Why ‘sleeping like a baby’ isn’t always easy for our little ones

Why ‘sleeping like a baby’ isn’t always easy for our little ones

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

Waking frequently

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.

Getting help

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

WA: Ngala

NT: Parentline

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.

Other resources
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.

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