New parents have a much to deal with when bringing their newborn home. From stress over nutrition, mental development, and socialization, parents have a great deal to learn very quickly. According to Science Writer, Annie Murphey Paul, babies begin learning in the womb and the sooner children begin developing a routine they quicker and more effective the learning will be. While many parents are focused more on their child’s education when examining these studies, they also apply very appropriately to the development of a healthy sleep schedule.
Sleep for newborns is a vital necessity. Even more, babies that develop a healthy sleep schedule at an early age are much more likely to maintain this healthy schedule throughout their lifetime. This could help prevent sleep disorders and deteriorating sleep habits that so often effect adults.
The Importance of Age and Sleep Schedule
Babies need a great deal of sleep from the time they are a newborn and steadily decreasing until they are about five years old. According to Parent Magazine, a newborn baby needs about 16 10 18 hours of sleep each day requiring nine hours of sleep each night and seven to nine smaller naps throughout the day. As the baby ages to about three months, they will require about 14 to 16 hours of sleep daily, with about ten hours of sleep each night and three naps each day. By the time the baby is six months old, hi s sleep will need have decreased to about fifteen hours each day, with ten hours of sleep nightly and two naps daily. At nine months, the sleep pattern will decrease to 14 hours daily, with three short naps. At about 18 months a baby will require 13 hour of sleep, a vast majority of which (about 12 hours) that should be attained at night and only a single nap during the day. This will remain constant until the child reaches about five at which children should stop taking daytime naps and get about 11 hours of sleep nightly.
Remember, all children develop at different speeds. If your child is a month or two ahead or behind the average schedule
The supplies needed for developing an healthy sleep routine are minimal. In fact, apart from time, there really aren’t many additional tools to buy. However, there are few purchases that can go on to make life much more simple for those the parents and the child. Developing a comfortable room, with a cool temperature and relaxing atmosphere will be a great help for helping soothe a child to sleep. Comfortable bedding, a mobile, low light, soft music and, depending on the time of year, a well-controlled and maintained temperature control.
There are also some important literature that could be of help when attempting to teach self-soothing or sleep training. Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems by Dr. Ferber, Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child by Dr. Weissbluth and No Cry Sleep Solution by Dr. Pantley are all great references that will help guide parents along the path to healthy and sleep filled nights for their children.
Tips on Encouraging Good Sleep Patterns by Age
Newborn babies sleep in an average two to four hour sleep interval, waking up to eat and then often returning to sleep. If your notice your newborn stirring often at night and seeming restless, there is no reason for worry. Because children this age cannot control their reflexes, it is common for them to twitch their legs, arms, face, and mouth during sleep. This will gradually decrease as the child ages.
One important note on starting a newborn into a sleep pattern is the fact that babies this age are not yet able to soothe themselves to sleep. This is a taught ability that the baby will pick up over time, however, there are ways to teach it early. For a child this young, however, parents will need to use outside aid to help the child fall asleep. These aids usually include, feeding, swaddling, rocking, or giving a pacifier. It is important to remember that a newborn needs help to fall asleep, cuddling a baby to help them sleep is not spoiling – its parenting.
Two to Four Months Old
This is the first time many parents will be able to return to a semblance of their previous sleep schedule. Babies at this age will begin to sleep for longer periods, ranging from about six to seven hour stretches each night. Even more, children this age will begin to settle into a routine nap schedule. It is very important to maintain consistency at this point, because changing schedules will often result in not only a cranky baby but also set back a child’s sleep pattern.
Babies at this age will also begin to require stimulation during their waking periods to help tire them out for their sleeping schedule. Be sure to put aside time to play with the child and exposing him/her to sunlight (while always using sunscreen) to help enforce a light versus darkness schedule. This being so, it is also very important not to overexcite the child after it get s dark, instead, create a calm time to help soothe them to sleep.
Four to Six Months of Age
This is the period that new parents dream of – the time when the nighttime feeding stop and children begin to sleep in full night stretches. In fact, by this age, is it is average for them to sleep up to 12 hours each night. Nearly 60 percent of all children got the entire night without needing care. It is important to note that all babies actually wake up during the night, often multiple times, but this is the age that children should be learning to sleep train, giving the ability to soothe themselves back to sleep with out outside aid.
Nine to Twelve Months of Age
This is a unique age for children and can actually provide a great deal of insight into the development of your child.
