Whilst this post is all about baby sleep, firstly, I’ve decided blogging and I aren’t really the best of friends. Yet. Or even friends really. I’m pretty sure it’s because we don’t know each other that well yet. I’m sure time will help. We all start somewhere, don’t we?
Yes yes, I know it’s been a while since my last post on sleep. Let’s blame procrastination for that one. It really doesn’t NOT get you anywhere. It just means you do other stuff to put off what you should be doing. In that time (when I am cleaning the kitchen/ re-arranging my books/ replying to emails that could wait/ social media-er-ing) I am thinking about blogging, what I could or should be writing about and how such and such would be a great topic but then I forget and my procrastination deepens. Oh dear. The more time passes without writing a post, the more I think about it and so it goes on…
Anyway, here we are and I want to talk some more about babies and children’s sleep. I want to start by saying (loudly) I believe ROUTINE IS ALWAYS YOUR FRIEND!!
Yes we all know there are lots of viewpoints, ideas, theories and experiences out there when it comes to sleep; mainly sleep training, co-sleeping and general sleep advice. There are trained sleep consultants. Experts who can help little ones sleep better, because, let’s face it, babies are rubbish at sleeping. They come into this world not being able to sleep for very long periods of time before requiring a feed or some other need like a nappy change. It is very unfortunate that the new parents must take on their new babies terrible sleeping times and patterns. Of course, we know this doesn’t last – phew! They do become able to sleep through the night, in their own cot and eventually bed. Peace and contentment CAN be restored to your household. Getting there is not always easy and there is, as far as I believe, never a one rule fits all. Just as adults are all individuals, so are babies of course! Some easier to care for than others, some louder or quieter than others, some more challenging and tricky than others!
The things I write in these posts about my experiences are exactly that – MY experiences, ideas and thoughts. Some may disagree and that’s ok! I have cared for babies who have gone straight to sleep in their cot without a so much as a peep and resettled themselves after a sleep cycle with no problem. Others have fought their nap or bedtime with a will of iron. I’ve always supported the parents wishes as well as giving my own advice and this has meant I’ve used baby-led sleeping (ie, zero routines, sleep and feed whenever it was clear baby needed it), sleep training, rocking, dummies, made a routine work so at least one of their nap times can be en-route whilst out and about but ultimately, my keywords for this post are CONSISTENCY and ROUTINE. That is what I truly feel are the two main elements to helping your little one to better sleep.
By this I don’t mean a routine that is so rigid there’s no room for flexibility. Just a general schedule that works for you as a family. For example, these guidelines can help you understand how much sleep your little one needs by how much they can stay awake for before needing sleep.
Birth – 6 weeks – 45 – 60 minutes
2 – 3 months – 1 – 1.5 hours
4 – 5 months – 1.25 – 2.25 hours
6 – 7 months – 2 – 2. 75 hours
8 – 9 months – 2.25 – 3 hours
10 – 12 months – 3 – 4 hours
12+ months – 3 – 6 hours
I always tend to find that from 6 months or so, the first nap of the day is always the easiest to get them to the land of nod. Remember, no matter how hard a night they had, try not to put them back to bed too early again otherwise it’ll throw off the whole day! Lunchtime nap can be quite ok too – especially if you’ve had a busy, stimulating morning with the baby. The 3rd nap of the day can be the one they try to fight the most. We know they need it. They are yawning and rubbing their eyes. It can be really frustrating. The afternoon nap will usually be the first to be dropped, then by between 11 – 15 months the morning nap is usually not needed and the lunchtime nap will naturally be made longer.
I know lots of parents who get to their wits end with sleep and lack of it and of course, there are many options available out there from books galore, youtube videos, expert advice, sleep consultants. Any choice you make on how you approach this issue is obviously a very personal one and dependent on your family lifestyle. There is the ‘cry it out method’ which is not a method I advocate at all as while it is obviously distressing for baby and parents, research clearly shows babies produce high levels of the stress hormone cortisol when left to cry and this is not conducive to your baby’s learning and brain development. I believe your baby needs reassurance and closeness from you to learn how to calm down and feel safe.
There is a much more gentle way which uses techniques which may take quite a few weeks to see change but it is so much kinder and easier on not only your baby but the whole family. There are some great books out there, one of which I adore and read many years ago, My copy has become very ‘loved’!
It’s clear to me that to understand your baby, you need to really observe them. Catch their cue for a nap by that first yawn. Every baby is different – maybe yours pull their ears, or rubs their eyes, or gets the faraway stare that means you know they are tired. Allow them time to wind down. Overstimulation is a huge factor in getting them settled easily or not. It’s only the same for adults. If you were at a really loud party with music and food, dancing, bright lights, would you be able to drop straight into bed after without a little calming routine such as brushing your teeth, getting ready for bed? Remember ROUTINE IS YOUR FRIEND!!
I hope that’s enough sleep talk for thought until next time…
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