Sleep! The most uttered word from a new parent and the least received pleasure in the first year of a post baby life. This is what other parents warned you about and if you could sleep, then you would probably dream about having some more sleep.
It is but natural for a baby to wake up in the middle of the night since their circadian rhythm is not set to ours yet. However, the good thing is that everyday they are learning. The bad news is that it takes a consistent effort for the first 1-1.5 years of their early life. My daughter started sleeping full nights at 2 months but gave up that habit when I moved to another town with her at 4 months. It has taken hard work ladies. But it paid.
There are various reasons the baby might not be sleeping well when they should. They may be hungry, hot, cold, anxious or in pain. However, there are few things you can do to ensure good sleeping habits in your baby are inculcated at an early age.
1# Set up a schedule
Babies do not come with a manual, we have to make one for them. A schedule will help your baby set his rhythm well. A six month old baby, for example, will need around 14-16 hours of sleep which would include 2 day time naps. Stick to the time around which you put your little one for a nap. If babies miss their nap time then it only makes them more irritable. Do not make the mistake of thinking that if you delay your baby’s bed time then it will make them sleep through the night. It will only lead to a disturbed sleep all night.
2# No addictions
Do you put your baby to sleep by rocking him or by giving a milk bottle. Experts say that babies should not be allowed to get addicted to such requirements for sleeping purposes. They should learn how to sleep on their own. Now, baby’s need a lot of TLC, but specific acts like rocking will only make it difficult to sleep when you aren’t around to rock them.
3# Create an environment
Differ day from night for your child. An infant will gradually learn by 2-3 months that when lights are on or curtains are drawn then he is expected to sleep. Run him a bath and change him into bed time clothes, give him a mild massage and switch off the telly. Any of such things will signal him that it is the end of the day and he needs to go to bed now.
4# Give comfort
If your baby sleeps in a crib, then he might not sleep due to separation anxiety. You can give him a security object like a soft toy (ensure that it is safe to be kept in a crib). Keep it close to you before giving it to him so that your smell rubs off onto it. Babies have a stronger sense of smell than us. Do not leave them crying. If you are up for it, you can use the controlled crying method where you keep increasing the time gap between comforting a crying child. But if you are like me, then you might not be up for it. I prefer comforting the baby and going away. I come back every time my baby cries and don’t leave till she is comforted. So she knows that I am always coming back. She has settled into this now and can play and sleep in her crib at will.
5# Feed Pattern
A lot of babies get up in the night because they are hungry. Of course a baby less than six months who is not on solids will need his milk in the night. However, for babies who are on solids, they wake up out of turn if they have not been fed enough solid meal as per their requirement. Pay attention to his meal pattern and sleeping. You might notice that a fussy dinner led to little sleep on a certain night. Keep your baby well fed but not over fed either.