In the article Demystifying your Baby’s Sleep, we conclude that, as a parent, we have a significant role to play in educating our baby about sleep.
You now know the sleep cycles of a baby under 1 year of age. I also spoke about the different methods to promote good sleep behaviours in your baby. Recognising fatigue in your small one and starting sleep rituals from a very young age are essential so they can develop confidence, a feeling of security in their environment.
In this article:
On peut dire qu’avant 4 mois de vie, un bébé se sécurisera au fur et à mesure de la routine que vous adopterez auprès de lui. Routine qui lui permettra de développer des associations saines pour s’endormir par lui‑même.
Sleep problems in babies from 4 to 12 months are mostly associated with three things:
- Baby association problems (10–30%);
- Baby self-regulation problems (ex.: neurological problems);
- Parents that intervene too much.
Parents, please remember that the baby learns to go to sleep using sleep routines and rituals that you develop. If they wake up at night, they will want to reproduce the same thing to go back to sleep. Considering this, if you feed your baby or rock them in your arms to go to sleep every night, they’ve learned this ritual, and if they wake up, they will expect the same thing. That’s logical, right?
If Dad gives them a bottle then rocks them to sleep and places them in their bed, the baby has learned that their sleep ritual includes Dad and a bottle. If these conditions change over time, they will be destabilised and will clearly and loudly show you their discontent. They will want to continue with the routine developed over time. They will not learn to fall asleep alone. Not when placing them in their bed or during the night when they wake up. They will continue to demand the parent’s presence, specifically their mother if they can breastfeed at the same time. You remember the latency phase in their sleep cycle, when sleep is very shallow where they are trying to restart it? They will need you to do it and will wake up to feel your presence before falling back to sleep.
You can see the importance of creating proper sleep habits in your baby early in life. It has nothing to do with the love, attention and devotion that you have for them—on the contrary!
Educational video from Marie
It is normal that a baby will still wake up at night between 4 and 12 months, but really, do they need to feed? That is the $60,000 question. A baby that is hungry sounds and cries differently, and you and only you can recognise your baby’s sound. At four months, many babies will still drink, but at 7 or 8? If you go and see them too quickly, they will not learn to go back to sleep and experience the next phase in their light sleep, which will be repeated many times during a night. They will demand your presence each time to fall back asleep and move on to their phase.
Don’t be surprised if sleep problems reappear in your baby during important events or transitions in their lives. Certain psychological factors can influence sleep habits in your baby, even physical factors. For example, if a baby brother or sister arrives, starting daycare, moving from one home to another.
After two or three weeks, a sustained sleep routine will allow them to return to a more stable daily life for sleep schedules your child is used to. Whatever your baby’s behaviour always expect about two weeks for adaptation. Your reaction as a parent will impact the speed in which they will adapt, as intervening at night repeatedly can lead to the reappearance of the baby’s dependency on you to go to sleep. This is a false association.
Frequently, a slight short-term health problem in a baby, such as an earache, cold or teething will lead to changes in the baby’s sleep habits. They may wake up at night, resist sleep, demand more of the parents’ presence. In these cases, you have to deal as much as possible with the baby’s symptoms by taking concrete actions. You can clear the airways with saline water and a nose pump, give them acetaminophen as required in case of fever, raise the head of their bed to improve their breathing.
Parents, be careful! Of course, you have to provide your baby with the necessary attention, but in moderation. A baby over four months will quickly understand that mom and dad are close, and it is comforting to see them at night, to be picked up and rocked. Don’t be surprised if they are more demanding at night, even if they have overcome their little infection. Once again, quickly return to the previous repeated routine, even if they object, as it will allow you to help them fall asleep alone again and develop the right sleep habits.
Putting the baby to sleep later at night will mean that they will sleep more in the morning. You should put your four to six-month-old to bed earlier, given they will take time to fall asleep by themselves.
Evaluation tools are available for baby sleep problems, but they are rare for the babies under 1 year of age I’m talking about here.
To better understand the reasons for which your baby is having difficulty sleeping, read the following article Separation Anxiety and Night Terrors.