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- WINNING AT SLEEP ROULETTE – 6 SCIENCE-BACKED BABY SLEEP STRATEGIES.
Everything about #baby #sleep can seem frighteningly high-stakes at 3 A.M. in the morning. Make one tiny mistake in his or her training and your child’s development will be seriously affected: he’ll either end up waking in the night well into his high school years, or worse, develop anxiety, depression, or mood swings. And with every sleep expert offering slightly different advice on the ideal timing and method for sleep training you may be unsure about who to believe, how to proceed, or which sleep training method you should follow. That’s where this article fits in – I’m going to help you separate sleep fact from sleep fiction by zeroing in on 6 science-backed strategies that have been proven to promote healthy sleep habits in babies and young children. Strategy #1 – Learn to Spot Your Child’s Sleep Cues Like the rest of us, your child has a sleep window of opportunity, a period of time when he is tired, but not too tired. If that window closes before you have a chance to tuck your child into bed, his body will start releasing chemicals to fight the fatigue and it will be much more difficult for you to get him to go to sleep. So how can you tell if your baby is getting sleepy? It’s not as if your one-month-old can tell you what he needs. Here are some sleep cues that your baby is ready to start winding down for a nap or for bedtime: Your baby is calmer and less active – this is the most obvious cue that your baby is tired and you need to act accordingly. Your baby may be less tuned-in to his surroundings – his eyes may be less focused and his eyelids may be drooping. Your baby may be quieter – if your baby tends to babble up a storm during his more social times of the day, you may notice that the chatter dwindles off as he starts to get sleepy. Your baby may nurse more slowly – instead of sucking away vigorously, your baby will tend to nurse more slowly as he gets sleepy. In fact, if he’s sleepy enough, he may even fall asleep mid-meal. Your baby may start yawning – if your baby does this, well, that’s a not-so-subtle sign that he’s one sleepy baby. When your baby is very young, you should start his wind-down routine within one to two hours of the time when he first woke up. If you miss his initial sleep cues and start to notice signs of over-tiredness – for instance, fussiness, irritability, and eye-rubbing, simply note how long your baby was up this time around and then plan to initiate the wind-down routine about 20 minutes earlier the next time he wakes up. (The great thing about parenting a newborn is that you get lots of opportunities to practice picking up on those sleep cues—like about six or seven times a day!) Learning to read your baby’s own unique sleep cues is the first step to a more rested and more content baby. Here’s something else you need to know about babies’ sleep cues, something that can toss you a major curve ball if you’re caught off guard: Babies tend to go through an extra-fussy period when they reach the six-week mark. The amount of crying that babies do in a day tends to increase noticeably when babies are around six weeks of age. You aren’t doing anything wrong and there isn’t anything wrong with your baby. It’s just a temporary stage that babies go through. If your child becomes overtired, your child is likely to behave in one or more of the following ways (results may vary, depending on his age and personality): Your child will get a sudden burst of energy at the very time when you think she should be running on empty. You’ll start seeing “wired” and hyperactive behavior, even if such behavior is totally out of character for your child at other times of the day. Your toddler or preschooler will become uncooperative or argumentative. Your child will be whiny or clingy or she’ll just generally fall apart because she simply can’t cope with the lack of sleep any longer. You will probably find that your child has his or her own unique response to being overtired. Some children start to look pale. Some young babies start rooting around for a breast and will latch on to anything within rooting distance, including your face or your arm! When nothing seems to be wrong (he’s fed and clean), but he’s just whining about everything and wants to be held all day, he’s overtired and needs help to get to sleep. Learning to read your baby’s own unique sleep cues is the first step to a more rested and happier baby. Strategy #2 – Teach Your Baby to Distinguish between Night and Day Because our circadian rhythm (our internal time clock) operates on a 24-hour and 10-minute to 24 hour and 20-minute cycle (everyone’s body clock ticks along at a slightly different rhythm) and all of our rhythms are slightly out of sync with the 24-hour clock on which the planet operates, we have to reset our internal clocks each and every day – otherwise, we’d slowly but surely stay up later and sleep in later each day until we had our cycles way out of whack. Daylight is one of the mechanisms that regulate our biological cycles. Being exposed to darkness at night and daylight first thing in the morning regulates the body’s production of melatonin, a hormone that keeps our bodies’ internal clock in