Sleep like a baby
A HEALTHY sleeping habit for children is critical for their physical and mental growth. A good sleeping habit will mould their future sleeping pattern. In his book, Raising a Happy, Unspoiled Child, Dr Burton L. White mentioned that sleep problems “may take root at about six months old”. But the good news is that they can be prevented if parents instil a good bedtime habit from this age onwards.
My wife and I diligently followed his recommendations when our kids were growing up. We can proudly say that our babies never had any major sleep problems during their infant years. Our families and friends were very impressed to learn that we hardly had to wake up in the middle of the night to attend to crying babies.
So, what’s the secret to having a peaceful night during your child’s early years? White recommends that parents put the baby for a nap or to sleep for the night based on “sleep signs” rather than based on what time it is. Babies below the age of one cannot hide the fact that they’re sleepy. They’d yawn, rub their eyes and get cranky. Some may even fall flat asleep while playing or eating!
We should immediately recognise the sleep signs and wait until they’re really exhausted. It would usually come within 15 minutes of the first appearance of any of the sleep signs. “The longer you wait, the fewer sleep problems you’re likely to have,” adds White.
Then, place the baby in his cot. If you’re lucky, there’ll be little objection and he’ll soon fall asleep. If he doesn’t and starts to cry, don’t immediately pick him up again. White recommends that you leave the room and close the door. Give it five minutes. There is a very high probability that he’d fall asleep within that period.
If he doesn’t, it could be that he’s not tired yet or isn’t ready to sleep. Or maybe there’s something bothering him. He may be feeling unwell, hungry or just needs to be changed into a fresh pair of diapers. If he’s not tired, take him out, let him play and watch for the sleep signs again until you’re ready to repeat the steps.
I’d highly recommend that parents have a specific sleeping place — the cot — for the baby. It must be used only for sleeping and not as a playpen (you may want to buy a separate playpen for that purpose). Also ensure that the room is reasonably comfortable, quiet and dim. Just place one or two of his favourite toys in the cot for company.
Parents should also strive to maximise uninterrupted sleep. Ensure that he’s well fed by feeding him until he’s full. Put on a clean diaper, ideally the type that can last all night. Place plain water instead of formula in the cot. Formula milk is sugary and can damage the baby’s teeth which may be coming out around this time.
By doing all these, there’s a very high chance that you won’t need to wake up in the middle of the night as the baby would be, well, sleeping like a baby all night long!
Instilling a good sleeping habit from a young age is critical as it also sets the foundation for a good sleeping habit well into in the later years.
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