Parenting

The Science of Sleep (and Sanity!)

[Image - Åse Bjøntegård Oftedal]
Written by Sam Skelding

Tearing your hair out trying to send your little one off to the land of Nod? Expert help is at hand.

For most parents, sleep is something you took for granted until you had a child, especially when that child doesn’t share your need for shut-eye, refuses to settle or repeatedly wakes. It’s baffling (to say the very least!) that every fibre of your being is saying its 2am and you should all be asleep, but somehow this message doesn’t seem to be getting through to your little one; who is shrieking with delight at the episode of Peppa Pig you’ve put on out of desperation.

However, there is a science behind sleep. There will be some incredibly lucky parents who seem to have children that naturally just sleep all the time – try not to hate them. But for most, it’s about getting everything in the right order to promote the body’s need for sleep and understanding that it’s normal to wake up at night.

Before resigning yourself to years of sleepless nights, you’ll be pleased to hear it can all be fixed. Get started by trying out these tips from the Infant Sleep Consultants.

The Routine

We all naturally wake several times a night. If you are doing something to help your child to go to sleep, then when they wake up, they will most probably need you back to help them. Make sure that you have a good bedtime routine in place that gently winds things down, getting them ready to sleep and encouraging them to settle independently.

Hunger Games

For parents of small babies, the main reason they are not sleeping is quite often that they haven’t had enough to eat or feel discomfort. Most newborns are quite sleepy for the first few weeks and are in a good schedule of eat, poo, sleep. Then, around 3 – 4 weeks (often just as you’ve gone back to work), the sleepy baby just doesn’t want to sleep anymore. 

Try to work on a good feeding schedule during the day with spaced out feeds and no snacking. If they seem very uncomfortable after or during a feed, then check with your GP to make sure there isn’t anything else going on; they won’t go to sleep if they are in pain. 

Winding Down

If you have checked off both of the previous points, start looking at how you are trying to get your baby to sleep. Don’t expect them to suddenly go down and then just drift off to sleep, winding them down is really important. You may also find that they are losing their cover at night, and, particularly when they are very small, may not be able to recover it by themselves. This is where a product like the Bubbaroo Joey Swag Baby Sleeping Bag works really well – giving freedom of movement but ensuring they stay warm. 

Day and Night

Make sure they aren’t sleeping during the day or it will be party time at night. You will have some great days where everything goes like a dream and the next is a car crash. Stick with it as consistency is important and you will gradually find that things are falling into place. You have this amazing little person, and they actually sleep!

Ever-present

Older children are generally more reliable at sleeping better at night. If you are an active part of getting them to sleep, then the chances are they will need you in the night. Events during the day will also impact on their sleep. Starting nursery/pre-school/school can lead to a disrupted sleep regardless of how much they enjoyed the new experience. 

Sometimes all they need is that extra bit of reassurance. If bedtimes have become distressing or they are suddenly waking up in the night, be there for them. Sit quietly and calmly and be a reassuring presence. Then, as they get used to the new changes in their day, gradually start to move further away and then out the door. It may take a few weeks but it will settle down.

There will be tough times but these won’t last forever. You will be given lots of well-meaning advice which often doesn’t help or makes you even more confused. There is no magic sleep dust or quick fix that works in the long run, so stay calm and consistent, and remember what a great parent you are.

The Infant Sleep Consultants are currently working with Bubbaroo – the award-winning Australian Baby Sleep Product Company, who are now available in the UK. To view their baby sleepwear and accessories range, head to bubbaroo.co.uk

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