sync to that we feel sleepy and alert at the appropriate times. By exposing your baby to daylight shortly after he wakes up in the morning and keeping his environment brightly lit during his waking hours, you will help his circadian rhythm to cue him to feel sleepy at the right times. Moreover, he’ll start to associate darkness with sleep time and bright light with wake-up time – you’ll find that it works best to take advantage of sunlight (as opposed to artificial light) whenever possible. Studies have shown that exposing your baby to daylight between noon and 4:00 P.M. will increase the odds of your baby getting a good night’s sleep. Strategy #3 – Let Your Baby Practise Falling Asleep on His Own Some sleep experts recommend that you put your baby to bed in a sleepy-but-awake state whenever possible from the newborn stage onwards so that he can practice some self-soothing behaviors. Others say that you should give your baby at least one opportunity to try to fall asleep on his own each day. Lastly, some others say that there’s no point even bothering to work on these skills until your baby reaches that three-to-four month mark (when your baby’s sleep-wake rhythm begins to mature so that some sleep learning can begin to take place). Sleep experts claim that the sleep-association clock starts ticking at around six weeks. They claim that this is the point at which your baby begins to really tune into his environment as he’s falling asleep. So if he gets used to falling asleep in your arms while your rock him and sing to him, he will want you to rock him and sing to him when he wakes up in the middle of the night – that’s the only way he knows on how to fall asleep. This is because he has developed a sleep association that involves you – you have become a walking, talking sleep aid. Some parents decide that it makes sense to take a middle-of-the-road approach to sleep associations during the early weeks and months of their baby’s life – they decide to make getting sleep the priority for themselves and their babies and to take advantage of any opportunities to start helping their babies to develop healthy sleep habits. Regardless of when you start paying attention to the types of sleep associations your baby may be developing, at some point you will want to consider whether your baby could be starting to associate any of the following habits or behaviors with the process of falling asleep: Falling asleep during bottle-feeding Being rocked to sleep Having you rub or pat his back, sing a lullaby, or otherwise play an active role in helping your baby to fall asleep Having you in the room until your baby falls asleep Relying on a pacifier Here’s something important to keep in mind, particularly since we tend to fall into an all-or-nothing trap when we’re dealing with the subject of sleep. You can reduce the strength of any particular sleep association by making sure it is only present some of the time when your baby is falling asleep. If, for example, you nurse your baby to sleep some of the time, rock your baby to sleep some of the time, and try to put your baby to bed just some of the time when he’s sleep but awake, he’ll have a hard time getting hooked on any sleep association. Sleep experts stress that the feeding-sleep association tends to be particularly powerful, so if you can encourage your baby to fall asleep without always needing to be fed to sleep, your baby will have an easier time learning how to soothe himself to sleep when he gets a little older. Most babies are ready to start practicing these skills around the three- to the four-month mark. Strategy #4 – Make Daytime Sleep a Priority: Children Who Nap Sleep Better Scientific research has shown that babies who nap during the day sleep better and longer at nighttime. While you might think that skipping babies’ daytime naps might make it easier to get them off to bed at evening, babies typically end up being so overtired that they have a very difficult time settling down at bedtime and they don’t sleep particularly well at night. And rather than sleeping in so that they can catch up on the sleep they didn’t get the day before, they tend to start the next day too early and they have a difficult time settling down for their naps, as well. Simply put, it is important to make your child’s daytime sleep a priority, just as you make a point of ensuring that he receives nutritious meals and snacks on a regular basis – your child needs nutritious sleep snacks during the day in addition to his main nighttime sleep meal in order to be at his very best. In addition, babies, toddlers, and preschoolers who nap are generally in a better mood and have an improved attention span as compared to their age-mates who don’t nap. Strategy #5 – Know When Your Baby No Longer Needs to Be Fed At Night Your baby may continue to wake up in the night out of habit even when he’s outgrown the need for a middle-of-the-night feeding. If your baby is going without that nighttime feeding some of the time or doesn’t seem particularly interested in nursing once he gets up in the night, it might be time to eliminate that nighttime feeding and use non-food methods to soothe him back to sleep. Eventually, of course, you’ll want to encourage him to assume responsibility for soothing himself to