below are suggestions which are just averages – they give you an idea if you feel it could be time to drop a nap during the day. Look at these estimations:
- From 3-5 months, you could drop from 4 to 3 naps
- From 6-9 months, you could drop from 3 to 2 naps
- From 14-18 months, you could drop from 2 to 1 nap
8. Bedtime and Waking Up Times
Remember that newborn babies (0-3 months) might have a later bedtime until they start to settle into normal sleeping times. But the ideal bedtime for babies after around 3 months would be from anytime between 18h00-20h00 evening and 06h00-08h00 morning time. Remember that all babies have been sleeping from light evening to morning since the start of time. If your baby is going to sleep late into the evening, there might be a good chance he will suffer from being overtired. Feedings that occur between 19h00-07h00 will be considered a night feeding. Night feedings in this time can continue as long as you feel your baby needs it. Ask your doctor for advice if you are considering weaning your baby from night time feeding.
9. Be Clever When You Change Nappies
If you change the diaper before his middle-of-the-night feed, you will be preventing the baby from waking completely after his feed is finished. When the baby wakes, change his nappy and swaddle him again, preparing him to continue sleeping immediately after his night feed. If you were to change the diaper after his night feed, the baby can very easily become complete alert, making it more difficult for him to go back to sleep.
10. Understand the Sleeping Ways of Babies
The more your little angel sleeps, the more he will sleep. If you keep your baby awake for longer in the hope it will encourage him to sleep more, hoping to make him more tired, will only result in him being over tired, over stimulated. Then he will have difficulty trying to get to sleep and stay asleep. Overtired babies generally sleep shorter and not longer.
11. Don’t Encourage Bad Sleeping Habits
Sometimes parents want to rush in immediately to see why the baby is crying or is restless at night. But often a baby will wake up, babble on a bit and then go back to sleep. The baby might even cry for a while or babble on and actually still be asleep. You need to give your baby time to see if he will resettle. Don’t just rush in every time you hear the slightest sound – this will help your precious little newborn to sleep better.
12. Put Baby to Sleep When He is Still Awake But He is Drowsy
Teach your little baby to fall asleep independently – all by himself. You are basically teaching him to fall asleep independently. Babies, just like adults do, can wake up during the night. And if he does not know how to get back to sleep he will cry upon waking, maybe without even a need. This can result in him getting used to waking at night and babbling longer than he needs to. As he gets older, he will drift off again independently. This will help him to sleep better all way round.
When All Is Said and Done
The bottom line is this. Encourage your baby with lots of naps and feeds during the day, as you follow the eat-wake-sleep cycle and routine. Pretty soon you’re going to be saying, “My baby is sleeping through the night” before you even know it! Understanding how a little baby ‘works’ and then following through with some great tips will help him on his way and give yourself some extra shut-eye and great pleasure in your little gem.