Some remedies for common sleep problems among babies include being flexible with your baby's sleep, developing a realistic attitude towards night-time parenting, increasing the level of attachment during the day and setting consistent and predictable nap routines for babies.
Your baby is 6 months now. You feel so comforted that your baby has now settled to a bedtime routine and doesn’t wake up during the middle of the night. As the baby reaches the age of 6 months, his/ her sleep requirements fall down to 12-14 hours a day. This sleep time is divided into three segments – two naps of 2-3 hours each and continuous sleep of 7-8 hours at night.
The baby’s regular and continuous sleep ensures uninterrupted sleep for you, as well. Some parents even use the term “sleeping through”. But, suddenly your baby starts playing the sleep-awake game again. Not only this; the baby takes an hour or even more to resettle.
As cited in a study posted in Nighttime Parenting, August 2, 2011, the unrealistic expectations of parents is one of the main reasons for sleepless babies at night. The study also states babies are designed to wake up during night for feed and cuddle. Why do parents forget that there are many adults also who stay awake during night? Therefore, as per the study, if parents’ expectations match with what babies are designed to do, more than half of the sleep problems would disappear.
Wondering why? This blog will answer all your queries and apprehensions.
Reasons for ‘Midnight Horror’
In addition to gaining new skills, like crawling, sitting, and recognizing things, your baby might show new behaviors like not going to anyone. The patterns the baby develops at this age play a crucial role in setting the sleep patterns for the future. Therefore, it becomes important to know the reasons for even the slightest change in your baby’s sleep habits.
Some common reasons include:
- Separation Anxiety: Many times, babies who are very friendly and go to everyone easily start behaving the opposite. They refuse to go to even their favorite aunt or uncle and show a preference to be only with you. This behavior, known as separation anxiety, is completely natural and shouldn’t be a cause for concern. Even during the night, your baby might wake up and stay awake for hours to be with you. Therefore, they become distressed if they do not find you around when they wake up in the middle of the night.
- Major Milestones: Your baby is mastering new skills all through the day. This process is known as developmental milestones. Your baby may wake up at night to practice these skills, like sitting up, crawling or rolling. So, don’t worry. Instead, learn to have some fun with your baby.
- Uncomfortable Gums: Generally, the process of teething begins at the age of 6 months. This is, however, a continuous process that goes on for a year or even more. As teeth grow, they cut through the gums, thus causing discomfort to the baby. This discomfort might interfere with their night sleep. During this time, all you can do is to comfort your baby with a technique that works best for him. But learn to be consistent.
In addition to these sleep problems, another reason that might disrupt a baby’s sleep include inadaptability to a sleep routine. If the baby has not been trained for sleep, he might wake up during the night even due to slightest disturbance. This further leads to all the crying and staying awake through the night.
How to Make the Baby Sleep Easily at Night
Making your baby sleep is not an easy task. It requires a lot of patience, experience to train the babies for a healthy sleep. However, it can get easier with slight changes in the attitude and developing some good habits yourself. Here are some of the time tested techniques and methods that can help your baby sleep easily at night.
- Developing a realistic attitude towards night-time parenting: Unlike eating, sleep is not a state that a baby can be forced into. Forcing your baby to sleep would make him even more reluctant. The best way is to create a secure environment that takes the baby into sleep by itself. This way, you are helping your baby develop a healthy attitude towards sleep.
- Be flexible with your baby’s sleep: It is not necessary that a single approach works best for every baby. Also, it is not necessary that the same baby can be made to sleep with the same approach every time. Therefore, don’t stick with a single approach. It is always better to experiment. Generally, babies have different night-time temperaments due to varied lifestyles of their families. Therefore, it is better to follow your instinct instead of a stranger’s advice on how to get your baby to sleep. Keep trying different approaches and one or the other will work.
- Stay away from sleep trainers: There are many books to recommend sleep trainers for babies. These sleep trainers claim to have magic formulas that can keep the baby asleep for long hours. Surprisingly, for many parents, many of these techniques are simple variations of the conventional cry-it-out method. The recent developments in technology have made it easier for tired or working parents to get their baby to sleep. Many baby stores offer sleep inducing gadgets designed to get the baby into a soothing and relaxing sleep. Some of the most exciting ones include crib vibrators (these mimic a car ride), oscillating cradles and breathing teddy bears. All these gadgets are quite promising to play the role of parents during the night.
- Figure out the best sleeping place for your baby: You cannot label a place as right or wrong for sleep. The perfect sleep arrangement is the one where all family members sleep. While some babies may feel comfortable sleeping in their crib in a separate room, others might sleep better in their bassinet or crib in the parents’ bedroom. There are also other babies who sleep best when snuggled right next to their mommies in the same bed. Be flexible in deciding the place where the baby sleeps the best. Keep trying different arrangements to find out the best suited option.
Condition your Baby to Fall Asleep
As mentioned earlier, sleep is not something that a baby can be forced into. It is a process that takes over your baby in the most natural way. As a parent and sleep trainer of your baby, it becomes your responsibility to create an environment that makes sleep an attractive state for your baby. You can do this by presenting cues to take the baby towards sleep.
Some useful tips to condition your baby for better sleep are listed ahead.
- Allow the baby to adjust with various sleep associations: The way your baby goes to sleep during the night is what he expects to find when he wakes up in the middle of the night. For example, your infant is nursed and rocked to sleep, he will expect the same nursing and rocking to get back to sleep if he wakes up in the night. Therefore, try different techniques during bedtime. For example, you can use any of the sleeping techniques like rocking, nursing, swaddling, playing some soft music or singing a lullaby to put him to sleep.
These methods are further divided into two categories, as listed below:
- Parent Soothing Technique: These techniques are applied when the baby is completely ready to sleep. The method involves providing comforting transitions as the baby moves from the state of being awake to sleep. These include actions like singing, rocking, nursing or any unique, comforting technique that works for your baby. The key advantage of the parent soothing method to put the baby off to sleep is that the baby learns and develops a healthy sleep attitude. Moreover, the method provides him fond memories of being parented to sleep, thus building the parent-infant trust.
- Baby Soothing Technique: Under this technique, the baby is put down in his crib while awake and left to sleep by himself. Parents provide intermittent comfort, but try to be away when the baby drifts off to sleep. Although the method is useful, as the baby gets used to self training and sleeping on his own, it can cause the baby to lose trust in his parents. Moreover, this method doesn’t work well for high-need babies. Also, medical reasons for night awakenings get ignored.
- Set consistent and predictable nap routines: Figure out the time of the day when you feel the most tired. For instance, you feel like lying down to rest around 11:00 am and 3:00 pm. Utilize this time and try to lie down with your baby at these times every day. Follow this routine for about a week. This way, your baby will get used to a set daytime nap routine. Surprisingly, babies with a consistent daytime nap routine are more likely to sleep at a stretch during the night.
- Daytime mellowing: A calm daytime helps with a restful night. The level of attachment and interaction with the baby during the day is directly related to the peacefulness and calmness depicted at night. If your baby is restless during the night, try to take a note of the daytime routine. It has been proven through studies that babies who spend long hours in slings can settle easily during the night.
Although rare, there may be times when your baby can manage to settle by himself. If you help your child, when needed, you are laying the foundation of a healthy and secure relationship as well as skills for emotional regulations. Above all, you become an expert with the various behavioral aspects of your baby.