I work with parents daily, and I hear many of the same questions, things parents are unsure of when it comes to sleep.
Let’s start at the beginning, with your new-born. Please do not let the old-fashioned idea of “spoiling” your new-born deter you from being a good, active parent. I encourage all parents of new-borns to embrace this “4th trimester”. Hold your baby, cuddle your baby, wear your baby in wraps/slings…. Do whatever it takes to get to know your new little human.
When your new-born moves to infancy at 12 weeks, this is the time when you can start helping and guiding your baby with gentle sleep habits, associations and routines. Follow a routine with a set bedtime, as this will help them to understand that sleep follows certain activities (like bathtime, getting dressed, etc). It is vital to help, guide and teach your baby. It is never too early to work on the foundation of good sleep and start implementing the building blocks of good sleep routine.
From 16 weeks you can help your baby by looking out for ‘crutches’. Crutches are the things that your baby relies on to sleep, that are not easy to maintain in the long-term. These crutches might include feeding to get the baby to sleep, rocking the baby until he/she falls asleep, etc. Look at removing crutches from the nap and bedtime routine. You can guide your baby by placing him/her alone in a cot while drowsy and allow the baby to learn to fall asleep unaided.
When is it a good time to move your baby to her own room? This is a very personal decision as some parents have their baby sleep in his/her own room from day one, while others prefer their baby in the room with them till the baby is older. There are a few things to consider:
- The older your baby gets, the more aware they become of their surroundings.
- When everyone is sleeping in one room, it might also create wake-ups for mom and dad during the night because we are all noisy sleepers.
A question asked that I’m often asked is: When will my baby sleep through the night? This differs as each baby is different, but there are some things to look out for. Is your baby more than 6 months old? Is your baby on solids? Has your baby doubled his/her birth weight? Some babies take longer to go without a nightly feed, but once they’re past the 6-month mark, if your baby is healthy and if your baby still drinks milk at night, it will only be ONE feed at night that is absolutely necessary. More than one night feed after 6 months of age might be a crutch.
Most healthy babies over 12 months do not need a nightly feed. They can sleep the whole night. Remember, waking up at night is normal, as we all move from light sleep to deep sleep and then back to REM sleep, but babies do have the skill to put themselves back to sleep.
Naps during the day are also important. It is important for your baby to get the required sleep during the day. Keeping your baby awake during the day will not make them sleep better at night. Sleep promotes sleep.
Awake times between naps:
New-born: 45 mins – 90 mins
3 months: 90 mins
4 months: 1h45
5 months: 2h00
6 months: 2h15
7 months: 2h30
8 months: 3h
When is a good time to move your baby from a cot to a bed? Generally, between 2.5 years and 3 years is a good age. What is important with this move is to keep in mind that while a toddler of 18 months knows what a bed is and that we sleep on a bed, they might not understand that they need to stay on the bed the whole night. This is then when the “night trekking” can start and your toddler might get up 10 times a night. It is also not safe for your toddler to walk around in the house alone at night. You really do want to keep him in his bed, in his room, the whole night, therefore, you need to make sure that your toddler is ready for this move before moving him to a “big boy” bed.
When assessing good sleep, it is important to examine all the building blocks of sleep. Sleep cannot be looked at in isolation. Things we need to assess include the following:
- Crutches: What does your baby rely on to sleep? Are these helping or inhibiting a good routine?
- Routine and schedule: Routine during the day is important, as are awake times and enough age-appropriate sleep.
- Bedtime routine: It is good to have a bedtime routine and keep things calm during this time.
- Nutrition: We want to focus on little tummies being full during the day so they can sleep well at night.
- Environment: Safe sleep is very important for babies under 12 months. The sleep environment is for sleep and not for playing and eating.
- Other factors that influence sleep negatively: screen time, temperature and sickness.
All these blocks need to be in place for you and your child to experience a good night’s rest.
If you are struggling with your baby or toddler’s sleep, get help. Sometimes they just need a little help with better sleep associations or habits. We have qualified sleep consultants all over South Africa. We can assist you; it does not matter where you live or what your background is! We will create a plan to suit the needs of your family. When you get one of our consultants to help you with better sleep, you do not have to go about this journey alone, your consultant will be available for two weeks to help and guide you in your journey to better sleep. Click here to contact your nearest consultant.