Friday, September 23, 2011

Healthy Sleep Patterns...Happy Baby!

Healthy Sleep Patterns...Happy Baby!

After three or four months, parenting practices on sleep can influence sleep duration which in turn influences behavior. The goal is to recognize your baby’s sleep needs and do your best not to interfere with their sleep patterns. Before four months, your baby won’t have a consistent sleep schedule nor should we expect them to. After four months, parents are able to influence sleep duration which is especially important for older infants and toddlers. Infants and toddlers who sleep longer during the day have longer attention spans and are better able to learn from their environment.

Naps actually can help your child stay more alert and ready to learn during the day. Morning naps are a lighter sleep then afternoon naps. Also, short naps are better then no nap. Between fifteen and twenty-one months, your child may change to having one nap per day, making it important to have an earlier bedtime. In earlier months, however, early bedtimes should not replace nap times. Skipping nap times continually can lead to sleep deprivation making it difficult to get back on track.

Continuous and uninterrupted sleep is important at night and during the day. If your child is continually awakened from a slumber, daytime sleepiness increases and performance decreases. Sleep fragmentation ( interrupted sleep) can occur when parents rely on “motion” sleep such as in a baby swing or carrier, or when they are allowed naps in the stroller. Holding your dozing child in your arms, in a rocking chair during the day also interrupts sleep. The effects of this is called “night waking” , which describes when your child has a difficult time falling asleep without help. Stationary sleep is most effective.

Sleep is “food” for the brain. Just as you would stop what you are doing and find a quiet place to feed your baby while being careful not to force your baby to eat when it is not hungry you would take the time and effort needed to prevent “sleep-starvation” for your child. 

Helpful tips for a healthy sleeper from Dr. Weisbluth (For children four to twelve months
  1. Natural wake up time, usually around 7 a.m.
  2. Short interval of wakefulness before first nap.
  3. Consistent soothe-to-sleep method for midmorning nap, around 9 a.m.
  4. Limited nap duration to protect next nap.
  5. No snoozing during periods of wakefulness if midmorning nap is not taken (helps keep biological wake mode stay balanced).
  6. Consistent soothe-to-sleep method for early afternoon nap, around 1 p.m.
  7. Limited nap duration to protect bedtime.
  8. Variable third nap; you be the judge (but no third nap after nine months of age).
  9. Early bedtime (time varies based upon how your child appears, the quality of naps, and past performance) with regular soothing routine.
  10. No more than two feedings at night up to nine months of age.

* This post was adapted from Dr. Weisbluth's article Healthy Sleep Patterns

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