sleep, but the first hurdle is to work on breaking that powerful food-sleep association. With some children, it happens quickly. With other children, it’s a much slower process. Once you break that association, he may stop waking as often in the night and may be ready to start working on acquiring some self-soothing skills. Strategy #6 – Remain as Calm and Relaxed as Possible about the Sleep Issue If you are frustrated and angry when you deal with your child in the night, your child will inevitably pick up your vibes, even if you’re trying hard to hide your feelings. Accepting the fact that some babies take a little longer to learn the sleep ropes and feeling confident that you can solve your child’s sleep problems will make it easier to cope with the middle-of-the-night sleep interruptions. Scientific studies have shown that parents who have realistic expectations about parenthood and who feel confident in their own abilities to handle parenting difficulties find it easier to handle sleep challenges. Interview With A World-Class Baby Sleep Training Expert Today I had the pleasure – and honor – to speak with Mary-Ann Schuler, child psychologist and world renowned baby sleep training expert. Her impressive rise to fame started when she discovered a very efficient method of putting any baby to sleep – no matter how stubborn or active he may be – in a short time and with no stress. Since then she has helped thousands of babies and families help get good quality sleep, day and night. Here is some of the brilliant advice she had to share with me today: Me: Hello Marry-Ann. Thank you for accepting my invitation. Mary-Ann: It’s a pleasure. Hope I can answer all your baby sleep training questions and help more parents along the way. Me: Let’s begin with a short introduction. Did you ever think that you would provide this much-needed help to so many people? Mary-Ann: The truth is, I didn’t. But I knew somehow that I had to. Baby sleep issues are among the – if the not most – common problem parents face with their babies. Being a mother at home and a child psychologist at work and still being unable to solve the problem made this even more frustrating. Me: That’s really inspiring. The fact that this interview will reach out to a lot of parents who are at their wits’ end not knowing how to address this problem makes it invaluable. Mary-Ann: I truly hope so. Me: If you were to choose a word to describe the process of sleep training a baby, which one would it be? Mary-Ann: Rewarding. Me: Wow! I’m convinced that parents love hearing that. Can you tell me exactly what you mean by “rewarding”? Mary-Ann: Yeah, sure. Rewarding in the sense that babies and parents are equally benefiting from it. The reward is a good night’s sleep for both. Me: And if parents want very fast results? Mary-Ann: The truth is, nothing ever happens overnight. They need to remember that consistency and persistence are the keys here. They are the building materials that support the whole structure. Take one out and the building falls to the ground. Me: How about positivity? Is it important? Mary-Ann: Surprisingly, children can sense if you’re truly happy. In other words, if you’re not happy when you’re teaching them, they won’t be happy learning from you. Me: There is an old debate if children need to cry out until they fall asleep or not? What do you think of this? Mary-Ann: I have to admit this is among the most common questions I receive. The short answer is no. Children shouldn’t be left alone crying out until they fall asleep. The reason for this is simple: children need affection. If they don’t receive it now, they won’t show it back later in life. Affection, however, doesn’t mean rocking them to sleep every night. The good news is that there is a third way, which is both soothing and efficient. I describe it in detail in my book. Me: You wrote the book on how to sleep train every child. If parents pick it up, can they really have a sleeping child in a short amount of time? Mary-Ann: As I clearly explained in the book, each child is unique and there are certain differences between each developmental phase. You can’t sleep train a 2-month old baby in the same way you would train a 1-year old. In general, any baby can be trained in a short amount of time, but it all depends on a parent’s consistency in following the routine. Me: What is the shortest time someone has ever sleep trained their child using your method? Mary-Ann: I receive mails from parents telling me they achieved fast results on a daily basis, but the most amazing mail I read was from a very happy mom who told me that she managed to sleep train her baby in three short days. Me: Wow, that’s amazing. So if parents want to use your method and see that kind of fast results, where can they find out more about your program? Mary-Ann: They can visit my website! It’s the only place they will find out exactly how I discovered this method and get their hands on a copy for themselves. (Click Here To Visit Mary Ann Schuler’s Site) Me: Thank you very much for your time Mary-Ann. Mary-Ann: Any time! You can find out a lot more about Mary-Ann Schuler and how she came up with those proven methods for sleep training any child by clicking here!
- HOW THE LACK OF SLEEP AFFECTS A BABY’S BRAIN AN PERSONALITY.
