Sleep is important to everybody. When we sleep, we rest and gain energy for a new day. But sleep does more than that. When we dream, we also process all the events of our daily life.
After a night without enough sleep, people feel exhausted and irritable. But after a good night's sleep, people feel rested, refreshed and full of energy. Hardly surprising then, that it is so important to parents that their child sleeps through the night. It influences the entire family's life and wellbeing.
How much sleep does my child need?Sleep is important for a child's wellbeing.
At night, the body produces more of the hormone that stimulates growth. So sleep is important for your child's development as well.
Newborn babies sleep up to 16 hours per day. At first, they wake up every two or three hours to feed.
From four months old, babies often start to sleep for longer periods of time.
From six months old and up to one year, they often sleep five to six hours continuously.
Children between one year and five years old sleep up to 12 hours each day.
A pre-school child may still need to sleep 10 to 12 hours each day.
A schoolchild sleeps about 10 hours each day.
It is important to remember that each child's sleeping pattern is different. If a child is one year old and sleeps 10 hours each day, it is perfectly OK, as long as the child is happy and healthy.
Before parents start to worry about the amount of time their child sleeps, it is a good idea to look at the sleeping patterns of other family members as there is often a connection.
Help! My child wakes up every two hours !If you have a newborn baby, this is quite normal and is to be expected. A newborn baby often needs to eat every two or three hours. Your baby's sleeping periods will gradually increase little by little.
At the age of five months, there is no need to maintain nightly meals/feeding, even though many babies would like to. If you want to teach an older baby to sleep all night, teach it that nothing exciting happens during the night!
If the child wakes up in the night:
Don't turn the lights on
Try not to talk to the child or play with them.
If your baby needs to be changed, do so with as little fuss as possible.
Teach the child that they do not have to eat or drink to fall asleep and that they do not eat at night. This may sound a little harsh but it is the first step towards teaching the child that at night, people sleep! Parents should only do this of course, if they feel it is necessary and that it is the right thing to do for their child.
My baby cries persistently - should I let my baby cry itself to sleep?No. A child who cries persistently usually needs some attention. As soon as you enter the room your child feels safer. You may stroke their head and back, or tuck your baby up in the bedclothes. Make the baby feel you are there and they can safely go back to sleep.
A persistently crying child needs to be reassured that they are not alone in the world. This does not mean that you have to feed or entertain your child. Make sure the child is not ill.
How do I get my baby to sleep through the night?Firstly, the parents have to decide whether they are ready for this next step. If a child is between four and six months old, it will probably only take three or four nights to teach them to sleep through the night. If the child is older than six months, it may take a couple of weeks!
Being prepared for the task makes you less likely to give up after one night. You should also discuss this with your partner, so you both agree on your plan of action in order to support each other....and persevere!
Decide how you are going to divide the night between you. Go to bed when you have put the child to bed in order to be rested when the hard work begins. Agree on how you will define "morning". Will it be 6am, 7am or even later?
Each time the child wakes up during the night, start off by doing as little as possible. Stroke the child's head and back and tuck them in. Give the child their dummy if they use one.
This may help for an hour and then the child may wake up again.
Try the same thing again. If the baby does not go back to sleep, they may need their nappy changing. Try to do this without turning the lights on, or entertaining your child. After this, the child may sleep for another hour. If that does not work, now is the time to offer the child some water.
The water has two functions. It tells the child that we do not eat at night, but that we can have water if we are thirsty. If simply stroking and tucking in the child doesn't help, it might be a good idea to keep the pram next to the cot. Put the baby in the pram and push it back and forth for a little while. Repeat the above activities whenever the child wakes in the night.
Remember that the night is supposed to be boring for the child, so don't do anything that is likely to make them excited.
Can all children sleep through the night?Most children learn to do this fairly quickly, but some children may not be able to sleep through the night, no matter what their parents do. If parents are worried about their child not sleeping, they should ask their doctor or health visitor for advice.
Is my child ill?If you worry about your baby's sleeping patterns or have a feeling that something might be wrong with your child, talk to your doctor about it. Possible reasons for your child not being able to sleep throughout the night include urine infection, toothache, earache, colic, a cold or a cough.
Make sure nothing is wrong with your child before you start trying to change their habits.
General AdviceBedtime should be enjoyable for everybody. You can read a story, give the child a cuddle or a warm bath, etc. Develop a routine and stick to it. Never use bed as a punishment for your child when they have done something wrong. Put your child to bed before they get overtired. The child should feel good, both when it goes to bed and when it wakes up. It is OK if the child settles down slowly in the cot; it does not have to go to sleep immediately. Stroking the baby or rocking either a cradle or in your arms, will help to make them sleepy. Dim the lighting or turn the lights off when you put your child to bed.
Turn down the television, music and speak quietly.
Do not pick your baby up, if they cry, but stay with them. They should not cry themselves to sleep. Always comfort a crying child.
Letting your child sleep in your bed may start a habit, which can be difficult to break, but it is often an effective short-term method to help your child sleep.