Suddenly, one night after months of sleepfilled nights, your child will begin waking up and crying again during the night. Even children that were successfully sleep trained seem to lose their ability to sleep a full night. This will baffle and worry many parent, making them worry for the growth of their child. However, this is completely natural. Your child has simply learned that even though he/she cannot physically see you, you are still near and you can hear him/her if they cry out. With this realization, children will begin to call out in the night, not for any need such as feeding or soothing, but instead simply because of separation anxiety.
There is nothing wrong with very briefly checking on a crying child, however, always keep visits very short and avoid ever holding or feeding them. This will set back their development. Instead, gently rub their back for few moments, reassure them you are there and then return to your room and allow them to self soothe.
One to Two Years of Age
This is the first appearance of the horrific bedtime struggles. Excitable toddlers are fat more interested in running and exploring than such trivial things like a healthy sleep schedule. Those once pristine nights turn quickly into tantrum filled battles with no winners. The best way to ease tension in these situations, is to keep things as calm and relaxing as possible in the evening and begin an early bedtime ritual.
This is also the age that children begin to outsmart their once reliable crib. As soon as a baby learns to escape their crib at night, there are very likely to seek out their parents to sleep with them. This is perhaps one of the most difficult habits for parents to break. Originally, it may not seem like such a bad thing to allow a young child to snuggle in the parental bed, however, it does create a co-sleeping situation that may grow less and less cute as the child ages
Two to Five Years of Age
The resistance to bedtime grows less at this age, but not by much. This is also the age that children begin to develop nightmares and have very successfully moved from a crib to a child’s bed. Fortunately, while night terrors seem like a horrible and frustrating thing to deal with in children, it often has a simple fix. By simply adding a nightlight to the child’s room, parents can circumvent night terrors and prevent the inevitable disturbances caused by them. It is very important to create and maintain strict sleep schedules and bedtime routines. Lay out well states and explained rules that are always enforced. This will prevent confusion that will result in lost sleep for the whole family.
Five years old and up
This is the point when adult sleep patterns become possible. Helping a five year old sleep is similar to helping an adult sleep. Create a completely sleep friendly room. Keep the area dark, quiet, cool and limit exposure to technology close to bedtime.
According to Dr. Jean Duffy from the Harvard Healthy Sleep Center, the state of late childhood is actually considered the prime of sleep potential during the average person’s lifetime. As a child ages beyond 11 or 12, their sleep abilities will decline. Ultimately, around seven out of ten adults will have trouble sleeping.
Do’s and Don’t for Establishing A Good Sleep Cycle
Always keep on a consistent and routine schedule, deviations will often result in a confused baby who will take much longer to develop into healthy sleep cycle.
Make sure the baby is always completely comfortable before putting them to bed. Ensure their sleeping space is completely ideal: clean and fresh diaper, warm atmosphere, dry bedding and an overall relaxing and comfortably atmosphere.
Start your nighttime routine with a warm and soothing bath. Not only will this help to relax the baby, but it will signify the start of bedtime.
Do not be easily discouraged. Sleep training is not an easy endeavor and parent’s that give in too early or too often will do nothing but confuse the baby.
Do not change the sleeping location. While it may be convenient to allow the baby to sleep at grandma’s from time to time, this can be very confusing for them. Try to maintain a stable and consistent location for at least the first few months.
According to Barbara Solomon, a writer for American Baby, recommends the Ferber method to help babies who are resistant to sleep training. The Ferber method was created by Dr. Richard Ferber, who authored the book, Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problem, a tell all guide to helping sleep train babies. Ultimately, the method advises parents to allow children to cry instead of continuously soothing. This, according to Dr. Ferber, will teach the baby to self soothe. The method using a technique of consistently decreasing the amount of time spent with the child a night, increasing the time between trips to the nursery by five minute increments.
It is difficult for some parents to deal with their child’s crying through large portions of the night, especially for parents who work in the morning or have nearby neighbors that could be disturbed. To lessen the crying (but ultimately extend the amount of time needed for sleep training) Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia doctor and author Dr. Jodi Mindell advises slight changes in a child’s schedule as to avoid some of the crying. For example if you spend two hours a night soothing the child to sleep, decrease it by ten minutes each night until the routine is simply putting the baby into the crib. This will seem like a much less severe routine change and will encourage self-soothing without the stress of the more expedited Ferber system.
Ultimately, sleep training depends completely on the baby’s preference. Some children will respond much better to a cold-turkey method while others will simply enrage. At the end of the day, attempting to sleep train will require some trial and error. However, if your child is not responding to a certain method, do not try to force it more than a few nights. If something is not working, it could ultimately just interfere with the child’s sleep schedule and delay sleep development.
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