A leading researcher on temperament in infants and young children once said in despair, “When I raised my first child, I believed behavioral theories claiming that what I do as a parent molds my child’s character. With my second child, I was already a geneticist and believed that a child is born with characteristics that are passed on through heredity and that environmental influence is minimal. I barely knew my third child at all...” This analysis was, of course, exaggerated, but it demonstrates the ongoing quest of parents and scientists to answer this question: what determines the personality and personal characteristics of the child? The question of heredity (“She got her shyness from her dad’s family”) versus environment (“If his mother were more strict with him, he would be calmer”) underlies parents’ attempts to understand the range of influence they have in molding their child. Up-to-date research points to a complex picture: the influence of heredity and environment on the child. Much evidence suggests that the baby is born with genetic baggage that not only determines how he looks, the color of his eyes, and his chances of suffering from various diseases but also significantly influences the character traits that he or she will develop. Physical activity level, shyness or sociability, openness to new situations, and anxiety are among the traits that are related to the genetic predisposition with which babies enter the world. Many parents discover that their child has traits that are undesirable to them—especially if they remind them of qualities they dislike about their parents, their spouses, or themselves. Parents frequently try to fight these traits, but they often discover that it is a losing battle. It seems that the most important variable that influences the quality of the relationship between parents and children is the “goodness of fit” between the child’s traits and the parents’ expectations. A very active child, for example, may be adored by a father who appreciates and identifies with this trait but merely tolerated by a father who expects a calmer child. On the other hand, a quiet, calm child may be considered depressive or lifeless by the first father, while the second father sees her as perfect. Incompatibility between parental expectations and the child’s traits may lead to frustration and stress in the relationship, particularly if the parents try to “correct” the child to conform to their expectations. The Relationship Between Temperament And Sleep Every parent is familiar with the situation in which her child demonstrates by his behavior that he “is up past his bedtime.” When scientists asked parents to describe this situation, some said that the child calms down, seems sleepy, falls asleep on his own, or asks directly or indirectly to go to bed. Other parents said that their child in this situation “climbs the walls,” “is a crybaby,” “is nervous and unhappy with everything,” “doesn’t respond to what he’s told,” or “simply does annoying things.” Clearly, young children react to tiredness in significantly different ways. A state of fatigue is not necessarily expressed by decreased activity and obvious sleepiness. Sometimes the symptoms can be just the opposite. Some of the typical “negative” behaviors of the tired child are compatible with general patterns that characterize behavior disorders. Much evidence points to a strong correlation between sleep and the development of the child’s personality traits. Studies have shown that a baby who suffers from sleep disorders (difficulty falling asleep, for example, or many awakenings during the night) tends to be “more difficult” in other behavioral domains. In a study conducted in several sleep laboratories, scientists compared a group of nine- to twenty-four-month-old babies whose parents had come for a consultation about their children’s sleep problems with a control group of babies without sleep disorder – not surprisingly, what they found is significant differences in the traits that the mothers attributed to babies. The mothers completed a temperament questionnaire, which is a sort of “personality” test for young children. The mothers rated their degree of agreement with such sentences as “The child agrees to be dressed and undressed without protesting,” “The child responds strongly (screams, yells) when frustrated,” and “The child sits quietly when waiting to eat.” In general, the mothers of babies with sleep problems described them as more demanding, complaining, annoying, negatively sensitive to different stimuli, and difficult to adapt to different situations, as compared with babies without sleep problems. One of the traits measured in the temperament questionnaire is the degree of sensitivity or responsibility of the baby to different sensory stimuli (noise, temperature, taste, smell). Some babies are very sensitive to any kind of sensory stimulus, and others are sensitive only to a specific type of sensation—for example, those who recoil from skin contact. A wide range of babies do not respond in an outstanding way to sensory stimuli. One of the hypotheses that the researcher William Carey examined in 1974 was that babies who suffer from hypersensitivity to sensory stimuli would tend to develop sleep difficulties. Carey’s findings supported the hypothesis, and he claimed that the heightened sensitivity to sensory stimuli is hereditary. In order to fall asleep, the baby has to disassociate himself from the external environment and stop responding to people, noise, light, and temperature, and to disassociate from internal signals as well, such as pain, discomfort, and hunger. This ability to disassociate