‘Try to sleep all you can now, she will not let you sleep once she is out.’ That is what most of my friends, told me when I was expecting. ‘It can’t be that bad’, I thought. Well, to be honest, it was that bad, and worse too. When considering the most challenging part of becoming a mom, you may think of contractions, pain during labor, the loss of identity, feeling out of shape, breastfeeding problems, not knowing whether you are doing the right thing… and so on. However, the loss of sleep and dealing with fatigue are absolutely the hardest thing about becoming a parent. Learning to identify the signs of a tired baby is key to be able to get some sleep.
So, how can you tell if a baby is not getting enough sleep? In the case of newborns, particularly, you may find your baby making jerky arm and leg movements, arching backwards or closing their fists. Other signs in the very young include yawning and hand-to-face gestures such as rubbing their eyes and nose, holding their hair, or pulling their ears. For older babies, these signs may involve the baby becoming clumsy and more accident prone. Also, at times, they become more active than they should be near bed time.
It is important to be able to identify when the baby is tired. Your child’s tired signs will let you know when it is time to lower lights, reduce sudden noise and any other stimulation, to start settling your baby for sleep. If parents wait until the baby reaches the point where he or she is overtired, it will definitely be more difficult for them to fall asleep.
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How can I get my baby to sleep longer stretches?
While there are some periods when you can expect your baby to sleep longer stretches at a time, it is important to recognize there are certain developmental stages your baby needs to reach before they can do that. And even though we all know every baby is unique, here are some guidelines for you to use as a reference.
Many parents are not clear as to how much is enough sleep so a good idea may be to keep a sleep diary to track your baby’s sleep during a week or so, and then be ready to compare.
Birth to 3 months.
A newborn baby can sleep between 15 to 18 hours a day. A fixed bedtime is out of the question at this stage, since your baby will briefly wake up to feed every two to three hours, and then he or she will go back to sleep.
3 to 6 months.
Most babies at this age should be sleeping a total of 14 to 15 hours a day, and are ready for a predictable schedule by about 6 months. You will be happy to learn that they tend to have more consolidated blocks of sleep as your baby will hopefully start to sleep for one longer stretch of six to eight of those hours at night – hip, hip, hooray!
6 to 9 months.
By the time babies reach this stage, they will most probably be able to sleep up to 9 hours through the night and take two or three naps during the day.
At this point, babies generally sleep between 12 to 15 hours total, and the average time they are able to stay awake between naps during the day is 3 hours.
9 to 12 months.
There is not much change by this time. Babies will be sleeping a total of 12 to 14 hours per day. This includes about 9 or 10 hours during the night, and it is recommended that, if possible, you stick to 2 naps during the day.
1 to 2 years old.
Toddlers generally get between 11 to 14 hours of total sleep every day. Their napping decreases compared to infants and frequently accounts for around 1 or 2 hours of daily sleep.
Two naps per day are normal at the start of this period, but most babies are ready to transition to only one afternoon nap once they reach 15 to 18 months of age.
What happens if babies don’t get enough sleep?
Sleep is a crucial part of healthy development. Specially for babies, not getting enough sleep can be problematic and could lead to a higher risk of dealing with serious long-term health problems, such as heart disease and diabetes.
Some researchers even argue that irregular sleep patterns could also condition the baby’s feeding pattern and, in this way, negatively affect the baby’s growth. It is vital that your little one gets sufficient rest since their minds and bodies are still growing and maturing.
In case you realize your baby is really not getting enough sleep, do not panic and keep on reading. I will give you some advice as to what to do to ensure your little one gets the sleep he or she needs. If your baby has trouble going to sleep or fights going to bed, make sure you are setting up a good bedtime routine.
How can I help my baby stay asleep?
Establishing a positive bed time routine has to do with doing similar activities in a similar way each night to help soothe and calm your baby so that they get ready for sleep. This routing should start 15-20 minutes before the baby’s bedtime and it could include taking a bath, reading a bedtime story, cuddles and kisses, putting on pajamas. It is up to you to find out what works best for you and your baby.
What we are trying to achieve with a bedtime routine, is to teach the baby to fall asleep on his or her own. So that in case they wake up later during the night, they can go ahead and comfort themselves until they fall back asleep again without parents feeding, rocking, or lying next to them. It also helps your child develop good sleep habits now and for the future.
Seems almost impossible, right? That is what I thought, before I have put it into practice. Once you’ve established a routine that works, consistency is the key. Sooner or later, you will find out bedtime will stop being a struggle. It takes some time, but trust me, it is truly worth the effort.
What can I give my baby to help them sleep?
If you have reached to this question in search of the right dose of a certain drug, then you must keep on reading. Turning to medication just to get your baby to sleep is a drastic measure and it just indicates something else: you need help.
At this point in your life, you are so tired that you could do anything for some peace and quiet. It is perfectly ok to ask for it, so do not be afraid and please do ask for help before you ever take such an extreme measure!
The best medicine you could give your baby is a massage. Baby massage will not only sooth and relax your baby, but it will also help them fall into a deeper sleep sooner. Massage will not only improve your baby’s sleep habits, but it is also recommended for colicky babies, to improving circulation, easing teething pain and aiding digestion. This physical contact is also important to bond with your baby and partner, especially during the first months. And of course, you will all find it very relaxing.
Some people say there is a golden moment for putting your baby to sleep. Therefore, it is important to learn to recognize which are your baby’s tired signs, and be ready to put them into bed, before things get too complicated. Also, always remember that each baby is different and, just like adults, the amount of sleep that each baby needs will vary.
Do not try to be a super mom! Sometimes everything is just too much for us, and it is perfectly fine to feel overwhelmed by many situations. But please, go ask for help before you even start considering giving your little one some medicine to sleep. Try establishing a healthy bedtime routine which may include giving your baby a massage before going to bed.
We would love that you could share your personal experience with us. Do you recognize some of these signs in your baby’s behavior? Tell us all about it in the comments below.