What stops a baby from sleeping?
My son Zachary spent most of his first week on this planet sleeping, and all the credit goes to my husband and me. We are parents for the second time: this time we know what we are doing! Everything just got so much easier! Then Zachary woke up. For the next few months, there was nightfall, afternoons with nothing to do, and bedtime battles. Of course, when he didn’t sleep, we didn’t sleep either. Little did we know that there were many reasons behind his erratic sleeping habits – “he just wasn’t tired” wasn’t one of them. Read on to see if any of these culprits are keeping your family up at night.
He was too excited to sleep.
Whether he’s being thrown into the air by his father, watching videos, or simply playing in the water in the bathtub, your baby may be doing the exact opposite of relaxing at night. Not only will he think that going to bed is the same as missing out on fun, but those good times can overwork an already groggy baby. “When that happens, he actually has a harder time falling asleep,” says Dr. Jody Mindell, a parent consultant and author of the book Nighttime Sleep. “And he’s going to wake up more often at night.”
The solution to sleep problems: Change his bedtime habits. Throw out the tickle holiday and replace them with massages, lullabies, story time or swaddling for a smaller baby. Don’t watch the Little Einsteins movie —- TV is exciting and makes it hard to fall asleep.
When you choose a ritual, you should also consider your baby’s personality – not all bedtime essentials are relaxing for every baby. Even bathing may be a no-no. “Some babies find them excited and euphoric, says: “Ann Douglas, author of Sleep Solutions for your baby, toddler, preschooler. If that’s the case, move the tub time to earlier in the day.
Watch your mood —- If you’re nervous, your baby may notice. “You should also slow down when you’re ready to put him to bed,” says Dr. Mindell. “Move quietly and dim the lights. Bedtime should be a comfortable time to be with your child.”
She’s the sensitive type.
Throughout your pregnancy, you’ve been searching for the perfect lullaby CD and cozy bedding for your baby. But, despite your efforts, she may not be comfortable. “Some babies are very sensitive to their external and internal environment,” says Harvey Karp, M.D., author of the DVD and book, “The Happiest Baby on the Block. “They may be bothered by the ringing of the phone, the feeling of clothing brands, or even physical sensations, such as digesting food.” Babies can ignore these sensations during the day when there’s a lot of noise, but it’s harder at night.
The solution to sleep problems: Make her environment as comfortable as possible. If you’re not sure what’s bothering her, start by removing the pajama tags, using soft sheets and darkening her room. While parents think babies need lots of bundling up, your little one may be overheating. “Feel her neck and ears,” says Dr. Karp. “If the clothes are hot, take off a layer or two of clothing.”
On the other hand, your child may be frustrated by the lack of stimulation in the room —- especially if she’s less than 4 months old. Dr. Karp says: “Babies are constantly being held, rocked and stroked in the womb, and there’s always white noise.” . “Many babies can’t relax because they miss out on the rhythmic calm.” Tight swaddling may help recreate that woman-like feeling; it can work for infants at least 4 months old and sometimes beyond that age. It’s also a lifesaver after six months, because it drowns out the family voice, when children become more aware of (and don’t want to miss) the world around them.
Conquering the crazy sleep schedule
He doesn’t see the light.
Too tired to go out for a walk with your child before 3 p.m. —- Or too busy to open all the curtains? Leaving your baby in the dark may cause him to go on a crazy sleep schedule. “The more exposure to sunlight during the day, the better the sleep quality for infants,” says Dr. Mindell.
The solution to sleep problems: The key is exposure to morning light. “It suppresses melatonin – a hormone that regulates the sleep-wake cycle – so it peaks at the right time,” says Dr. Mindell. Move your baby’s high chair or nursing pillow to the sunniest part of the house and feed him there. Morning walks are also a good idea, even on cloudy days, but if that’s not possible, turning on a bunch of lights is a good substitute. However, remember to dim them an hour or two before bedtime. Dr. Karp says: “You want your baby to associate light and activity with daytime, darkness and inactivity with nighttime.” .
