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Sleep, Baby, Sleep

Some babies seem to 'magically' sleep through the night from two or three months of age, much to the delight of their sleep deprived parents. Others still wake several or more times each night, right into toddlerhood. This can be tough on parents and warrants further investigation by a baby sleep expert.

Newborn babies sleep as much as 18 hours per day. As your baby gets older, they will sleep less and enjoy more awake time. Older babies should be having at least two daytime naps, then settling for six to eight hours at night.

Why babies need sleep

Sleep is essential for babies. When they do not get enough sleep, babies get crabby and irritable. "When a baby sleeps they produce serotonin, a hormone that makes them physically grow, so while they are sleeping, they are actually growing," says Natalie Strydom, East Rand agent for Baby Love. "Sleep induces sleep, so the better a baby sleeps during the day the better they will sleep at night." Babies that are getting enough sleep - both in the day and at night, will be more alert during awake time. They feed well, meet milestones and are receptive to learning and stimulation. "A well rested baby is a baby who is a joy to be around and because they are a happy baby, mom will want to spend time with them," adds Natalie.

Bedtime routine

Getting baby into a good bedtime routine from a young age can help to encourage good sleep habits and avoid sleep-related problems later on. You can start a bedtime routine right from your baby's birth. Babies tend to respond positively when things become familiar to them. A good bedtime routine provides your baby with a sense of security and contentment.

"No matter the age of the baby and no matter if they have slept well during the day, come the end of the day, babies are tired!" says Natalie. "Providing them with certain associations with sleep tells them that the next step is bed time, and this gives them security." She advocates doing the same things at around the same time every evening, so that baby learns to associate these routines with going to bed, and ultimately with sleep. Try to let your baby settle down in the cot and fall asleep on their own - without you rocking or patting them. If they learn to do this, they'll be able to settle down by themselves again if they wake during the night.

SLEEP WOE 1 - Teething?

Ann Richardson, co-author of Baby Sense (Metz Press, 2002) with Meg Faure, says that teething, per se, doesn't cause a sleeping disorder. She advises moms to accept that it may well disrupt sleep patterns on a temporary basis. If your baby has a sore month, they may wake up at night. Ann says that if nights are becoming difficult, medicate with teething medication at bedtime to help ease baby's pain. If baby seems ill or has a fever, see your doctor.

SLEEP WOE 2 - Hungry?

Was baby sleeping well at night and now (usually at around five months), she's starting to wake more frequently? Your baby may be hungry. Ann Richardson advises moms to reintroduce a night feed when baby awakes or if baby is nearly five months old (without a family history of allergies) you can introduce rice cereal earlier in the day. Remember that after six months, your baby needs the Essential Fatty Acids found in protein and you must start other solids.

SLEEP WOE 3 - Comfortable?

Take stock of your baby's sleep environment. Frequent night waking can be linked to discomfort. "If your baby has been a good sleeper then suddenly wakes frequently at night, you can bet your bottom dollar they are uncomfortable," says Ann.

Baby should be warm but not too hot. Check the temperature of the room and keep it at around 20 degrees Celsius. If baby kicks off their blankets and wakes because they are cold, invest in a sleeping bag.

SLEEP WOE 4 - Bad Habit?

Repeated night waking can be put down to a bad habit - especially if your baby is over seven months old and needs to be rocked, fed and shushed to sleep. Ann Richardson advocates gentle sleep training; if you've made sure that baby isn't ill or hungry and is comfortable.

Parents need to 'coach' baby to self sooth at night. "Coaching is gentle because it is done in an attitude of love, not exasperation," says Ann. "You do this by consistently offering your baby a self-soothing object, such as a dummy or blanky. Coaching involves being with your baby while they learn the new skill not leaving them alone."

SLEEP WOE 4 - Co-sleeping Concerns?

Are you tip-toeing around your own bedroom, too afraid you'll wake baby? Are you waking up feeling tired because you've been sleeping cramped up in one corner of your own bed? Does baby kick you awake? These are all signs that it's probably the right time to evict your little border! "If no one is sleeping because the baby is sharing the bed, then it may be time to say goodbye to co-sleeping," says Natalie Strydom from Baby Love. "Other signs could be dad moving out to the spare room or both parents experiencing a feeling of dread when bedtime roles around."

Things you can do around bedtime:

- Give baby dinner.
- Run a warm baby for baby.
- Give baby a relaxing, gentle massage.
- Close baby's bedroom curtains.
- Lower your voice and talk quietly to baby.
- Read to baby and have some cuddle time.
- Give baby their bedtime feed, if they have one.
- Give baby their security object - either a favourite fluffy toy, 'doodoo' blankie or dummy and put them in their cot.
- Say 'goodnight', give baby a kiss, and turn off the light, or leave a night light on.

By Gina Hartoog.
Information sourced from: Baby Love - , For more on Baby Sense go to

Reproduced by kind permission of United Pharmaceutical Distributors (UPD) and the Link pharmacy group. For more information E-mail the editor Laura Evans at or for a copy of the magazine please visit your local Link pharmacy.

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