Your baby’s first two years outside your womb is a delicate phase. There are several important things that aid growth and development: sufficient warmth, proper bathing, occasional exercises to improve the muscles, and of course, nutrition. But perhaps one of the most important things, one that is very vital not only to the baby’s physical but also his intelletual and emotional growth, is sleep.
In previous articles we’ve discussed importance of sleep among babies, with emphasis on how we as parents need to make sure that our babies are getting proper sleep not only in terms of quantity but also, and most essentially, quality.
Below are some truths on how babies sleep and how we as parents can discover more and maximise the sleep benefits among our precious little ones.
Your baby has a very different sleep pattern compared to yours
Adult sleep cycles are longer; the sleep cycle of a baby will last less than one hour. As your baby grows older, though, her sleep patterns evolve and she will eventually take on sleeping patterns similar to yours.
Every hour, your baby transitions to a period of light sleep. During this transition period, your baby is vulnerable to waking up at night. If your baby feels hungry or cold during this period, she may wake up. If you are near your baby during this period, you can help your baby transition back into a deep sleep state without waking.
Your baby will take longer to fall into deep sleep
This painful scenario is repeated night after night in bedrooms across the world: You have been putting your baby to sleep, and once she finally succumbs, you try to gently place her in the cot, and as soon as she leaves your arms, she wakes up again. Back to square one. What many parents don’t realise, is that it takes up to 20 minutes for babies to reach a deep sleep, which means the baby was sleeping very lightly when she was disturbed, causing her to wake up.
You can work out which sleep state your baby is in simply by observing her. If her eyelids are fluttering, and her breathing is irregular, her hands are flexed, and she occasionally startles, twitches or smiles, she is in a light sleep. If you attempt to move her during this sleep state, she is likely to wake up and you will have to start all over again.
Instead, wait for her breathing to become more regular, and for her muscles to completely relax, and for her grimaces and twitches to stop. Now she is in a deeper state of sleep, meaning you can more easily put her down and leave the room.
You can’t force your baby to sleep
Your baby will eventually sleep through the night, but it’s not something you can force. You are probably swamped with advice whenever you mention that you haven’t had much sleep, but bear in mind that some of this advice will be useless.
Try putting the lights out
The healthiest way to sleep is in complete darkness. New research indicates that light pollution (any light, especially too-bright clocks or night lights) can disrupt hormone regulation, which affects sleep, and also immune system function. Is your baby afraid of the dark? Put the night light in the hallway and turn it off once they’re asleep, or use one that eventually shuts itself off. Also try blackout curtains or sleep masks for kids who wake up unnaturally early from sunlight streaming into their rooms.
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