05 October 2011, under
Fatherhood; More Fatherhood articles...
Like father, like son...
After you are handed your precious bundle of joy, the journey begins and often we know very little about how to put our babies to sleep or how to define realistic expectations about sleep and if we don’t foster good sleep habits early on it can become a real household problem.
What a lot of us don’t realise is that sleep is a learned skill, and we have to teach our babies to develop healthy sleep habits. This can be done early on, without compromising your parenting values. Sleep is vital to health and development. Getting enough sleep will help your baby grow, learn and stay well.
In the first few months of life, while you get to know and bond with your new baby you can also concentrate on establishing basic sleep rhythms and routines that will help babies learn to sleep better from the start.
The following are some useful tips and suggestions to help your infant sleep longer and wake less during the night as soon as they are able:
1. Create a flexible feeding and sleeping routine. Sometimes the word routine, strikes fear into the Parent’s heart and they think that they will be confined and defined by the new baby, but I don’t mean a rigid minute by minute “must do” routine; more a predictable framework of feeding, sleeping and waking.
In the very beginning, it’s important not to underestimate how much sleep your infant really needs-as much as 16.5 hours in a 24 hour period when they are one week old and still 14.25 hours when they are 6 months. In the beginning they don’t have much stamina to stay awake for long periods of time and when they do stay awake for too long, sometimes 45 minutes is enough, this can result in extreme fussiness and crying, that is often plain old over-tiredness masquerading as symptoms of colic.
2. Establish some soothing techniques other than feeding; this is helpful too for those extreme fussy times. When your new baby cries, it is not always an indication that they are hungry. Given the chance our babies will develop a host of ways to soothe themselves. You could try:
• Carrying your baby
• Swinging or rocking
• Repetitive sounds: white noise, hairdryer, washing machine can instantly calm them
• Sucking-on a pacifier
3. Sometimes feed your baby when he wakes up. A nice long feed at sleep time is great to encourage sleep, but you want to weaken the feeding and sleeping association so your baby doesn’t always need to be fed to go to sleep. You could try to get into the habit of feeding them after they wake up from their nap instead of before, at least once or twice a day.
4. Put your baby down drowsy but awake at least once a day. As I’ve already mentioned, learning to go to sleep is a skill your baby must develop. They won’t be able to master this if you always feed them or rock them or walk them to go to sleep.
The benefits of a having some sort of predictable schedule is that you will have a good idea when your baby is hungry and when they are tired. At least once a day you could aim to put your infant into his moses basket when its sleep time and let him learn how to go to sleep unassisted. This is a great learning experience for him and will help him be able to sleep for longer periods at night as soon as he is able.
5. Create a soothing bedtime routine-it’s never too early to start to teach your baby the difference between day and night. A pre-sleep ritual, one that you can adapt and lengthen as he gets older, can be implemented in the early day and he’ll soon learn to connect the steps of what happens “when it’s time for me to go to sleep” consider:
• Baby massage
• Soft music
• Dimmed lights
• Snuggles and kisses
Mums have built in bonding opportunities particularly if they are breast feeding. But you Dads don’t need to feel left out. Here are some ways for you to get closer:
• Feeding. Breastfeeding mums can express milk and give dad the chance to feed, maybe for the last feed to give Mum the chance for some extra sleep at night. Or you could do the nappy change half way through the feeding.
• Bath-time. This intimate activity is a great opportunity for Dad and baby. You could learn a little baby massage or baby yoga too.
• Carry the baby. Get a front carrier and take baby for a walk on your chest-perfect!
Lucy Wolfe is a Certified Gentle Sleep Coach and Owner of Sleep Matters-Help your Child Sleep which helps families who are struggling with their children’s sleep issues. Sleep Matters offers a gentle approach to get children to sleep with a customised plan specific to each child and family.
For further information log on to www.sleepmatters.ie, or email firstname.lastname@example.org / call 087-2683584 to book a consultation.
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