One of the biggest parenting mistakes we made was not knowing anything about babies and their sleep. I did read a few books such as Babywise and What to Expect in the First year and knew about routines and bedtimes. However, I didn’t know just how absolutely important this whole business of sleep is. It was only after I had #5 and a close friend pointed out a very good book to me that I was enlightened.
I went on to read a few more books on the subject, and have come to thoroughly respect a child’s need for good, proper sleep. There is a lot of information to digest, so I’ll start with the 6 most common sleep mistakes for babies that parents unintentionally make.
1. Keeping them awake for too long
Babies can only tolerate a very short amount of awake time when they are young. Once you pass this time, they will start to get cranky and it will be harder to get them to sleep. There is a ‘magic’ window of opportunity when it is easiest for baby to sleep. You have to catch that window before they get over-tired. You know how it is that sometimes we feel drowsy, and suddenly our eyelids start to droop and we really feel like sleeping? That’s the window period where baby will easily fall asleep. If you ignore this time frame and keep baby up, she will start to fuss and get cranky. If you continue to ignore it and baby is not put to sleep, hormones will kick in and it becomes even harder for baby to get to sleep because the hormones drive her into a hyperactive state.
So how long should babies be awake for? Here is a general guide, but observe your own baby for their sleepy signs.
Birth – 6 weeks : 45 mins
2 – 3 months : 1 hour
4 – 5 months : 1.5 hours
6 – 7 months : 2 hours
8 – 9 months : 2.5 hours
10 – 12 months : 3 hours
Babies’ sleep cycles last for one and a half hours with a little break at 45 minutes. They will stir, cry or make a bit of noise at this juncture. DO NOT go in to your baby. Give them the opportunity to fall back asleep by themselves. If you go in, they will be disturbed by your presence and will not want to go back to sleep. And it will likely result in a bad habit of wanting you to go in and carry or rock them back to sleep. After about 5 – 10 minutes of fussing, they will fall asleep again for the next cycle.
Many people simply attribute their baby’s constant crying to having colic, being night owls, or that their baby is very naughty. I suggest you try your very best to implement the strategies and allow your baby the opportunity to have adequate sleep before you come to such a conclusion. In most cases, your baby will surprise you. And you’ll have your nights back! 🙂
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