To say that baby care is exhausting is an understatement. The day is already loaded with constant attention to detail, but then the nights get even harder. Newborns frequently wake up at night to feed in the initial months. Gradually the pattern changes as babies grow. Even though the patterns change and babies sleep at a good stretch at night, sleep problems can still arise anytime and without warning.
Adjusting to your baby’s sleep routine is one of the first milestones of parenting you’ll need to learn over time. Also, it is crucial to understand the sleeping patterns of your baby. Why? Understanding how much sleep your baby needs at different ages can help you distinguish whether your baby is having unusual nighttime disruptions, feeling hungry, or is just playful at night. But, first of all, why is sleep in young children given so much emphasis? Let’s find out!
Why Is Sleep so Important?
Sleep plays a vital role in a baby’s growth. Those zz’s your baby is catching, in reality, are aiding in their physical and mental development. Sleep enhances a child’s learning ability, positively impacts their mood, and enhances learning, impulse control, and attention span.
Good sleep is also known to aid the maintenance of a healthy weight, prevent heart disorders, and reduce injury risks, as well-rested babies are more aware when awake.
How Much Sleep Do Babies Need?
You can make your baby sleep better by understanding their sleep schedule.
During the first two to three months, newborns sleep for around 14-17 hours daily. At this time, infants’ bodies are not in sync with the environmental timings; hence they wake up any time they are hungry, fussy, or need a diaper change. Catnapping is common these months as babies’ primary need is to feed frequently. So, if you think your little one is not sleeping as expected, then don’t worry, as it is totally normal.
By the time your baby is 4 to 5 months old, they will be sleeping for around 12 to 16 hours a day, stretching their snoozing period during the day and the night. Sleep disruption can arise during these months, like teething and acid reflux.
When babies touch 6 months mark, the sleep duration reduces to 10 to 11 hours, where they can sleep for longer hours at a stretch at night. Though the babies, after six months, can completely sleep soundly at night, many developmental disruptions can affect their sleep.
Factors Affecting Your Baby’s Routine Sleep
Babies take time to adjust themselves to a sleep routine which is pretty normal. Apart from the biological rhythm, several factors, including medical, environmental, and developmental factors, may hinder a baby’s routine. Let’s take a look at the factors that contribute to sleep disruptions at night so you can take the necessary measures to tackle the situation well:
Breast milk is light and easily digestible, which causes babies to wake up to feed frequently. This case is more in newborns and gradually decreases as babies grow up.
Solution: In cases of hunger bouts or diaper changes, quickly cater to their needs to keep them settled.
2. Acid Reflux
Acid reflux is a condition in which stomach acid flows into the food pipe and irritates the stomach lining. This causes irritability, excessive crying, vomiting, disturbed sleep, and choking in babies. Infant reflex heightens in babies around 3-4 months of age.
Solution: If your baby is awake because of acid reflux, you can hold your baby in an upright position after feeding. Burp them after every meal. Gripe water is another excellent solution that gives instant relief to babies suffering from gas, acidity, and indigestion. Breastfeeding mothers can try to cut down on items that induce gas. If these remedies don’t help, talk to your paediatrician for medication.
Colic is a phase through which most babies pass. The bouts of crying happen for longer hours and for no apparent reason but are mostly attributed to an underdeveloped digestive system and gas that gets trapped in the baby’s stomach while feeding. The best non-medical way to help is to soothe the baby and make them as comfortable as possible.
Solution: Rock your baby by holding them close to you. Colic cases can also be treated using gripe water, a solution trusted by generations of mothers. It’s an Ayurvedic formulation and consists of Dill seed oil and Sarjikakshara that relieves colic and stomach problems in babies.
4. Food Allergies
Baby formulas that contain casein or if a mother consumes cow’s milk may cause intolerance or allergy in babies, leading to gassiness, diarrhoea, abdominal cramps, and restlessness at night.
Solution: Removing products that include cow’s milk or something that can cause gassiness from the baby or mother’s diet will help.
If you happen to give formula or bovine milk to your baby, there are chances of the baby’s system producing gas. Gas can keep babies sleepless and cranky. This elevates since babies are lying down most of the time, don’t move much, and are not fully trained to pass gas on their own.
Solution: Just a spoon (varies with age) of Woodward’s Gripe Water can result in a satisfied burp from the baby and soothes stomach pain. You can also gently rub the baby’s back to help your little one burp easily.
Too hot or cold temperatures can cause babies to become unsettled at night.
Solution: Ensure the room temperature where your baby is sleeping is moderate. Make sure they are wearing comfortable clothes.
Teething pain can also keep babies awake at night. These pains start as early as 3 to 4 months.
Solution: If your baby seems fussy and irritated, you can rock them, hold them close to you, and give them cold teethers to soothe the pain. Teething babies cry a lot and swallow a good amount of air, which can lead to flatulence. If there is extreme tenderness in your baby’s gums because of which they frequently wake up at night, then talk to your paediatrician.
8. Cold, Respiratory, and Ear Infections
Babies are vulnerable to infections, such as colds, respiratory infections, and ear infections. Pain or irritability because of these infections can wreak havoc on the baby’s routine sleep.
Solution: These sleep disturbing episodes can be treated medically with the doctor’s consultation. If your baby is still fussy and irritated because of a cold or infection, keep your calm. Simply comfort them by rocking or placing them close to you.
Sometimes, mothers think that if they put their baby to sleep during the day, they will not sleep at night. However, this causes babies to overtire because of not resting properly. They eventually resist sleeping at night and cry because of overtiredness.
Solution: Follow the signs of tiredness in your baby, like rubbing the eyes or yawning, and put them down for a nap. Don’t wait too much as this will only make your baby overtired and disturb their sleep routine at night.
More Tips and Remedies to Help Your Baby Sleep Sound Through the Night
Here are some tips and remedies that are just what you need to have your little one sleep through the night.
- Bedtime Routine: Bedtime routine is a great way to signal your baby the right time to sleep. Start with a soothing bath (optional), follow up with cuddles, bedtime lullabies or stories, feed, and swaddle your baby in a blanket.
- Diaper Change: Avoid unnecessary diaper changes at night unless there is a situation, as this can wake the baby up.
- White Noise: A white noise can make your little one feel secure like they are still in the womb. You can turn on the fan, run the radio on static, sing a soulful song, etc.
- The ‘Shh’ Sound: The ‘Shh’ sound soothes the baby very effectively. Make this sound loudly near your baby to calm them down while gently tapping them rhythmically.
- Clothing: Swaddling helps a baby sleep perfectly at night as it feels as if they are in the womb. You can also use onesies. Just don’t dress them in tight clothes; that would cause them discomfort.
- Position: Put your baby down on their back instead of their stomach to reduce the risk of SIDS.
- Toys: Remove all kinds of toys, blankets, or any items from near your sleeping baby.
- Noise and Light: Make sure the room your baby is sleeping in is dimly lit and noise-free.
- Self-Soothe: Don’t rush to your baby when they start whimpering. Give them some time to self-soothe. If that does not help, comfort your baby as you like.
The early months of parenthood can be challenging but believing in yourself and that the phase too shall pass will help you keep your baby safe and sound and enjoy parenthood. Take time to observe your baby’s habits and communication methods to improve their sleeping habits. Also, respect your little one’s preferences – whether they are an early bird or a night owl – and arrange your sleep routine accordingly. For any doubts or concerns, consult your doctor.
About the Author: Divya Gupta is a pharmacist who takes care of the formulation of medicines and products specially curated for infants and toddlers. She also assists teachers/staff working with newborns and toddlers in handling their diet to give them a super healthy lifestyle.
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