Benefits of sleep
Sleep is not only a time when the baby regains his energy and strength, to explore this absorbing world further when he wakes up. It also is not just a time to rest or "me time" for the parents. You should know that during sleep the brain works intensively, develops, systematizes information and consolidates gained experience. During sleep the pituitary gland releases a growth hormone (somatotropin), needed for a harmonious development of the body and its growth in weight and length.
How much sleep
The number of hours of sleep required by the baby varies depending on his age, but also on his temperament. The average values are in the following range:
newborn - 16 - 20 hours out of 24 hours
three months old infant - 15 hours out of 24 hours
six months old infant - 14 hours out of 24 hours
We would like to emphasize that the above values are estimates, and each baby has his own pattern of sleep and awakeness.
When the baby does not want to sleep, although it is already night time and he should, at least in theory, forcing him to fall asleep is impossible. You simply must patiently rock him, sing to him and wait until he closes his eyes. And when you really have had enough, take it easy, let the baby play with toys, look at a mobile; stay nearby but leave him to his own devices, do not amuse him. Your nervousness will not help the baby to fall asleep, or can even have a reverse effect.
However, this night time marathon should inspire you to investigate what caused the problems with sleep. First, check baby's health and rule out pain or fever.
With illness ruled out, you should consider the below factors that affect baby's peaceful sleep.
Daytime/night time sleep
After birth the baby does not recognize the time of the day. He must learn that. Therefore, from the very first days it is good to follow several principles distinguishing the day from the night.
During the day do not pull the blinds down, be quiet but without going to extremes. If your baby gets used to complete silence, later he may be woken up by a car driving by or water splashing in the bathroom.
The night sleep should be characterized by relevant routines preparing for sleep, while the room should be quiet and dark. Do not let the baby become accustomed to a bedside lamp. Show and explain to him that it is dark during the night. However, when the baby does not like complete darkness, try to brighten it a little with a special dimmed nightlight plugged into a socket.
Younger babies often fall asleep in their prams during a walk. Then the cot is reserved only for the night time sleep. Older children prefer to explore the world during a walk, but after games at a playground it is better to let them take a breather outside, instead of putting them to bed at home.
Evening routines form a clear separating interval between the time of playing and the time of sleep. They create an order, making the evening predictable, and thus safe.
When the bedtime approaches, do not engage your baby in exhausting games. A daily evening bath, massage, reading of stories, singing of lullabies or listening to them together, help the baby to relax and prepare for sleep. It is important for all these activities to be performed peacefully, patiently and with a smile.
Day's influence on the night sleep
At least two things should be considered here: length of daytime sleep and possible overstimulation of the baby.
Analyze, how many hours the baby sleeps during the day, when did he wake up from his last nap. You may discover that the time spent on sleeping during the day is disproportionally long, and that only an hour or a little more time passed since his last nap. In such case, start to introduce immediate changes in the baby's daily pattern. Do it slowly, systematically and in small steps, changing times of wakefulness and sleep by no more than 15 minutes. Try to shift the afternoon nap to the midday hours.
Baby's sleep is strongly influenced by what is going on with him and around him during the day. The baby is not able to accept and cope with excess of stimuli; he becomes nervous, cranky, and peevish, or he can be overstimulated. Therefore, during the first months of the baby's life it is good to make some effort for his life to run smoothly and in accordance with repeatable daily schedule; he also should not be overtired with visits from friends and family, particularly, at the evening hours!
Airing, air humidification and temperature
You must prepare a bedroom in which the baby sleeps.
Air the room. Winter is not an excuse for not doing this. Do it sufficiently early, so the air can warm before the baby goes to sleep, open the window wide for a few minutes.
During sleep, appropriate temperature in the bedroom is 19 – 20°C, that is, about two degrees lower than during the day.
Sufficient air humidification is also important. Excessively dry air can cause drying of mucosa, and this may result in irritation, feeling of blocked nose and coughing fits disturbing baby's sleep.
You probably do not have to be reminded that the way the bed is made influences the sleep also of the youngest. You probably chose a correct mattress, not too soft and not too hard. You observe a rule that for safety reasons such a small baby should not sleep on a pillow and with stuffed toys.
You should also take a look at clothes in which your baby sleeps. A bodysuit, romper suit or pyjamas should not be too tight or too loose. Remove all labels that can irritate the delicate skin of your baby, select clothes without snaps or zippers in places where they can pinch the lying baby.
In some cases the only problem is to find appropriate night covering for our baby. It must be appropriate for a temperature in the room and specific baby's requirements. There are babies who move vigorously in their sleep and kick the blanket away several times in the night. There are those who like to be wrapped up, and those who will not let their hands to be bind in any way. Fortunately, producers of coverings offer an extensive range of products. Besides traditional rectangular comforters with various filling, thickness and weight, you can also find sleeping bags, wrappers and swaddle wraps. Finding a good covering for your baby may require some time and energy, but they will be well spent.
Night time waking calls
Sometimes the baby wakes up in the middle of the night. This may be caused by various reasons; usually it is hunger, thirst, a need to be with his mum, less often a wet diaper. When a breastfed or bottle fed baby wakes up to eat more often, it may be a signal that it is the time to expand his diet. When the baby already receives solids and still wakes up hungry, you should consult his daily menu with a paediatrician.
Ensure the night time waking up does not mean the baby is wide awake. Use dimmed lights, move quietly and with calm, slow gestures, you can quietly speak to the baby or hum a lullaby.
Sweet dreams... :-)