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Mommies, no one knows the importance of a good night’s sleep better than you! And the fact that your baby’s sleep cycle and yours are completely interdependent couldn’t be truer. When your baby wakes up at night, you do your best to comfort them and put them back to sleep. However, some of us moms may be unknowingly taking certain measures which instead of helping are actually making your baby’s sleep habits worse!
How a Baby’s Sleep Cycle is Different from Yours?
Sleep as a bodily function is essential for all age groups, be it babies, children or adults. The pattern varies but the necessity remains. Science suggests that a baby’s sleep pattern varies greatly from that of adults. A newborn typically requires around 16 hours of sleep in a day whereas an adult can function with just 7 hours! However, babies do not sleep at a stretch; their sleep and feed cycles are intertwined. Also, babies gradually cut down on the frequency of their ‘sleep time’ as they grow up.
What Causes Sleep Disruptions in Babies?
There are babies blessed with superpowers to sleep uninterrupted throughout their sleep time in a day. And then there are some who do not have very friendly relations with their sleep, or yours too for that matter! When your baby sleeps well, you do too. Research suggests that there may be many factors that contribute to sudden sleep disruptions in babies. These reasons can be physical, such as a wet diaper, a cold room, a change in the immediate environment, or an onset of illness. They could even be due to developmental and behavioural changes in your baby such as a new developmental milestone reached, teething, or a change in routine during the day.
Whatever the reason might be, a sudden cry from your baby’s crib sends you rushing to check on them at night! We try several methods to put our babies back to sleep and have only their best interests in mind. But according to paediatricians and sleep specialists, some of these tactics could prove to be detrimental in the long run for your baby’s development. If you practice these methods too, you should know a few facts first.
Methods of Putting Babies Back to Sleep – Are They Really Effective?
(The important thing to remember is that the following techniques may work well in isolation, or occasionally. But when they become a habit is when you’ll have a massive problem to tackle!)
1. Rocking your Baby Back to Sleep Every Day
A very conventional practice is to rock your baby to help them put to sleep. Rocking or any type of rhythmic movement acts as a natural sleep aid as it resonates with being in the mother’s womb. So, rocking babies may seem like the most effective way of putting them to sleep. However, in the long run, this practice isn’t really advisable as a daily trick!
The rocking movements can cause something known as ‘sleep association’ amongst babies, which basically implies that your baby will get dependent on this particular habit in order to go back to sleep. He/she will be hooked to it and may be unable to sleep without it. He may even keep waking up when his body senses that the rocking has stopped. And that certainly isn’t something you would want for the future! It may also make things very difficult for your baby if you are not around for some reason and another family member has to look after the child – your baby will demand only your rocking touch!
What to do: The best thing is to rock only occasionally, and for shorter durations. Try and use other tactics such as lullabies or dim lighting to induce sleep.
2. Increasing their Night Feeds
The baby suddenly got up at night, he/she must be hungry – this is a common belief many mums fall prey to. Under some circumstances, this could definitely be true. It is especially so for newborns who need frequent feeding, often through the night. But for older babies who have received sufficient feeding and you are sure should be satisfied, it may not be a good idea. Doctors suggest that if you’re feeding babies whenever they wake up at night, it tends to become habitual for them – even when they do not need to be fed. Plus, when a baby is fed at night, they sometimes do not feel that hungry in the morning and that leads to a vicious cycle.
What to do: Regulate your baby’s feeding cycle closely and do not use it as a means to be put to sleep.
3. Putting Them to Sleep
There is a fine line between ‘putting babies to sleep’ and ‘parenting babies to sleep’. The sleep behaviour of babies and adults is very different. When you feel your baby is drowsy and almost sleepy, do not simply put them back in their crib. This induces a sharp change in their environment and causes them to wake up again and again. Further, some babies keep waking up simply because they hate the crib and want you to be near them to play!
What to do: Keep the transition to the crib gradual; it’s great if your baby is asleep in your arms already! You can also try making the crib more attractive by adding a play gym or a dash of colours.
4. Taking Them for a Stroll
Sometimes, when your baby wakes up at night, lifting them from their crib and putting them in their stroller can be life changing. The movement induces sleep and your little one might be able to catch up on that interrupted slumber. You could also run a couple of errands at the same time. However, this again is a motion-induced way of putting babies to sleep. It isn’t consistent and will repeatedly cause break in their sleep cycle. As soon as the movement stops, the chances of them waking up might arise!
What to do: Try and avoid relying on motion-based techniques every day. You can give your baby some outdoor time in your arms in the evening instead.
5. Making Babies Stay up Late the Following Day
When the baby wakes up so often at night, we often think that he probably went to sleep too early. If only he had started his nap later, he would have slept longer and without waking up. Going by this logic, a very common practice is to not let baby take naps in the morning so they become extremely tired by evening, and enjoy a good night’s sleep. Beware – this practice can backfire! Doctors suggest that when babies stay up the whole day, they take longer to fall to sleep and wake up more frequently.
What to do: Don’t delay your baby’s nap time or prevent him from napping in the day. Instead, when bed time arrives, try and make him comfortable by bathing him and making him wear comfortable clothes. This will help induce peaceful sleep.
6. Lifting Them up Instantly
This is a beautiful motherly instinct. We always want to pick our little one up whenever they feel distressed. It undoubtedly is extremely comforting for you as well as your baby which means you should definitely do it as a practice. However, there is one catch: if you lift your baby the very instant he starts crying, they sometimes tend to adopt this as a habit. This means they want to be comforted like this whenever they cry. While you may be prepared to do this night after night, it may delay their ability to self soothe. Plus, what happens if you aren’t around or are unwell and cannot lift your child in your arms?
What to do: It is advised to give your baby some time to settle on their own before you plan on picking them and comforting them.