She likes to eat snacks in the middle of the night.
“This is probably the number one reason babies have trouble falling asleep,” says Kathleen Tobin, author of The Baby Sleep Project. When you feed your baby before you put him in his crib, she associates feeding with sleeping —- especially if you put her to sleep on your breast. This may not be a problem at 7pm, but it becomes a problem when she wakes up at 3am and needs to eat to fall asleep again.
Solution to sleep problems: Dr. Mindell says you don’t have to go all together to remove bedtime care – just do it earlier in the nap or bedtime routine. Try nursing, then changing her diaper, then putting her down when she’s awake. Consider not feeding your baby in her bedroom —- She needs to know that the nursery is for sleeping only.
Eventually, your baby will learn to self-soothe when she wakes up at night. But if she doesn’t get the hang of it, her stomach may actually be empty. Dr. Karp recommends feeding your baby every hour or two at night so she won’t be hungry at night. For example, if bedtime is 8 p.m., feed her at 5 or 6 p.m., and at least once more before tucking her in. Another option is to do a “dream feed”: put her down at 8pm and wake her up for a feed before you go to bed.
He doesn’t like naps.
Babies who refuse to nap are not only wasting some of your free time in the day. Dr. Mindell says, “Children who miss naps or only take naps have a harder time falling asleep and wake up more often at night.” .
The solution to sleep problems: “With infants under 12 months, it’s usually a timing issue,” says Dr. Tobin. “You have to catch exactly that moment – the beginning of the yawn, the heavy eyes – or you’ll often miss the nap.” At that time, they can be overtired and too nervous to fall asleep. Watch for signs that your baby is drowsy and put them down immediately. If your bedtime routine is a lullaby and a story, do the same at bedtime. If he falls asleep, great. If he spends an hour cooing, that’s okay —- A restorative rest is better than nothing at all. Newborns can sleep whenever they want, but by 4 months of age, babies usually enter a nap schedule that includes two longer naps a day (one in the morning and another in the afternoon) or three shorter naps.
When she’s too attached to you
He can’t sleep without you.
Whether you rock him or pat him on the back until he leaves, your baby has become dependent on your presence to fall asleep.
The solution to sleep problems: Don’t abandon him completely. Instead, gradually reduce the amount of time you spend in his room each night and use a transitional item, such as a pacifier or blanket, to make the process easier. (Yes, pacifiers are OK at night. —- The new American Academy of Pediatrics WHO guidelines actually recommend them.) However, babies must be 6 months old before they can sleep with a cute little bird – until then, anything loose in the crib increases the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. But you can start wrapping him up in a blanket, which will eventually become his baby, Dr. Tobin says. If your baby is drawn to the fuzzy lamb, incorporate it into his sleep habits until he’s old enough to sleep in his crib with it.
She’s trying to give up co-sleeping.
You’re finally ready to reclaim your bedroom, but your mini-roommate isn’t interested in her lonely crib. The longer you co-sleep, the tougher this process will become.
The solution to sleep problems: “It takes a while, so take a gradual break,” says Dr. Mindell. First, let her take a nap on her own; once she’s used to sleeping alone, schedule her bedtime in her room. Then move her crib to your room or put her in her own room, but continue to bring her into your bed if she wakes up during the night. If she can’t seem to make the final shift and spend a night alone, you will have to keep her fussing in her room for a while. But once she realizes you are not there to pick her up, she will learn to calm herself down.
You can’t tolerate her fussing.
Think about it: Do you fall asleep as soon as you get into bed? Probably not. Neither does your child. So when you burst into her room with just a slight whimper, you may distract her, keep her from sleeping, or even wake her up.
The solution to sleep problems: Resist the urge to check on her for a few minutes. Dr. Tobin says: “If you don’t give your baby a chance to calm herself down, she won’t learn to do it soon enough.” . If you keep your eyes on the baby monitor, turn it down so you only hear the main screams, not the whispers that babies naturally make when they sleep.
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