Parenting involves many adjustments, but one of the most difficult may be sleep deprivation. Below is an overview of infant sleep problems, tips, and available help.
There is a lot of development in a baby's first year. They learn how to sit, crawl and stand. They start eating solid foods and learn to hold a spoon. They will eventually learn how to sleep longer, as this is also a skill that develops over time.
Babies and sleep
Every baby has its own unique temperament, which means some children settle down more easily than others, even within the same family. Their sleep patterns also change as they grow.
A newborn baby has a small tummy and needs to be fed every three hours or so. Babies also have shorter sleep cycles than adults, and haven't learned how to fall back asleep. They also need time to determine that they should only take short naps during the day and sleep longer at night.
Common sleep issues include:
Taking a long time to settle to sleep
Falling asleep in your arms, not in their cot
Inconsistent sleeping patterns.
Sleeping tips and tricks
If you want your baby to get a good night's sleep, check their day first. Depending on their age, they may benefit from:
Being swaddled makes them feel comfortable and safe, and not wake up when they're scared (as soon as they can roll over, it's time to stop swaddling and stretch out their arms).
Getting into a feed-play-change-sleep rhythm
shorter or fewer naps, so they are more likely to feel tired before going to bed
At bedtime and overnight, you can try:
A regular routine, such as dinner, bath, feed, bed
Put them in the crib when they are sleepy but still awake as this helps them learn to settle down
Providing consistent sleep cues, such as:
Blankets they only use at bedtime (once they are big enough to put toys in the crib)
A lullaby or some white noise that plays during sleep
Offer mouthwatering feedings (feeding sleeping babies before bed) to see if it helps them sleep longer
Don't rush to sleep when they wake up at night - give them a chance to go back to sleep on their own first
Stay in a dimly lit room during nighttime feedings and change diapers only when necessary.
Paradoxically, babies may sleep better if you intervene less.
If you are struggling with your baby's sleep, talk to your GP or child health nurse. Baby sleep schools across Australia also help, such as:
NSW: Karitane, Tresillian
Victoria: Queen Elizabeth Centre, Tweddle, O’Connell Family Centre, Masada Private Hospital
Tasmania: Parenting Centre South, Parenting Centre North, Parenting Centre North West
SA: Torrens House
Queensland: Ellen Barron Family Centre
ACT: Queen Elizabeth II Family Centre
You can find private sleep consultants at infant and toddler sleep schools across Australia.
Popular books on babies and sleep include:
Pinky McKay’s Sleeping Like a Baby
Dr Pamela Douglas’s The Discontented Little Baby Book
Elizabeth Pantley’s The No-Cry Sleep Solution and
Tizzie Hall’s Save Our Sleep, which emphasises routines.
Hopefully some of these tips will help you get a better rest mode soon. In the meantime, maybe a relative or friend can take the kids for a few hours so you can take a break.