When we have a baby, our focus is on sleep – and how to get more of it! Around us are babies who sleep and we can be left feeling like we are doing something wrong because we are tired and our head is filled with thoughts of:
WHY WON’T MY BABY SLEEP?!!
Our expectations of sleep tend to differ from the reality of what our babies are capable of – the goal is usually sleeping through the night but, for many babies, this isn’t going to be possible until they are several months old, maybe even over one. It doesn’t help that there are shelves full of books and magazines telling us our babies have sleep problems when, in fact, they are just normal.
When it comes to sleep we can battle with our babies and feel like we are getting it all wrong, especially if we are receiving lots of well meaning advice and ‘solutions’. While some babies will be able to sleep well and learn to self soothe, other babies have not developed to the point of being able to do that. What is needed to soothe a new/young baby won’t be the same for an older baby/toddler but we worry that we are ‘making a rod for our back’ and creating bad habits but when a baby is older and they can communicate better, they can be settled in a different way.
Baby sleep is very different to adult sleep. As an adult we have more Quiet Sleep (deep sleep when our conscious brain rests) than REM Sleep (active sleep when our brain processes information and dreams). The ratio is thought to be something like: 25% REM and 75% Quiet in adults.
When we are pregnant, babies experience mainly REM sleep and then when they are born, continue to experience more REM sleep than Quiet Sleep because their brains are growing and developing and neural connections are constantly being made. During REM sleep, babies will wake easily. Eventually babies will spent more time in Quiet Sleep.
Babies do not sleep all night, every night until they are close to a year old. One study investigating infant sleep duration found that 27% of babies had not regularly slept from 10pm to 6am by the age of 1 year. 13% of babies had not regularly slept through for 5 hours or more by the age of 1 year
Your baby won’t need cuddling and feeding to sleep forever and you are NOT doing anything wrong by soothing and settling your baby in this way. They will sleep for longer stretches when they can. Young babies need to wake for a reason – food, drink, comfort, reassurance – and to force them into developing more mature sleep patterns could have an effect on the regulation of temperature, hormone production and the genes that control biological rhythms.
Parents of sleeper babies probably haven’t done anything you haven’t – your baby just isn’t ready for longer periods of sleep yet. Sleeping through is actually only 5 hours, not 12, so bear that in mind. 27% of babies have not slept for longer than 5 hours at one year old, so stop panicking.
So, what can you do?
Get to know your baby and their cues for sleep.
Provide an environment for sleep that works for your baby: they could need to be close to you, either cuddled up or feeling your hand on their tummy to help feel reassured and safe. Many parents need to co-sleep or use a three sided cot to be close to their babies and get some rest, while others might need some noise – some babies don’t like it to be completely silent.
A gentle bedtime routine can help to settle and sooth some babies. This could include a bath, story time, cuddles, a feed, nursery rhymes, some gentle, soothing background music, ssshhhhing and rocking.
Don’t give yourself a hard time – it is normal to not get much sleep when you have a baby. Get some rest when you can because it is bloody exhausting. Take naps, go to bed early, call in some help from your partner, family, friends so you can get some sleep and eat well and drink plenty of water.
Remember – you are not alone
Sources of Information:
What Every Parent Needs To Know by Margot Sunderland