It can be really terrifying when your babies wake up from their sleep at 1 or 2 A.M in the morning. As parents, we should be very careful when training our children because one little mistake in their upbringing can affect their development. They might end up waking up at night well into their high school years, or worse, develop feelings of anxiety, depression, or mood swings.
Seeking the help of a sleep expert in effectively sleep training your young ones can prove difficult because of variations in professional advice from these experts. You may have conflicts about the ideal timing for the training process and also feel unsure about the appropriate training method to use, when and how to start the process or even which professional advice to listen to. It could all end up sounding very complicated and make you more stressed as a parent – But it doesn’t have to be and it should not be.
This is why you need to read through this article– This article will help you distinguish infant sleep fact from sleep fiction by simply detailing 6 science-proven strategies that have been said to promote healthy sleep habits in young children and babies.
Infant Sleep Fact and Sleep Fiction- Strategy #1 – Know your child’s sleep window
Our children also have certain periods of time when they feel very tired and most likely want to sleep. This is what we refer to as their sleep window. When you notice this feeling of tiredness amongst your kid(s) then you need to make sure to tuck them into bed before that sleep window closes, otherwise, his/her body will start releasing chemicals that will fight the fatigue. As parents, the problem we most likely encounter will be knowing when your child wants to take a nap or go in for bedtime.
Here are some highlighted tips that can help you successfully identify your baby’s sleep cue:
- Your baby becomes calmer and less active – this is precisely the most obvious tell that your baby is tired and wants to sleep.
- Your baby becomes more detached from his/her surroundings – their eyes may become less focused and eyelids may dilate.
- Your child becomes quiet – if your baby tends to be very active during the social hours of the day, you may notice that the hyperactivity reduces as he/she starts to feel sleepy.
- Your baby will feed slowly – when your babies are sleepy, they will most likely feed more slowly during sucking hours. Some might even fall asleep mid-meal.
- Yawning – just the same way we yawn when we are tired, our babies do the same when they are sleepy.
For young babies, it is best to start their sleep routine within one to two hours from the point when they first wake up.
If you miss any of this initial sleep cues and you notice obvious signs of over fatigue like fussiness, irritability, and eye-rubbing, simply note how long your baby was awake and then try to initiate the sleep routine, let’s say 20 minutes earlier the next time he/she wakes up. (One upside about raising a newborn is that you get to practice and taking mental notes of these sleep cues for at least six to seven times a day).
Knowing when your baby wants to take a nap or be swaddled for a good night’s sleep is the first step to having a well-rested and healthy baby.
Another important thing to note about your baby sleep cues is that:
Babies tend to be extra-fussy, especially when they are just six weeks old. The number of times your baby cries each day will most likely increase drastically when they are six weeks of age.
Do not feel disturbed during this phase of their growth. There is absolutely no cause for alarm when you notice these changes in your babies as it is completely normal.
For the more eager parents, if you want to know if your child or baby is over fatigued, then you should watch out for the following tells (note; results may vary, depending on his age and personality):
- Your babies will get more active at precisely the exact time you think they should be resting.
- Your child becomes more active and behaves strangely, in a way that is completely different from how they usually behave.
- The more grown-up ones like a toddler or preschooler will become more uncooperative and argumentative.
- Your child can also become very clingy and may whine a lot or he/she may just fall apart completely because of his/her inability to cope with the lack of sleep.
Most times, children have their own unique way of showing their feelings of overtiredness. Some kids may begin to look pale, young babies will begin to search for their mother’s breast and will literally attach themselves to anything within reaching distance, such as your face or your arm. Your babies will appear totally fine, even after feeding them, but they just can’t seem to stop complaining and whining and will most likely want to be held all day long. This is a good sign that they are tired and want you to help put them to sleep.
Infant Sleep Fact and Sleep Fiction –Strategy #2 – Help Your Baby to Differentiate between Night and Day
As a human being, our circadian rhythm (our internal time clock) functions on a 24-hour and 10-minute to 24 hour and 20-minute cycle (everybody’s internal time clock ticks at a slightly different rhythm). But note that all of our rhythms are a little bit out of sync with the 24-hour clock on which the earth operates on, which is why we have to reset our internal clocks every single day, otherwise, we will most likely stay up late every night and sleep in late every day, until our circadian rhythms are completely disorganized. One major mechanism that helps us regulate our biological cycle is sunrise (daylight).
When we are exposed to darkness at night and then again to daylight first thing in the morning, our bodies regulate its production of melatonin. This melatonin is the hormone that helps keep our bodies’ internal clock in sync so that we feel alert at the appropriate times. So, by exposing your baby to daylight, almost immediately after he/she wakes up in the morning, and making sure to keep his/her surrounding brightly lit during the waking hours, you are prompting his/her circadian rhythm to notify your baby to feel sleepy at the right times.
Your baby will familiarize himself or herself with darkness as a time for sleeping and daylight as a time to stay awake. It’s best to use sunlight when regulating your baby’s circadian rhythm, instead of artificial light.
Research has shown that by exposing your baby to daylight between the hours of 12 noon and 4:00 P.M. you are increasing the chances of your baby getting a good night’s rest.
