You’ve fought through pregnancy (with much gusto), conquered labour (without breaking too much sweat) but can’t seem to understand what’s keeping kewpie up at night…
Paediatric ear nose throat (ENT) specialist at The Children’s Eye & ENT Centre Dr Dawn Teo and Four Trimesters’ maternity and child sleep consultant and doula Constance Chiang share their expert insights:
1) Keep the room cool not chilly
While the comforts of an air-conditioned room can help you drop into restful sleep given our humid nights, Dr Teo says we must ensure the temperature in the room is comfortably cool, not chilly. Don’t rely on the thermostat that comes with the air-conditioning system because the actual room temperature can vary from that reading. An in-room thermometer (a function included in some baby monitors) should give you a more precise measurement.
Dr Teo adds, “Make sure that the air-conditioner isn’t blowing the cool air directly at the child and that [air-cons] are serviced regularly to prevent dust from building up.” Dust build-up can lead to nasal allergies causing obstruction of the airways. Also ensure bubba is appropriately dressed — blankets, mittens and socks can help keep them warm.
“Parents need to know it is normal for babies NOT to sleep through the night."
2) Keep the bedroom clean
Keep environmental allergens at bay by ensuring that the bedroom is clean and dust-free. Wash your bedding at least once a week.
Dr Teo also cautions parents against having stuffed toys in the bedroom as these may trigger allergies or become a choking hazard. Be sure to check if the toy’s fur can come loose or trap dust easily — these can contribute to nasal congestion, too.
Otherwise, air-purifiers are the first line of defence against other environmental conditions — like the haze or air pollution — that are beyond your control.
3) Five hours of sleep at night is more than sufficient
You may require six to eight hours of sleep every night to recharge but your mini-me only needs five (along with their daytime naps)! “Parents need to know it is normal for babies NOT to sleep through the night. The natural survival instinct wakes them up at night frequently to feed,” Chiang says. A pattern of three naps in the day should form four weeks after delivery.
Dr Teo lets on that babies between 4 months and a year old can get away with about 12 to 16 hours of shuteye (naps included in this total) in a day. For kids between 1 and 2 years old, a total of 11 to 14 hours is adequate. Chiang encourages you to pay attention to the overall well-being of your child, instead of seeing these numbers as a blanket rule. Also try to carry kewpie when you are putting him to sleep — skin contact between parent and child has been shown to be effective in calming your child.
4) They could have trouble breathing
Listen and watch for tell-tale signs that may suggest munchkin’s ENT functions might be keeping him up at night. Dr Teo says laryngomalacia is a condition when the tissues of the larynx (voice box) above the vocal cords soften, resulting in noisy breathing — causing nasal, grunting sounds when they breathe. The condition is also a sign of Obstructive Sleep Apnoea — a more serious health condition where your little one stops breathing totally when asleep (yikes!). Another situation that could spell ENT trouble is having to stop feeding so that bubba can take a breath; consult a medical professional, pronto!
Consistency counts in maintaining a sleep routine, which gives your little one security in knowing what to expect nightly.
5) Not having (or sticking to) a sleep routine
What signs point to your munchkin being sleepy? Is he yawning? Rubbing his eyes? These physiological reactions are in sync with your little one’s “body clock” — the times when his body is telling him to hit the sack.
Chiang says “Most babies will exhibit these signs around 6pm to 8pm but unfortunately they are being kept up late because of their parents’ schedule.”
Consistency counts in maintaining a sleep routine — the repetitive patterns of actions as you prepare him for bed — which gives your little one security in knowing what to expect nightly. So, Chiang says it will help if you keep to a later, non-body-clock-but-more-feasible-for-you timing — just make it a consistent time every night, and do baby’s go-to-sleep routine then.
6) Don’t overreact
While parents should not ignore kewpie’s cries altogether, Chiang advises parents not to jump to your child’s bedside the moment you hear the slightest whimper.
“Learn to take a step back and observe if your child is able to self soothe,” she suggests. “Give appropriate help only when required.” More importantly, the child needs to feel secure in order for him to go back to sleep on his own.