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Most parents across the world go through sleepless nights after their baby is born, sometimes long after that. In worst case scenarios, babies sleep soundly through the day and are wide awake at night when the parents want to rest.
According to experts, such nocturnal activity on the part of babies is a continuation of their sleep patterns in the womb in the later part of pregnancy. Apparently, their biological clocks take time to reset in accordance with their new surroundings.
Actually, soon-to-be mothers can even predict what their babies’ sleep patterns will be like by monitoring babies’ movements in the womb. Some babies will be active in the womb during daytime, when their mothers are also active and more subdued at night, when their mothers are asleep.
For some, the movement of their mothers in the daytime lulls them to sleep and the reduced activity of the mother at night prompts them to wake up.
Unfortunately, this continues for a few weeks after the baby is born.
Bleary eyed parents desperate for some sleep may try making small changes to expedite the resetting of their babies’ internal clocks.
How to Get the Baby to Sleep
For starters, the baby needs to know the difference between day and night. Make sure the house is brightly lit during the day and people are conversing around the child in normal conversational tones. This gives her the cue that bright lights are associated with day, which in turn, is associated with wakefulness.
While you are at it, make sure you look into the baby’s eyes from time to time. Eye contact is very stimulating for the little ones, who are only just learning to figure out faces. This will indeed make the baby more alert when she needs to be.
Give her various forms of stimuli in the form of touch (especially the feet), sight and sound (not jarring and loud though).
At night, dim the lights, avoid talking loudly, turn off the TV and stick to a basic night time routine with the child. Slowly, she will start getting the hint.
Swaddling a Baby: In many cultures, babies are snugly wrapped in light cloth or sheets. According to researchers from the Pediatric Sleep Unit of the University Children's Hospital in Brussels, Belgium, this does seem to have beneficial effects on the babies’ sleep cycles.
The study conducted on 16 babies suggested swaddling took care of the problem by promoting better sleep. Even when the swaddled babies did wake up, they took around 30 seconds to go back to sleep again.
More significantly, the practice reduces the chances of SIDS or Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, because it encourages parents to let the babies sleep on the back. Babies who are made to sleep on the back have reduced risk of SIDS as compared to those made to lie face down. The only snag being that babies made to lie down on their backs have fragmented sleep.
The approach to the issue of sleep habits among children differs across cultures and families. As a rule, babies expect parents to use the methods they used to tuck them in when they were around three weeks of age.
Some parents may have no problems with holding or rocking a child to sleep, while others would prefer the baby developing more independent sleep habits. As they grow up, children do become independent, or at least it becomes easier to promote independent sleep habits among older children.
Babies though, need to be comforted in various ways at night. It’s all a matter of working out a strategy that works well with both parents and children.
Teaching Baby to Sleep on Her Own
This is doubtlessly one of the toughest aspects of parenthood. The cry of a child has parents instantly on their feet and the first reflex is often to pick up the child. However, by doing that you reinforce her habit of clinging to you to fall asleep.
When the baby wakes up at night, be with her, pat her, talk to her and sing to her. Do anything except picking her up.
This is very difficult at first as the baby continues to cry for a long time. But slowly, she will start settling down until she can eventually go to sleep on her own.
This initial phase can be extremely taxing. Sleep deprivation is a pressing concern for a large number of new parents. However, try not to be overwhelmed. Take the support of your family to cope. This will pass.