is most critical for maintaining uninterrupted sleep and for preventing awakenings in response to various stimuli. A baby who is sensitive from birth to any internal or external stimulus will have trouble disassociating from environmental stimuli, which will interfere with his ability to relax and fall asleep easily and will cause him to awaken easily and frequently over the course of the night. This correlation between sleep and behavior continues throughout later childhood. Studies that examined school-aged children found a correlation between sleep disorders and problems with behavior and more general adaptation. Actually, sleep disorders serve as a sensitive barometer of general adaptation problems among children and adults. Sleep disorders are a prominent sign of stress and anxiety, depression, and adaptation problems. Sleep problems are so prevalent in some behavior or emotional disorders that they have been included in diagnostic criteria. One factor that strengthens a diagnosis of anxiety disorders in a child, for example, is the presence of a sleep disorder. The close correlation between sleep disorders and behavior problems in children can be explained in a number of ways. Perhaps a child born with a tendency toward problematic behavior develops sleep problems as well, as a result. At the same time, it is reasonable to believe that significant sleep problems will lead to insufficient sleep or sleep deprivation, which may cause the child to be nervous, impatient, and harder to manage. In addition, a third cause, such as incompatible parenting patterns, may provoke or aggravate both behavior problems and sleep difficulties. In treatment centers, scientists frequently come across babies or young children who are described by their parents as hyperactive. The parents use this term casually, but professionals use it to diagnose a condition—the professional term is attention deficit hyperactivity disorder— that occurs only in older children. These babies are described as especially active and restless and are said to demand attention and seek stimuli constantly. Often parents associate their child’s sleep difficulties with his wakeful restlessness. Occasionally a parent says something like, “This boy has a turbo engine and he cannot shut it down at bedtime,” or “He is like the Energizer bunny; he keeps going and going and going.” Although hyperactivity is diagnosed at a later age, there is evidence that most hyperactive children were overactive, restless babies, with difficult temperaments. Again, we face a chicken-or-egg question: are these babies unable to sleep like “normal” babies because they are unusually active, or does their sleep problem underlie their “hyperactivity”? In many cases sleep disruption appears to lead to “hyperactive” behavior patterns, even though no research has directly confirmed this fact. More and more evidence demonstrates that lack of sleep may bring on behavior that resembles that of a hyperactive child. From an intuitive perspective we can all recall methods we use to keep ourselves awake when we are tired. These methods include increasing our activity, fidgeting, fiddling with our hands or our facial muscles, and similar strategies. This pattern contradicts the expectation that the tired child will relax and slow down. The clinical literature has documented certain cases in which significant sleep problems have been found to lead to “hyperactive” behavior patterns and later to a wrong diagnosis and treatment.It is of utmost importance to examine the possibility that the sleep disorder is the source and not the outcome of the “hyperactivity.” In the event that a sleep disorder exists, it should be treated before treating the disorders that result from it. In some cases treating the sleep disorder may spare the child from receiving unnecessary medication like Ritalin, which is the most prescribed chemical response to children’s behavioral problems.An erroneous interpretation of a child’s behavior can also result when she responds to a sleep disorder with heightened tiredness, indifference, and lack of interest in the environment. This pattern may be interpreted as depression, and sleep difficulties can be seen as the result of that condition. As the professional literature reveals, such an erroneous diagnosis can result in a failure to detect and treat a primary sleep disorder, as well as mistaken treatment for depression. Case studies have shown that when the problem is diagnosed correctly as a primary sleep disorder and treated accordingly, there is a parallel improvement in sleep and disappearance of the “depressive” symptoms. Intellectual Development Assessing intelligence in infancy is a very complex task. Tests used on infants to assess early mental abilities that could be considered components of intelligence have generally failed to predict intelligence or cognitive abilities and achievements in later ages. The research on the relation between sleep and intellectual development has been hampered by our limited capacity to assess intelligence in infants. Efforts to study this issue have failed to provide a clear picture of the situation, and we need to call upon additional studies on older children and adults to help us consider the issue more systematically. Scientists from the University of Connecticut in Evelyn Thoman’s group, which has contributed significantly to the field of the study of infant sleep, examined this question. They followed sleep of newborns over the course of their first two days of life and examined their development at the age of six months. Special recording devices documented the babies’ sleep in hospital bassinets after