DEAR DR.PAUL: We are having a lot of problems with our eight-month-old daughter, who keeps waking up every night. We don’t know what to do and we’re at our wit’s end. She can’t sleep, we can’t sleep, and we’re all miserable. Please help.
PEDIATRICIAN DR.PAUL Answers: Sleep problems are among the most common complaints that parents have about their young ones.Needless to say, they can cause a lot of stress in the family. Kids end up tired and parents become exhausted from being up all night with the baby.Typically, children with sleeping problems do not fall asleep easily and also wake up in the middle of the night. Whether a sleep pattern or habit is abnormal depends on the age of the child.
Sleep patterns in babies take time to develop into a normal sleep cycle (full nighttime sleep and awake during the day). Most new-borns sleep an average of 16 hours a day. However, this can be one to two hours a time, depending on the individual baby. In fact, most babies do not develop normal sleep patterns, until about four to six months of age. Most sleep problems develop when parents react too quickly to a child who is fussy at night, not realising that baby, if left alone for a while, may indeed fall asleep by herself. When a parent reacts immediately to a first cry, babies get used to being comforted. Not surprisingly, the baby soon learns to expect attention immediately.
How do you prevent this pattern from developing? Here are ome simple tips recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics to prevent sleep problems include:
- Keep baby as calm as possible by avoiding too much stimulation during the night so she can fall back asleep easily.
- Try not to let baby sleep as long during the day.
- As soon as baby is tired put her to bed immediately. In this way the baby will learn to relax herself to sleep.
- Rocking or holding a baby until she falls asleep creates a habit. Soon the baby will need to be held and comforted back to sleep every time she wakes in the middle of the night.
- Avoid putting baby to bed with a pacifier.
- A pacifier helps to soothe the baby, but the baby should not get used to sleeping with it.
- Do not put the baby to sleep in your bed. Aside from the fact that some recent studies have reported increased incidence of crib death in babies sleeping with their parent, this can also create poor sleep habits and consequently, sleep problems.
Adopting some of these tips may also help break any existing bad sleep habits.One of the most important things that parents can do is make sure that they are well rested. When you are fresh and relaxed you can better cope with your baby’s situation. Of course, that’s not always easy. One tip to preserve your health and sanity is to take turns getting up with the baby. Alternating with your spouse will ensure that at least one of you is reasonably well rested. A good night’s sleep will give you a bright new perspective in the morning.
Perhaps the most crucial thing to remember in creating good sleep habits in a child is consistency. Both parents should be in sync with the approach and be very consistent when trying to deal with, or help prevent, a sleep pattern problem.
Pediatrician DR.PAUL Roumeliotis is certified by the American Board of Pediatrics and Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada. The information provided above is designed to be an educational aid only. It is not intended to replace the advice and care of your child’s physician, nor is it intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment. If you suspect that your child has a medical condition always consult a physician.