Notes on Parenting

Insights for parenting babies, toddlers, teens, and young adults.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

How To Handle Infant Nighttime Wakings

Healthy individuals go through periods of deep and light sleep. According to the University of Michigan, babies have a lot more light sleep cycles than adults do. An entire sleep cycle for an infant, including both deep and light sleep, is sometimes less than an hour. This leads to babies waking up at the slightest sound or discomfort.

Moms and dads often have a hard time coping with a new baby’s sleep cycle. Fortunately, experts study this subject on a regular basis. Here are a few tips on how to maximize your sleep and raise baby to be a healthy child.

Putting Baby Back to Sleep

Some babies put themselves back to sleep with no help from mom or dad. Most others require a diaper change, feeding, or just a soothing presence. If the baby wakes because she wants to be fed, feed her with a bottle or breast, and then put her back to sleep. Never give a baby a bottle to suck on during the night, unless its water. Registered Nurse Kyla Boyse points out that drinking milk or juice throughout the night leads to baby bottle tooth decay.

In addition to the above, here are other tips that might help put your baby back to sleep.

  • When putting baby back to sleep, make sure he is dressed in light sleepwear. In addition to making him uncomfortable during the night, heavy sleepwear increases the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
  • If the baby is older than 1 month, consider giving him a pacifier. A baby with a pacifier can sometimes sooth himself to sleep.
  • Some health care providers advise parents to occasionally ignore a baby’s cry when he wakes. The general idea is that the baby learns to sooth himself and not rely on mom and dad. Ask your baby’s doctor what is best for your family.
  • If an infant needs to be changed or fed during the night, do so. Then, place the baby into the crib on his back. Again, this reduces the risk of death. Some parents worry about the baby choking, but the truth is that infants can swallow quite well on their backs.
  • Don’t put baby back to sleep just because he woke earlier than expected. Contrary to popular belief, babies don’t sleep later when put to bed earlier in the evening. In addition, they usually don’t sleep later if put down when overtired. In these cases, the baby loses precious sleep time.

Taking Turns Handling Baby

New parents can take turns by rotating who gets up when baby needs tending. Dads can sooth babies back to sleep just as well as moms. William Sears, MD of says dad can rest the baby’s head against his neck. The deep voice of a male helps lull the baby back to sleep.

Giving Baby Familiar Toys

In general, babies under six months of age should have an empty crib to minimize the risk of suffocation. Older babies may have a security blanket to relieve separation anxiety and help them fall back asleep. A favorite toy or book to keep them occupied and happy is also okay. Too many toys is distracting for babies, though, and should be avoided.

Making Baby Stay Asleep

Jonathan L. Gelfand, MD of WebMD says infants sleep for two to four hours at a time. They can sleep for up to 18 hours a day, with no regard to schedules until they’re older. Even babies of up to four months old can sleep for 15 hours a day in short naps. A freshly diapered, well-fed baby sleeps longer than one who is not.

In addition, parents should not feed a baby solid food until she is six months or older. In most cases, babies younger than six months cannot properly digest solid food. Solid food can give a baby painful stomach aches as her body works hard to do a job it is not prepared to do. This often leads to the baby sleeping less than she normally would.

In conclusion, an important part of handling nighttime wakings is 'fixing the problem'. However, even the most content baby wakes up several times a night. When you’re stressed out and exhausted, know that all babies eventually fall into a schedule, with some help from you!

Related Articles of Interest:

University of Michigan Health System: Sleep Problems

WebMD: How Much Sleep Do Children Need?:

AskDrSears: 31 Ways to Get Your Baby to Sleep and Stay Asleep Easier

National Institutes of Child Health & Human Development: Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)

This guest post was contributed by Daniela Baker. Daniela is a mother of two and blogger at CreditDonkey.

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