birth. The scientists then tested the mental, motor, and perceptual abilities of the babies at the age of six months, using the Bayley Test. They found a correlation between sleep measures of the newborns on their first day of life and their development six months later. Some scientists found a correlation between sleep disorders in infancy, especially those that are caused by respiratory problems, and possible shortfalls in intellectual development and academic achievements at a later age. Other studies, however, found no comprehensible correlation between sleep and later mental function. Studies on older children and adults have shown that sleep disorders or insufficient sleep primarily interfere with cognitive abilities associated with attention and concentration. That is to say that the ability to focus on certain stimuli for extended time deteriorates. People who don’t get enough sleep react more slowly and make more mistakes on tasks that demand attention and continuous concentration. Although the question of sleep and attention has not been directly studied in infants, some support for their correlation comes from indirect approaches. For example, mothers described their babies (aged nine to twenty-four months) who suffered from sleep problems as having trouble concentrating on play or a particular activity for an extended length of time, and as easily distracted by other stimuli. In another recent study, sleep scientists examined the relationship between sleep patterns and learning skills, concentration, and attention among school-aged children. The sleep patterns of the children were examined objectively by using sleep watches, and their learning functions were examined by computerized tests. Similar to the results in studies of adults, they found that children whose quality of sleep deteriorated (as manifested by many or lengthy awakenings from sleep during the night) also had decreased attention abilities. These findings support the assumption that these critical functions for learning and academic achievement are adversely affected by sleep disorders among children. Furthermore, recent studies have shown that if “normal” children are requested to shorten their sleep for experimental purposes, they suffer negative consequences, and their learning and attention abilities are significantly compromised. On the basis of what we have learned about older children and adults and from the limited information on infants, it is fair to conclude that the intellectual abilities of infants are challenged by disrupted or insufficient sleep.
- My Child Is An Early Bird – Can I Do Something About It?
Early morning wakings are one of the toughest sleep problems to fix, if not the toughest. If you’re wondering why, it’s because after a decent night’s rest your child has got more energy to fight sleep in the morning. And the truth is, all of us come up into lighter sleep phases in the last hour of our sleep, preparing to take up for the day. Remember, however, your child is waking early only if he is not getting the right amount of night rest for his age and his body. In other words, if your child sleeps from 7 PM to 6 AM, it’s a perfectly reasonable schedule for him, even though it might feel early to you. We can’t ask our children to sleep more than 11 hours at night. Their bodies are usually rested after this much sleep, and they won’t be able to do more. Also keep in mind the following fact: if your child is waking even at 10/½ hours, if he is rested and energetic in the morning and makes it easily till his naptime, then he’s getting enough rest for his body. Problems arise if your child sleeps from, say, 7 PM to 5:30 AM. In this case, you’ll need to push the bedtime later by 15-minute increments, then watching to see if your child can sleep later in the morning, A word of caution, though: Making the bedtime later can often have the opposite effect of causing your child to wake up earlier. This is the reason why things need to be done in small steps. Here are some other ideas to try if your child is an early bird: 1. Make sure that your child’s room is very, very dark. 2. If there are any sounds that could be waking him – such as garbage trucks, barking dogs, sprinklers – put white noise in the room and make the volume loud enough to protect him from these sounds 3. Remove all stimulating toys from your child’s crib or bed, which can be distracting once the sun enters his room. 4. If you are checking in on your child within the last hour before his wake time, your interaction may prevent him from returning to sleep. Don’t check on him if it’s less than one hour till his wake time. 5. Make sure the bedtime is not too late for your child’s age. Adjust the bedtime earlier by 15-minute increments, and watch what happens in the morning. In doing so, you will allow your child to sleep later, as he is less overtired at bedtime. If he does wake earlier, return to your previous bedtime. If moving the bedtime earlier has no effect on the wake time, you may want to consider using the earlier bedtime anyway to help your child get the right amount of night sleep for his age. 6. Make sure your child is not hungry. If you have a child under 12 months and have newly begun to wean feedings, you may want to slow the process down to give him more time to adjust. Moreover, be careful to ensure that you are offering the breast or bottle more often during the day to help him transition his previous nighttime feeds to the daytime, so he won’t be hungry going down for sleep at night. Sleep Struggles – Why Do Children Cry As They Learn How To Sleep Seeing your baby cry is perhaps the most heartbreaking moment of