Sleep (or lack there of) is probably the greatest concern for families with a newborn. It is one of the most important factors in maintaining a healthy lifestyle for both mother and child. Other aspects of your child’s development, such as feeding patterns, depend on a sound sleeping routine. It is difficult, if not impossible, to suggest a strict sleep routine for you and your child, since each child and each family are different. However, there are a few general guidelines to follow that may help you develop your own routine. It is also important to remember that a newborn under three months old does NOT sleep through the night; they’re bodies are undergoing incredible growth and are in need of constant nourishment.
Often times, when your baby either won’t go to sleep or won’t stay down for very long it is because of one of six general reasons: the PARENT may have (1) failed to establish a daily routine, (2) failed to set up a good sleeping ritual, (3) become accustom quick fixes OR the CHILD may be (4) hungry, (5) overstimulated or overtired, (6) in pain, uncomfortable or ill.
Getting your baby off to a good routine from day one is crucial in setting up good sleeping habits. Generally, your pattern should consist of feeding your baby, enjoying active time with your baby and putting her to sleep. This pattern should be repeated throughout the first several months. It is impossible to get your baby onto a timed schedule, but if follow these general guidelines a sleep pattern will follow.
When you are creating a ritual by which you put your baby down to sleep consider the sleeping environment. The room should be one that is soothing, dark and comfortable. Swaddling your baby also helps to prevent her from involuntarily moving about and waking herself up. Swaddling is an ancient practice – one still followed today in each hospital - that is not harmful for your child. Once you have swaddled your baby take some time to hold her and comfort her before you lay her down. Children often need a parents soothing presence to help them transition to the dream world. Note: If you get your child used to falling asleep a certain way, say for example on your bare chest, then you are conditioning the child to fall asleep in a particular way that might NOT be very advantageous to you or your partner.
Another common problem is that parents get the child used to quick fixes, instead of finding the long-term solution to sleeping problems. For example, parents can sometime use certain methods such as bouncing or rocking to coax their child to sleep. However, if the above steps are not considered, such methods are only a temporary fix and will cause more problems in the long run.
To understand and then remedy the reasons why your baby still might not be sleeping properly (assuming you’ve addressed the first three parental issues) requires parents to be very observant of their child’s behaviour. Hunger often causes children to be restless, so keep to your routine and make sure your child is fed shortly before bed. Overstimulated and overtired tired children often can be fussy and sleep for very shot uncomfortable periods of time. To remedy these sleeping problems parents need to be very attentive to their children’s cues. Try not to get them too excited in the late afternoon and try to detect their signs of tiredness as early as possible. Sometimes it helps not to rush to bother your child when she wakes up, as she may just be in-and-out of sleep and will go back to sleep shortly after waking up. The final cause of sleepless night may be that your child is experiencing some sort of discomfort. This can range from being too hot to being sick. Common sense can help you sort out the confusion: what does your baby sound like and look like when she cries? Has he been changed? Could he be constipated? There are other such questions to ask, but if you are at all concerned or confused make sure you contact your doctor as soon as you can.