Many parents find it difficult getting their baby to sleep during the night. But, even though it’s common, it can impact on your health if it’s ongoing. “For some parents, night waking causes physical exhaustion, high levels of frustration and can contribute to maternal or paternal depression and stress,” says Julie Maddox, clinical nurse consultant at Tresillian Family Care Centres. “The parents’ lack of sleep can impact on their emotional and physical well-being and their ability to parent effectively in the daytime.” If you’re going through sleep issues with your infant, here are some Tresillian tips to try at home.
Look for the tired signs
Babies aren’t born with a day-night rhythm, so it takes time to develop their internal clock that controls their sleep cycle. As time goes on, your baby will need less help to settle to sleep – however, in the early weeks, new parents can easily misinterpret their baby’s cues. Julie says look out for these tired signs: “They might include facial grimacing, yawning, grizzling, frowning, sucking, staring, minimal movement or activity, turning their head away in jerky movements or becoming more active, clenching fists, rubbing eyes or squirming crying/fussiness,” she says.
Over-tiredness is a common cause
Young babies easily get overtired, which makes sleep even harder. As overtiredness is often due to over stimulation, try to create a calm, soothing atmosphere and minimise visitors just before sleep-time. “Responding quickly to your baby’s tired cues can stop the baby becoming overtired and distressed,” confirms Julie. “Over time, this helps the baby learn to self settle and prevents the baby getting into a state of distress that requires lots of effort to settle into sleep.”
The Tresillian routine
Almost half of the day-stay families at Tresillian ask nurses to help them set up a routine for their baby. This is structured around three main activities that happen regularly during the day – feeding, playing and sleeping. “After a feed or play, parents use a range of activities that signal to their baby that bedtime is approaching,” reveals Julie, explaining that these help the baby move into a drowsy state ready for sleep, and include giving baby a bath, reading a story, singing a soothing song, giving cuddles, saying certain phrases or giving a goodnight kiss.
Settling in arms
When it comes to settling a young baby, Tresillian’s mindset is that it’s normal for babies to fall asleep during or after a feed in the parents’ arms. “For infants aged nought to three months, the baby is held in the parent’s arms and falls asleep, with or without gentle rhythmic patting, rocking, stroking, talking, or softly singing prior to being put into the cot asleep,” she explains. “As the baby matures and the parent is ready, the parent moves to hands on settling.”
Hands-on settling in the cot
The next settling stage is suitable for babies from nought to six months of age and happens in the cot. “When the baby displays tired cues, the parent places the baby on their back in the cot awake and uses calming strategies such as gentle ssshhh sounds, rhythmic patting, or stroking until the baby is calm or asleep,” says Julie. She adds that if a baby starts crying, calming strategies are used until the baby is again calm. You might need to pick the baby up for a cuddle until calm, over time gradually reducing the comforting strategies.
Parental presence technique
If you’ve been co-sleeping with your baby, or if your infant has never slept in a cot, here’s a different Tresillian technique to try for babies over six months of age:
* The parent lies down near the cot within sight of the infant/child and pretends to be asleep
* If the baby wakes, the parent gives a little cough or quietly ‘ssshhh’s, time to sleep’ or rolls over signalling they are still in the room.
* If the baby remains distressed the parent responds with the minimal interaction required to calm their baby and then lies down and pretends to sleep again.
* The parent stays in the room until the baby is asleep during the day and sleeps in the same room as the infant throughout the night.
* This continues for at least one week and until the infant has three consecutive nights of relatively uninterrupted sleep, whereupon the parent will begin to leave the room before the baby is asleep.
No need for controlled crying
With controlled crying a contentious issue amongst parents, you might be pleased to hear that it’s not an approach used by Tresillian. “Tresillian does not endorse controlled crying or sleep training methods,” confirms Julie. “Tresillian’s strategies are based on working in partnership with parents, encouraging them to listen and respond sensitively to their baby’s cues, rather than focusing on the number of minutes the baby is left crying.”
Tresillian Do’s and Don’ts
Always keep these Tresillian safe sleep practices in mind (based on recommendations from the recognised national authority SIDS & Kids).
* Ensure that baby is positioned on the back with the feet at the bottom of the cot
* Sleep baby with face uncovered
* Avoid exposing baby to cigarette or tobacco smoke
* Sleep baby in a cot that meets the Australian Standards
* Use a firm, clean mattress that fits snugly in the cot
* Tuck in bedclothes firmly to prevent it from riding up covering babies head during sleep.
* Keep quilts, doonas, duvets, pillows and cot bumpers out of the cot
Pick up the phone
If you are having difficulties settling your baby, Tresillian has a 24-hour telephone helpline, which enables you to speak to a qualified child and family health nurse. “In 2009, 78% of calls from parents seeking assistance related to sleep and settling issues of their baby,” says Julie. Call (02) 9787 0855 or 1800 637 357 freecall outside Sydney and within NSW.
All credit for this post goes to http://www.kidspot.com.au/Baby-Baby-sleep-What-they-teach-at-Tresilian