all. You don’t want him to cry. You want him happy. And of course, you want him healthy. But for all that to happen, he needs to sleep properly. It would be nice if your child could learn how to sleep without any crying or frustration whatsoever. Every parent would sign up for that. Unfortunately, the truth is that all children, regardless of the method you use to help them sleep, inevitably do shed some tears in the process. Let’s see why. First and foremost, children cry when learning to sleep because they are protesting – they don’t like change. In fact, they hate change. Just think about it. Do you remember what your favorite book was as a kid? Do you remember wanting to read that book over and over again, even though you knew every word of it? We all resist change, children and adults alike. It’s normal to do so, and it’s normal for your child to express his resistance by crying. After all, crying comes before words – not the other way around. Second, as children begin to learn how to sleep but haven’t yet figured out how to do so, they are understandably frustrated. They no longer have Mom and Dad on their side to help them get to sleep, and they don’t yet know what to do differently. They will eventually. What’s really interesting about falling asleep is that although each of us is born with the inherent ability to do so, it is considered a learned behavior. And yet you can’t teach anyone else how to do it – you can’t simply say to your child to close his eyes and sleep. Instead, each of us has to learn for ourselves what to do to settle into sleep. Of course, there are children who seem to learn how to sleep almost magically, with very little effort on the parent’s part. However, children are different. Everyone is unique. Your child, along with many others, hasn’t learned this essential skill yet, which is why he needs you to take a step back, so he has the opportunity to achieve that on his own. How will he do it? He might kick his legs around a bit, he might gently rock his head from side to side, or he might grab his lovey. Or maybe he’ll suck on his thumb. If he’s a bit older, maybe he’ll play with his hair. The truth is, each of us has different things we do to soothe ourselves into sleep, and your child will surely find a way that’s perfect for him. But he won’t discover those things nearly as easily with you standing right next to him or picking him up – he won’t have the motivation to do so. Simply put, if you “help” him, he will cry even harder because the touching feels like a tease that serves to reinforce the crying. Sleep Problems and Nighttime Feedings Although your baby may give up regular nighttime feedings on his own by the time he’s three months old, do not expect – or insist – that such a young infant give them up altogether, all of a sudden. But if your child is at least three months old, still nurses or requires a bottle at bedtime, and needs to eat again several more times during the night, then the extra feedings may well be causing the extra wakings. If that is the case, you may be able to help him sleep better by decreasing the number of these feedings. However, if your baby takes in a substantial amount of food – from extended feedings at the breast, or bottles adding up to more than eight ounces over the course of the night – then he has learned that certain times of night are mealtimes. To eliminate these feedings suddenly wouldn’t be wise or nice. The amount of milk or juice your child drinks during the night may be considerable. If he finishes four full eight-ounce bottles, that is a large amount for even an adult to consume overnight. Solving The Problem If you have concluded that excessive and unnecessary feedings at night are disrupting your child’s sleep, you will be relieved to learn that although such feedings can lead to severe sleep disturbances, the problem is also one of the easiest to fix. Two things need to be addressed. The first is to reduce or eliminate the nighttime feedings to avoid their various sleep-disrupting effects. The second is to teach your child new sleep associations so that he can fall asleep without being held, without eating, and without sucking on the breast or bottle. You can do these things at the same time, or one at a time. To fix the problems caused by the feedings, start by gradually decreasing the number of nighttime feedings, their size, or both. Just don’t stop the feedings suddenly. A program designed to allow new patterns to develop will be easier for him to follow. Your goal is to gradually move your child’s feelings of hunger out of the nighttime and into the daytime. Once there is only a single remaining nighttime feeding left, you can choose to stop that feeding right away – instead of gradually – if you prefer, since the total amount of ingested food during the night is now fairly small. If you are working on sleep associations and hunger patterns simultaneously, put your child in bed as soon as each feeding is over, even if he wakes and begins to cry. If you nurse him and he sleeps next to you, move him off of you when the feeding is done so that he can learn to fall asleep without using your breast as a pacifier. You’ve just fed him, so he is not hungry – now you are only changing his expectation of what happens while he falls asleep. Within a week, if all goes well, you will have finished cutting down or even eliminating the nighttime feedings. After that, continue applying the technique of progressive waiting at any waking at night (except for feeding times) until the wakings stop. It should not take more than another few days.
- Pet Care | ipepal
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