Sleep is a huge topic when it comes to parenting and most parents experience challenges with their little one’s sleep at some point. Newborn sleep is a challenge of its own. It’s inevitable that when we have a newborn baby we experience unorganised sleep patterns, sleep disruption, regular night feeds and lots of support for baby to sleep. This is normal and part of the newborn process and what is often referred to as the “4th trimester”.
As babies get older, between 3-6 months of age, their sleep patterns begin to become more organised. Night time sleep is the first to organise, this is due to increased melatonin production beginning at around 3 months of age and a baby’s natural circadian rhythm beginning to take control. Following the organisation of night sleep comes nap organisation. The morning nap organises first, followed by the afternoon naps. Sleep organisation is part of your baby’s development, however, remember that all babies are unique and some consolidate their sleep sooner than others. Some babies also continue to take short naps and wake regularly in the night after the point of when they “should” have consolidated their sleep. It is not uncommon for parents with a baby 6 months or older to continue to experience challenges with sleep i.e. poor napping, waking all hours of the night, early rising and so on.
If you have a baby, toddler or an older child that isn’t sleeping well, what do you do and where do you start? The first considerations should be:
How old is your child? What are your expectations for their sleep? Are the expectations realistic for their age?
How much sleep on average should your child be having? Compare this to how much sleep they are actually having in a 24-hour period. Is there a vast difference?
Consider your child’s behaviours. Is your child showing signs that they are tired through their behaviours, mood or irritability?
Review your child’s foundations to sleep. Does your child have all of the foundations to sleep in place to be able to sleep adequately?
There are many elements that negatively impact sleep. In order to resolve your sleep challenges you must consider whether or not you have the strongest forces in place that impact sleep. If you have the strongest forces in place then you can rule them out as a cause of your little one’s sleep issues. Often there is more than one factor impacting sleep. I use a checklist-style approach in ruling out the causes of sleep problems.
When I talk about the foundations to sleep I am referring to many elements. The below list is an example of some of the foundations you can review to determine whether or not they are in place for your little one.
13 Foundations of Sleep
Does your child have an age appropriate sleep schedule? Are their awake lengths appropriate? Are they being put down to sleep at the right times?
Bedtime ritual and routine
Do you have one in place? Is it calming? Is it at a reasonable time?
Does your child have a sleep association? What is it? Does your child know how to sleep or return to sleep without this association?
Age-specific sleep requirements
What are they for your child vs. how much sleep your child is getting?
Diet, is it pro sleep?
Is your child having adequate amounts of activity?
Is your child exposed to healthy amounts of sunlight?
Family dynamics and support
Is there support to Mum / Dad or a caregiver?
How is the emotional wellbeing of the child and family?
Age and stage of development
Is your child going through any milestones, mental development, phases?
Were there any complications? Was it traumatic? Is there anything that could still be causing some disruptions/difficulties?
Are there any past or current medical issues that need to be considered?
Is it conducive to sleep? Review lightness/darkness, noise disturbances, temperature, SIDS safe.
Consideration of the sleep foundations is so important in looking at the full picture of your little one’s sleep habits. All children are different and their sleep issues appear for a variety of reasons. I believe it is not possible to address sleep challenges with a one-size-fits-all approach. By holistically addressing your child’s sleep and taking into consideration the foundations to sleep, you can identify the root causes of their sleep issues. It is important to resolve the root causes as opposed to focusing on the behaviour alone. Identifying and resolving the root causes of your child’s sleep issues will provide your family long-lasting results and will have you and your little one sleeping well.
Remember, having a child doesn’t mean you have to continue to be sleep deprived. Babies and children are capable of sleeping well. We are programmed to sleep and will sleep if given the tools and support needed for sleep (sleep foundations).
The Hush Co.
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