By Melissa Lahti, April 07 2008
As parents we often find ourselves asking what happened to the days when we could go to bed at eleven and wake up at seven feeling totally refreshed. Lack of sleep is one of the most frustrating things all parents have in common. Fortunately, as our bodies adjust to sleeping less our babyís bodies are also adjusting to sleeping more. One way to help with the issue of sleeping is to understand why your baby is waking up, how long till they should sleep through the night and what are the best ways to help them get to sleep and stay asleep.
One important thing to know is that a babyís sleep cycle is very different then that of on adult. It takes a baby about twenty minutes to fall into a deep sleep. Once they enter that they only stay there for about one hour. They then reenter light sleep for about ten minutes. During this time of light sleep if there is any stimulus, such as noise, hunger or pain the baby will awaken. If everything is okay then they will drift back into a deep sleep for another hour and the pattern is repeated like this all through the night. The reason your baby sleeps in this way is a natural defense mechanism. This is so the baby can easily awaken if something is wrong. That is one reason it is very important not to ignore your baby when they cry. They might be trying to tell you something is wrong and how can they learn to trust you if you are not there to help them.
For the first three months babies seldom sleep more then four hour stretches at a time and they sleep about a total of fourteen to eighteen hours a day. At about three to six months they begin to settle a little and begin to be awake more during the day. They may start sleeping about five hour stretches through the night, with only one or two night wakings. Breastfed babies are going to wake up more often since the breast milk is digested faster and they get hungry more often. Until the age of two babies also go through periods where they are going to wake more often. They may be teething, have a cold, or are going through a growth spurt.
The first challenge is getting the baby to go to sleep. Every baby is different, it is very important that while trying new things you find the right thing that works for your baby. Also, since your baby is changing constantly, if something doesnít work one week it may work the next. Now, find out where your baby sleeps best. Is it in her own room in a bed by herself, in her own bed in the room with you, or is it better if she sleeps in bed with you. Any one of these options will work depending on what is best for you and your baby.
You can not force a baby to sleep so you must create a peaceful, relaxing environment that will invite your baby to sleep. You donít want it to be a frightening experience for them. Itís a good idea to establish a bedtime routine for the baby. Once you have this established you should vary the routine a little from time to time. That way your baby wonít become dependent on one thing to make them fall asleep. For example, if mom always nurses the baby to sleep then let dad put him to sleep sometimes or let mom rock him without feeding him. This will help your baby get used to different methods and you will have an easier time getting them back to sleep when they wake in the middle of the night.
There are a few important points you should remember:
Some suggestions that might help get your baby to sleep:
To get your baby to stay asleep:
More times then not the baby is just making noise and wiggling a little. It is a good idea not to jump and grab the baby out of bed the second they make a noise. You should wait for a minute and see what they are going to do. You can also try placing your hands on their back or belly or pat their back or bottom. Do not pick them up and they will probably drift right back into a deep sleep.
If none of this seems to be working and your baby is not only waking frequently but also seems to be in pain they may be experiencing a problem. One thing they may be experiencing is called gastroesophageal reflux or GER which is a weakness in the circular band of muscle where the esophagus joins the stomach. The acids in the stomach are then regurgitated into the throat causing a pain that is like what we know as heart burn. Some signs of GER include: painful bursts of night waking, fussiness after eating, frequent spitting up, colicky, abdominal pain, unexplained wheezing, and throaty sounds after feeding. Another reason for waking frequently might be due to an allergy to formula or dairy. This is called milk protein intolerance. Note that if your baby is breast feeding and has this condition they can still be having an allergic reaction based on the motherís diet. The only way to stop this is for the mother to stop eating dairy and continue to breast feed or to purchase a formula specially made for babies with a milk protein allergy.
Just remember babies arenít little for long and before you know it you will both be snoring like crazy laughing about the days when no one ever got any sleep. Just hang in there and be patient. One day you will wish you could have your little baby back if for just one second.