Baby Sleep Issues & How to Cope
Sleep issues 4-7 months
Your baby should start sleeping through the night at about 3 months. But babies are learning and observing all the time, and your baby could soon start to associate sleep time with time that mummy isn’t there. It’s called separation anxiety and it’s a normal part of development for many babies. But it can be especially trying for parents, as babies can be particularly strong-willed, especially about bedtime!
You may be introducing some baby foods at this time, and this can help your baby feel sleepy. Remember to introduce new patterns gently and slowly. If the baby isn’t going to sleep or keeps waking up and crying for you, then she needs to learn to self-comfort, but not all at once. Ease her into the habit of sleeping alone.
Don’t change your rituals at bedtime. You can still start out with a warm bath and feeding. Rocking and snuggling, singing or reading – these are all bonding times for mother and baby. If the baby doesn’t fall asleep right away, try putting her in her crib with the rocker or glider right next to the crib, singing or reading to her. You can stand at the crib and rub or pat her back.
In a week or two, move the chair a short distance away from the crib, so the baby can see you. You can talk or read or sing. If she cries for more than 10 or 15 minutes, then get up and comfort her, but put her back down in the crib and go back to your chair.
In another week or two, move the farther away, towards the door. Even these minor changes could be hard for your baby, but be patient. This is a time when you can fold her laundry and put it away, talking to her, so she’s aware of your presence, but your attention isn’t focused entirely on her. This way she can get used to the idea of separation gradually.
Sleep issues 8-12 months
At the ages of 8-12 months, your baby will begin to need less sleep during the day and should be regularly sleeping through the night. But there’s also much more activity and stimulation during the day – babies are eating up the world at this stage, they’re learning so much.
If you’re feeding him baby food during the day, and decreasing bottles, make the last bottle feeding at nighttime. You can also have a bottle in the night to soothe him if he wakes up. Babies are teething at this time as well, and that can cause them to wake up in discomfort. You may be weaning the baby from breastfeeding, and that can be a difficult transition as well.
There are different schools of thought on handling babies who are a challenge to get to sleep. Some recommend letting the baby cry it out, but this is hard on the parents, especially on mum who may have been comforting and bonding with the baby all day long. It can see cruel to just let the baby cry himself to sleep. He’s just a little guy, after all & he doesn’t understand.
Take extra care at this time to make sure the nursery is conducive to sleeping. Make sure his diaper is clean and his sheets are clean and soft. If he’s teething, use a topical pain treatment that’s safe for the baby. You can also invest in some homeopathic tablets that ease teething naturally. Make sure his nose is clear and not stuffy. If you use a foam wedge to keep the baby from sleeping on his stomach, sleep with a spare one night and then put that in his bed so that your scent is close to him at night.
Make sure the room isn’t too cold or too hot; keep a humidifier in the room to maintain a good moisture balance, especially in the winter when rooms can dry out. Your baby just might be stubborn about sleeping, but try to figure out if there are physical problems that you can alleviate first.
Sleep issues 1-2 years old
As your baby gets older and turns into a toddler, they’ll start to need less sleep during the day, but about 11 hours or so at night. You’ll be transitioning to fewer naps and even a cranky tired baby can have difficulty getting to sleep.
If your child will only go to bed only if you’re around, he’s forming bad habit that will be hard to break later. The best lesson you can teach him is how to soothe himself to sleep. Follow a nightly bedtime ritual (bath, books, and bed, for example) so he knows what’s expected of him and what to expect at night. You can tell him that if he stays in bed you’ll come back in five minutes to check on him. Let him know that he’s safe and that you’ll be nearby.
Toddlers are great negotiators, and they’re no different when it comes to bedtime. And because they so enjoy the time they spend with you, they’ll do what they can to prolong the time they have with you. Your child may take his time doing his usual nightly routine, ask repeatedly for a glass of water, or keep requesting that you come to his room because he needs something. If you suspect he’s stalling, don’t let him. Tell him it’s time for bed and that he can finish working on his art project the next day or find the stuffed bunny the following morning. Make the nighttime routine more “business like” when you kiss your baby and tuck him/her in. Don’t wait around for your baby to fuss. Just leave and close the door and wait about ten minutes before you go back in the room.
Sometimes it’s just a battle for control. Your toddler wants to control his environment as much as possible. You can’t force him to fall asleep. Try reverse psychology and tell him he doesn’t have to go to sleep, but can play in his crib. Eventually, he’ll fall asleep on his own.