Strategy #3 – Allow Your Babies Fall Asleep On Their Own
Professional sleep experts have advised parents to put their babies to bed in a sleepy-but-awake state as often as they can from their new-born stage onwards so that they can acquire various self-soothing behaviours. Some may suggest you allow your children to fall asleep on their own at least once each day.
Finally, some experts suggest that parents should ignore teaching their children this self-soothing skill, or at least hold off on it till they are three to four months of age. Precisely the exact time when your baby’s own internal clock rhythm begins to mature, thereby making your role less difficult.
I watched this very good video ( it is long so be prepared) on baby sleep issues Science-Proven Method Helps Exhausted Moms Put Their Babies To Sleep. If you have time well worth a watch.
Some sleep professionals claim that a baby’s sleep association clock begins when they are six weeks old. They believe that it is at this point that your baby begins to really hone in on his/her environment, as they fall asleep at night. So if you have developed the habit of letting your baby fall asleep on your arms as you carefully rock and sing to them, don’t be too surprised when they wake up in the middle of the night crying. They will probably want you to rock and sing to them again because that is the only way they know how to fall asleep. To your baby, you have practically become a walking sleeping aide.
As parents, your decision on when to teach your babies how they can fall asleep and equipping them with the skills they need to do this matters a lot. But irrespective of when you begin to notice the different types of sleep associations your baby is developing, you should most likely consider whether or not your baby has started to associate any of the following habits or behaviours with his/her sleeping process:
- Falling asleep while still bottle feeding
- Being cuddled or rocked to sleep
- Having you rub his/her back, singing a song, or just playing an active role in helping them fall asleep
- Sometimes want you to stay in the room until they fall asleep
- Depending on a pacifier/Soother
You should definitely try to remember this when dealing with your baby’s sleeping issues, to avoid causing more problems for yourself or your baby.
You can or rather you should reduce the availability of any particular sleep association your baby has grown fond of by ensuring it is only present particularly at those rare instances where your baby is trying to sleep. For instance, you may want to reduce the number of times you nurse your baby to sleep or rock your baby to sleep and try to put your baby to sleep on his/her own so that they won’t have to depend on these sleep associations every time.
Some sleep experts have deduced that the feeding-sleep association tends to be more powerful than other kinds of sleep association. So, if you can get your child to fall asleep without always needing to be fed to sleep, your baby will find it less difficult learning how to soothe himself/herself to sleep as he/she grows older.
Strategy #4 – Try To Make Daytime Sleep a Priority: Children Who Sleep During The Day Sleep Better
Scientific studies have shown that babies who sleep during the daytime will definitely sleep better and longer at night. Most people think that when their babies don’t sleep during the day they will find it easier to get some sleep at night. But the reverse is the case, as these babies tend to end up typically overtired and will most likely find it difficult to settle down and fall asleep at night. They end up feeling restless and becoming very whiny when this happens. The next day becomes even more tedious for you as a parent and more difficult for your babies as they will also have a difficult time falling asleep during nap times because of the sleep they failed to get on the previous day.
In a nutshell, it is imperative that you make your child’s daytime sleep a priority, just as you make sure that he/she receives nutritious meals and snacks for their health on a regular basis. Your child’s nap time during the day is just as important as his/her bedtime sleep at night. Just so you know, babies who have well-rested naps, no matter how brief are generally in a better mood and have a longer attention span than their age counterparts who don’t nap at all.
Strategy #5 – Know When Your Babies Don’t Need To Be Fed At Night
Sometimes your baby may wake up in the middle of the night, simply because of his/her habit even when they’ve outgrown the need for a mid-night snack or feeding. As soon as you notice your baby is sleeping soundly without that night time feeding or he/she feels particularly disinterested in nursing after waking up in the middle of the night, then it is high time you considered discarding that night time feeding as a means of soothing your baby back to sleep and try other non-feeding methods.
But keep in mind that eventually, you will have to encourage him/her to take responsibility for soothing himself/herself back to sleep one way or another. Just know that the first task will be to work on breaking that powerful food-sleep association in your baby’s sleep process. Breaking the bond can happen more quickly in some children and happen more slowly in other children. But once the bond is broken, it means that your baby is ready to acquire more self-soothing techniques.
Strategy #6 – Don’t get flustered about your child Sleep Issue
If you become perturbed, frustrated or even angry when you deal with your child’s sleeping issues, your child will definitely take note of these negative emotions emanating from you, no matter how hard you try to hide it. When you accept the fact that your baby needs time to master the sleeping routines and you have more confidence in yourself as a parent that you can help find a solution to your child’s sleeping problems then handling those annoying mid-night interruptions will become much easier. Research has shown that parents who have realistic expectations about parenthood and who are confident in their abilities to manage parental difficulties find it easier to handle their baby’s sleeping problems.
Here is another related article if you had time to read 4 Baby Sleep Facts Every Parent Should Know.
No two kids are the same and babies don’t come with a manual so just do what works best for you and your family and get a routine in full flow and you will not know yourselves.
Exciting times ahead. Best of luck and I hope you enjoyed the read.
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