Remember the day you brought your newborn home? He looked so tiny and precious in his swaddle that you didn’t want to put him down for a second.
You kept kissing his smooth, chubby cheeks and inhaling that uniquely sweet baby smell that till this day you can’t find the right words to describe.
Ahh…aren’t babies the best? Even more so when they have that angelic look on their faces when they are fast sleep.
There’s only one problem ― as a parent, you would know by now that babies don’t sleep! Well, they don’t sleep when you want them to at least.
Which brings us to our next point ― why is that infants sleep all day so that they are ready to play all night?
This mix-up in your mini-me’s body clock has everything to do with the time he spent in mummy’s womb. Your baby may be in the real world now, but he did spend almost 10 months in a dark place blissfully unaware of what day, time or month it was out in the real world. He didn’t have to wake up for meals, to have his diaper changed or take a bath. He ate, slept, pooped and played in the dark, according to his own timetable.
Now that he’s outside, you can’t blame your cutie for being confused as to how he should spend his day. The good news is that most babies figure out their body clock by 10 weeks. They realise that they are supposed to set aside the bulk of their sleep at night ― a stretch of three to four hours.
Thanks to sleep regression and growth spurts, junior’s sleep can get interrupted and it may never go back to normal. So as to make sure that you’re instilling good sleep habits in him, the first step is to teach him how to distinguish between day and night.
Follow these four strategies to steer your sweetie towards a sleep pattern that promises you both some quality downtime.
When bub is awake take him out for a walk and expose her to sunlight and fresh air. Sunshine, or any kind of light, helps set your internal body clock.
1. Have a different routine for naps and before bedtime
Babies thrive on routines as it gives them a sense of security and helps them anticipate what’s next.
While it will take months before bub can follow a bedtime routine, it doesn’t hurt to start from day one. However, since he doesn’t know if he’s going down for a short day-time nap or a long one in the evening, keep each routine different.
Lisa Ang, 35, mum to Karl, 13 months, said she kept her baby’s nap routine much shorter than the bedtime routine.
“Since we were on an eat, play, sleep schedule during the day, nap routines would typically start after some playtime. Then I will take him to a dark room, swaddle and bounce him to sleep,” Ang explains. “For bedtime, we started off with a warm bath, putting on pyjamas, reading a book followed by a milk feed and then bed.”
Three more ways to raise a super-sleeper, coming right up!
2. Expose bub to light and sound during the day
Show your munchkin that daytime is all about light, sound and doing activities. When he is awake, take him out for a walk and expose him to sunlight and fresh air. Sunshine, or any kind of light, helps set your internal body clock.
Keep your kewpie busy during the day with a music class or arrange for a playdate with other mums who have little ones.
If you aren’t in the mood to go out ― and we all have those days ―– then pull back the curtains to let sunlight in. Play some music and do simple activities with bub. Your daytime interaction should also be different. Be more animated, speak more and make more eye contact.
If you’re doing a stimulating activity with bub, have a wind-down routine before you put her to bed, so that she has time to relax and prepare herself mentally for sleep.
If possible, offer daytime naps at a different place. For instance, junior can snooze in a portable crib in the living room. If you prefer to stick to sleeping in the bedroom, then crack a window open slightly to let some sunlight in.
Go about your business as your sweetie snoozes, so that he gets used to having some sound in the background. Don’t make any sudden, loud noises though, as bub might wake up startled and not be able to go back to sleep.
3. Do the opposite at night
Make sure your evening time activities are very different from what you do during the day. The key is to keep everything low key and non-stimulating as possible.
Put a evening going-to-bed routine in place from as early as possible, so that it becomes second nature to bub. Start with a warm bath. Babies only start producing their own melatonin, a sleep hormone, at 12 weeks when the pineal gland matures. Warm baths help to stimulate melatonin production, which will aid with bub’s sleep.
Next, give baby a gentle massage to help relax him, dress him in pyjamas, read him a book, sing some lullabies and end with a milk feed and kisses. Babies don’t have a long attention span so, keep the bedtime routine short. This will ensure junior doesn’t start getting bored and fussy, which will make it even harder to settle him to sleep.
Babies sleep a total of 16 hours in a day. If you want your little one to do bulk of that sleeping at night, you ‘ll have to break his naps up.
As your kewpie grows older, you can build on this routine to include more than one book, a prayer or song time.
Do this every evening as you put baby to bed. Keep in mind though, that he will not magically sleep through the night at this point, since he still needs to wake up to eat and will want a cuddle.
When he does wake up, keep the lights dim as you feed and diaper him. Carry out these activities in the bedroom silently and avoid eye contact as you go about.
Do not at any point take your little one out of the bedroom to play and engage with him or even worse, turn on the TV for him to watch. If you do, he will think nighttime is for play and activities, just like daytime and find it hard to differentiate between the two.
4. Limit sleep time during the day, but don’t skip naps
It’s tempting to want your little one to take long naps during the day, because it frees up your time to carry out chores or sit back and enjoy some downtime.
However, the longer junior sleeps during the day, the less he’s going to at night. Babies sleep a total of 16 hours in a day. If you want your little one to do bulk of that sleeping at night, you ‘ll have to break his naps up.
Instead of letting him sleep for a stretch of three hours, cut it down to 60 or maximum 90 minutes. Then wake him up for a feed and playtime. By the way, don’t keep bub up for more than 90 minutes at a time either because then he will be overstimulated and not be able to fall asleep during his next nap.
This means, baby needs to have four to five short naps during the day instead of one or two long ones.
Don’t make the common mistake of letting him skip his naps, as sleep begets sleep. The more rested your kewpie is during the day, the easier he will fall asleep during the night.
A baby who doesn’t get enough rest in the daytime might fall asleep sooner as soon as the sun sets, but may rouse frequently and restless sleep as his body is in overdrive.
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