Since insufficient sleep impacts a baby’s physical, mental and emotional well-being and development, he needs lots of it. A newborn needs 16 hours of sleep each day, including eight hours of night-time sleep and up to five naps (of about 1½ hours each) daily.
According to the medical journal JAMA Pediatrics, children who sleep less than 13 hours at night are likely to have emotional and behavioural problems. In fact, many people are misdiagnosed with issues such as attention deficit disorder and autism when a lack of sleep is the real culprit!
Contrary to popular belief, good sleepers are not born, they learn how from a young age. So, try these sleep secrets…
Establish a bedtime routine
Carrying out a sequence of activities consistently every night signals to bubba that it’s time to snooze. Notes baby-sleep expert and parenting coach Zoe Chu, “A good bedtime routine for a newborn should be about 15 to 20 minutes long.” If you want to put your little one to bed by 7pm, bathe him 20 minutes before, put him in his pyjamas, read a story, sing lullabies, give him a milk feed, then lay him in his crib drowsy, but awake.
Following this predictable bedtime routine every night will cue your child’s body and mind that it’s time for his “long sleep”. As junior gets older and is able to handle a longer bedtime routine, you can read more stories and even add a prayer.
Don’t over-stimulate him
Newborns, especially, don’t know how to fall asleep and if kept up past their wake time, can become over-stimulated and overtired. Chu points out that up to the age of 3 months, infants can’t handle more than an hour of awake time; they can “last” up to two hours from 3 to 6 months; and up to three hours from 6 to 12 months.
Be alert to sleep signals such as yawning, fussing and drooping eyes. Quickly finish your activity, sing him a short lullaby and settle him for the night. Missing this window will rile bubba, making it harder for him to fall asleep. By the way, eye-rubbing is actually a sign that he’s over-tired, and not a sign that he is ready to sleep.
Carrying out a sequence of activities consistently every night signals to bubba that it’s time to snooze.
Early to bed...
Babies should hit the sack no later than 7.30pm every evening. It may be tempting to keep your kid up in order to spend some time with him after you return home, but it’s not in your child’s best interest. If you can’t make it home before bedtime, wake up earlier in the morning for some playtime or make the most of the weekends.
Schedule regular naps
Children thrive on repetition, so plan his naps well, notes sleep expert Jackie Roche. Newborns should get four to five naps a day, dropping one at around 3 months of age. By the time he turns 1, junior might be on one solid two-to-three-hour nap, which he will continue until he’s age 4. As sleep begets sleep, don’t make the mistake of making your kewpie skip naps in the hope that he’ll sleep longer at night.
Chu points out, “The better they nap during the day, the better they sleep at night.” Try to ensure that he naps in the cot for better-quality sleep. “You will find that babies who nap in the stroller or carrier typically won’t nap for long and it will not be a restorative one,” Chu notes.
Ensure a cosy sleep space
A snug sleep space can also help him nod off easily. Keep the room dark and the temperature at between 24 and 25 deg C. Swaddle newborns snugly for comfort and give older babies a lovey (stuffed toy or security blanket) to snuggle up to, which will also help them self-soothe while drifting off.
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