There is nothing more precious to you than your child. You enjoy spending time with him during the day, but you would be happier if he slept a little more. Ever since he was born, you and your spouse don’t have an evening to yourselves because it is quite difficult to put him to sleep…
You are exhausted. Everyone says, “That’s what it’s like, and over time it will change. You should be patient.” Ok, so… it doesn’t work like that!
You can provide your baby with healthy sleep habits from age five months and up, and the role that we – the parents – take in the process, is extremely important. The most common mistake is the separation made between the concept of sleep and the experiences he has had during the day. There should not be such a separation: the experiences throughout the day influence the process and quality of sleep.
When a baby has an organized daily routine with regular daytime sleeping hours, this will generally result in better sleeping at night as well. It is highly important that the baby’s play, sleep and food times are structured and not random during the day.
Bedtime ritual should be consistent. A baby needs routine. As soon as the baby experiences a regular bedtime ritual, as early as from day of birth, going to bed will be much more pleasant, for you and for your baby. You should avoid putting your baby to sleep while in movement, such as a stroll in the cart, in the car, while walking with the carrier or rocking her back and forth in your arms. These activities create conditional learning for your child, so that she expects to be put to sleep along with one of these activities. The conditioning effect is present during night time waking as well.
If you interfere with your child’s natural process of falling asleep, she will begin to anticipate being put to sleep in the same way each time. Your baby’s sleep cycles last between 45-60 minutes, whereas adults’ cycles are normally 90 minutes. The gap between your cycles explains your exhaustion. Thus, it is essential to teach her to fall asleep on her own, in her bed.
However, it is important to clarify that this is not the “Cry it Out” method (known as the Ferber Method) with which a baby cries for a certain period of time before getting the parent’s attention and eventually falls asleep on his own. True, this method produces fast results, but is not endowed with much emotional intelligence. There are wiser, more sensitive and better ways. We can carry out the process in a gradual manner and spare the endless tears for both the baby and the parent.
It is important to modify your bedtime ritual to the parenting style you chose to live by at home and to make sure that you are comfortable with the ritual you chose to follow and that you are consistent in following it. It is crucial that you are able to perform it in the best way possible and that you stick to it consistently. We, as parents, have a huge impact on the duration of the process. We have to demonstrate determination, show affection, love, warmth and patience. If we teach our child that we “feel sorry” for him or her, we then convey two contradicting messages and the progress will most likely be inhibited. However, if we fulfill the routine we chose with a strong belief in its success, the process will be much easier.
Because the bedtime routine can be exhausting at times, it is recommended that both parents are involved and alternate between them.
The nighttime awakenings tend to increase when the responses to them and the bedtime routine are incorrect. Once you learn how to react correctly and do not be the predicted “anchor” he got used to, your baby will learn how to fall asleep independently. And when he wakes up he will be able to fall back to sleep, just as we do.
Another common reason for the nighttime awakenings is feeding. Usually, a child who is breastfeeding wakes up more often than a child who does not being breastfeed, but this is not necessarily due to hunger only. The closeness to the mother and her body warmth poses a psychological motive to this behavior. Decreasing nighttime feeding sessions depends on the child’s age and weight and should be carefully considered.
In order to prevent numerous awakenings caused by hunger, we must ensure the meal prior to bedtime is sufficient and prevent the child from falling asleep while being fed. If your baby is not truly hungry, but rather he or she is looking for the breast or the bottle in order to help them fall asleep, you should gradually make the changes that will decrease that need.
Your baby needs smiling, alert and calm parents – it is important you sleep well!