Babies at different ages need different amounts of sleep. The vast majority of babies will not sleep through the night for the first time until around three months, though it can happen as early as one month. If a baby or toddler is not getting the required amount of sleep for his age, or if he only sleeps in short ‘catnaps’ (forty-five minutes) or wakes during the night for a feed (three months 8 hours, nine months 12 hours straight), he may have a poor sleep pattern. Before parents realise it, these patterns are established and then the parents are unsure of how to alter them.
We often teach ‘bad’ sleep habits to our children unknowingly by not understanding their needs and cues for sleep. Nursing, rocking or feeding them off to sleep teaches them to depend on these learnt patterns. We need to teach them a new method of going to sleep, so that if they wake during a sleep cycle, they will not be dependent on us or an outside influence to go back to sleep. What may not appear to be a problem in a very young baby may develop into a definite problem as this child grows older.
Signs of a possible sleep problem
Sleeping for less than an hour or “catnapping”
Needing an outside influence to go to sleep - nursing, cuddling, rocking or feeding to sleep. A dependency on a dummy or pacifier is often a sign of a sleep problem.
Frequent waking with little interest in feeding - often just snacking or comfort sucking follows.
Causes of possible sleeping problems in babies
Over stimulation. This can stop babies from going to sleep and staying asleep.
Over-tiredness. Parents may not be aware of tired signs or baby’s sleep needs.
Illness, teething or a change in the family routine, such as going on holidays, moving house, or tension in the family.
Catnapping. Parents, unaware that their baby needs resettling because he looks alert and wide awake, are encouraged to pick him up.
Not having a daily routine or a set pattern in a child’s day.
Sleeping at the breast or not completing a full feed. Baby is put to bed and wakes within an hour for another snack.
A need for the parent to nurse or lie down with the child while they go to sleep.
Causes of possible sleeping problems in toddlers
Many of the same causes occur in toddlers as babies but others may be:
Changing from a cot to a bed or moving to a different room.
The arrival of a new baby.
Allowing your child to go to bed late at night and waking early in the morning.
Continuing to give a night bottle or a breastfeed.
Not having a night-time routine or giving ‘mixed messages’ about sleep. (Parents may signal that it is bedtime and then get distracted by something else. A child will not understand or conform to inconsistent demands.)
Parents giving in to a child’s demands or loud cries of protest.
Each family situation is unique and each child has its own personality. Whatever the reason that your child has for a poor sleep pattern, it is your choice whether you live with it or change it.
Tips: Once you have made up your mind to improve your child’s sleep habits don’t hesitate to use professional help. Many parents have commented on how they have benefited from professional assistance.
Remember: It is not always an easy road but with perseverance and consistency you are sure to see positive results.
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Disclaimer: Article on our website are for education purposes only. Please consult with your doctor to make sure this information is right for your child.