WHY WON’T YOU JUST SLEEP?
You can’t wait to hit the sack, but your baby seems to have other ideas. ELISA CHIA gets expert tips on how you can help him to nod off.
You can’t wait to hit the sack, but your baby seems to have other ideas. Experts share how you can help him to nod off.
How much sleep does my newborn need?
DR PANG A newborn generally sleeps two to four hours at a time, adding up to about 18 hours a day. He wakes up hungry and needs to eat around the clock at ﬁrst, so night and day don’t matter much.
But they matter to me! How can I set his body clock?
DR PANG You can behave differently. During the day, talk to him more while you feed him. At night, be more subdued and quiet. Keep the lighting dim. Eventually, he will catch on and begin to sleep more at night.
But to sleep through the night? How soon that happens will vary according to the individual, as well as factors like age and circumstances.
Will my baby sleep better in a sarong?
DR TOH It’s quite normal for anybody to feel sleepy with movement. That’s what a sarong does. Even when a mum cradles her child, her rocking helps to calm and coax the little one to sleep.
But here’s the more important question: Is it safe? Your baby might fall out from the sarong and, in the worst scenario, fracture his skull.
Thankfully, the incidence of severe head injury has dropped signiﬁcantly because sarong sleeping is hardly practised now.
Should we tiptoe around our newborn to help him sleep longer?
DR KARP No, that’s a myth. Babies don’t like crashing and chaotic noises, but they desperately need rhythmic, rumbling noises when they’re asleep and upset. In the womb, they had that 24/7. When they get this white noise, they are much happier and better sleepers.
There are many CDs with recordings of womb sounds. You can get them from mobile apps, too – but a word of warning about smartphones: They release microwave radiation, so you should always put yours on airplane mode when you place it near your baby.
How do I teach him to soothe himself to sleep?
DR KARP I’d like to share one of my book’s key suggestions. I warn you, it may make you think I’ve lost my marbles. But humour me. It’s called wake-and-sleep.
Many sleep experts warn that mums who lull their babies to sleep in their arms or while suckling are setting themselves up for misery. They caution that babies soothed to sleep every night won’t learn to self-soothe and will be hooked on Mama’s help to sleep every time they wake up.
The advice sounds logical, but it puts parents in a terrible bind. Yes, rocking or nursing a baby to sleep every night will create a sleep cue he expects at every waking. But it’s impossible to keep him from zonking out when he’s being cradled with a stomach full of warm, sweet milk.
Besides, there is nothing more beautiful than rocking your precious, sleeping child in your arms. So, it feels wrong to tell parents and caregivers not to cuddle their babies to sleep. Yet, it will keep him from learning the skill of self-soothing.
So, what’s a mum to do? Luckily, there’s an easy solution to this puzzle. As your baby’s bedtime approaches:
- Turn on white noise (at the intensity of a soft shower).
- Give a full feeding with lots of delicious holding and rocking.
- When he ﬁnishes, swaddle and rock him as long as you want.
But… when you place him in the crib – swaddled and with the sound playing – jiggle him to wake him up a tiny bit. When you rouse your infant after a good feed, his little eyes will open for a second or two and then he will slide back into dreamland.
If he keeps fussing, pick him back up to calm him, but be sure to wake him a tiny bit again when you put him back down.
You’re probably thinking: “Are you out of your mind? There’s no way I’m going to wake my sleeping baby!” But, this is one of the most important tips I can teach you. Even a few seconds of drowsy waking will begin to teach your baby how to self-soothe.
Within a few weeks, you will get a huge reward: As long as he’s not hungry or uncomfortable, he’ll often be able to slide back into sleep on his own.
Can you hear that? My sweetie is snoring. He must be in deep sleep.
DR PANG No, no, no. Snoring is sign of sleep apnoea. This is when the child doesn’t get enough oxygen, which may lead to poor concentration, short attention span, hyperactivity disorders and even brain damage.
Check if his mouth is open while asleep – his nose passage may be blocked. Highlight this to his doctor.
Is it okay to bring Baby into our bed?
DR TOH As a paediatrician, I’ve never encouraged bed sharing. I was a medical ofﬁcer in the Accident and Emergency Department and, one night, a frantic father rushed a lifeless infant into the emergency room and begged us to revive the child.
The child never made it. It was a tragic story of the dad waking up and ﬁnding the infant pinned under him.
The health authorities and government bodies advising against bed sharing have sparked heated debate in recent years. Those who are in favour of this practice cite increasing success at breastfeeding, especially beyond six months.