Most parents unknowingly keep their baby awake too long. It’s the most common accidental baby sleep mistake.
We often hear, “My baby just doesn’t seem to need that much sleep.” We smile because many years of caring for babies and studying the surprisingly extensive subject of sleep, has taught us that one hours extra sleep in each 24 hour period affects intelligence by two years and babies don’t always show their tiredness in ways that are obvious to us.
We certainly can’t ignore how vital sleep is to an infants health (physical growth, emotional well-being etc.) so we gently teach parents about age appropriate sleep quotas along with sleep hygiene and then the importance of getting the right amount of sleep at the right times. In other words, how crucial it is to respect their baby’s natural body clock. We also show them, over a period of time what their infant is capable of doing sleep wise and the difference it makes in the infants overall mood and development.
Just because an infant is not sleeping this doesn’t mean the infant doesn’t need to sleep. If, for example, during the first part of the day your 7 month old baby is awake for 3-4 hour chunks of time, there is a sleep problem or if your 1-year-old is feeding frequently, not because of hunger but just to get back to sleep at night, there is clearly a sleep concern.
Let’s not panic and certainly not ‘try everything and anything’ to fix it. We just ask that you firstly recognise there is cause for concern and secondly, you make a solid plan to create consistent sleep settling habits and give your infant the sleep that is vital for his/her physical, mental and emotional development.
Most babies, but certainly not all, will let you know they’ve been awake too long because they’ll become fussy and difficult to soothe. The more placid babies or ones with reflux sometimes won’t recognise their own tiredness and just be quieter still, even calm and smiling. This is where the deceptive view comes in that this particular baby doesn’t need as much sleep as other babies of the same age.
So now is the time to ‘investigate’ your babys sleep signs. Observe your baby carefully and make a note of the exact time your little one last woke up. Stand back and watch him or her whilst (s)he is playing. Look for the less obvious signs of tiredness before the usual eye rubbing, glazed eye look or ‘general grumbles’. Once you’ve worked out what these signs are, this is the moment to begin helping your baby to ‘wind down’. This ‘wind down’ pattern needs to be slow and calm with consistency. Do everything on the same order (nappy change, close curtains, read a short story if you like etc.) so that your little one begins to recognise and eventually anticipate what comes next.
Then, be brave, put your baby gently down in the sleep area and you will see that doing this earlier, your little one will settle more readily. A reassuring hand on your baby’s chest or shoulder to ease into a drowsy state is always welcome or perhaps a little gentle and rhythmical humming. Just remember that the more ‘actions’ you add in to try and get your baby to settle to sleep, the harder it is for your little one to learn because each action is a new ‘stimuli’ and can possibly delay the time your little one goes to sleep.
If you would like a detailed demonstration of our gentle sleep shaping technique from one of our highly experienced Sleep Consultants: https://www.babysleepretreat.com/contact-us/ and we will arrange a tailor-made consultation to set you on the path towards healthy sleep shaping.
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