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Like most people, there are some things that I used to take for granted; that was until I had my little one – Shona. Things like a good night’s sleep, eating the right food, planning for contingencies – I had never given much thought to them. Shona’s arrival changed all of that; I started truly appreciating the importance of all of these a lot more than earlier.
During the early days after her birth, Shona used to wake up multiple times in the night; often within an hour of having slept – either because she was hungry or she had pooped/peed or she just wanted to be held snugly. Acclimatizing to life outside the womb is overwhelming for babies and can often make them wake up crying. What worked really well in soothing and calming Shona at such times was holding her close; speaking or singing softly to her. We created a cozy nest effect in her bed so that she felt safe and secure. To deal with frequent peeing, we used diapers with wetness indicators, which helped us gauge when to change and helped Shona sleep longer.
When Shona was about 1 month old, she started sleeping for 3-4 hours at a stretch. This got me worried about whether she was getting enough feeds. And so I woke her up for a feed every two hours, but this upset her and brought about a crying spell every time. So we checked with her paediatrician about it and she advised us that it wasn’t necessary to wake her up for feeds at night as long as she was gaining weight normally and growing well. She explained us that sleeping well was quite important for her as the human growth hormone is produced during sleep. So I stopped waking her up and we all were able to enjoy a few hours of uninterrupted sleep every night.
Tips for new parents: Below are some things that worked well for us and helped Shona settle into a good sleep routine:
- Follow a consistent sleep routine – sponge and change baby’s clothes at bedtime.
- Retire to the bedroom at a consistent time every night as far as possible.
- Talk to the baby - tell her that it is time to sleep.
- Watch baby’s cues – rubbing ears or eyes, redness below the eyes and crankiness are some signals that the baby is sleepy;
- Do not play with baby when she wakes up in the middle of the night.
By the time Shona was 4 months old she was able to sleep 4-6 hours at a stretch at night. We were pleasantly surprised with this; but having read about baby sleep patterns thereafter, we realized it wasn’t so surprising at all. It is quite normal that a lot of babies are able to sleep through the night by the time they are 6 months old. This wasn’t the end of sleepless nights for us though, her bedtime started pretty early and by the time we hit bed she was halfway through her nap. Then there were periods of sleep regression brought about by developmental milestones and quite a few rough nights caused by illness or teething.
When Shona started having solids, she extended her night-time sleep further to 8 hours at a stretch. But the true nirvana moment came for us just when Shona turned 1; she then started sleeping for 10 hours a stretch and dropped all night time feeds. Finally, all three of us were able to sleep through the night. I must admit that this has been one of the biggest factors in making me feel more like my original self.
Tips for new parents: As with all things, the right start can make a lot of difference. Babies observe a lot and if you make it a point to follow a good routine yourself, baby will follow in your steps:
- Start early - if you wish to make the baby sleep in the cot/crib, starting early makes it easy for your baby to accept the routine;
- Take baby out for a stroll in the evening, the motion helps baby relax and fall asleep quicker;
- Don’t over-stimulate baby when she is sleepy, this will make it harder for her to sleep and make her crankier;
- Do not put too many distractions around baby’s sleep area;
- Comfort baby and hold her close when she is upset or unwell;
- Make sure that you do not encourage habits which makes baby dependent on you to fall asleep.
Enjoy the sleepless nights too - mommies and daddies, they won’t last forever. You will have tons of fun stories to tell your children from these early years and these experiences you share with them will last you a lifetime. Parenting is a fun journey and if you make the right choices from the beginning you will have fewer things to remedy later. Happy parenting!
Watch the adorable little girl giggle as her mother talks about her sleep troubles. This is one cute video you must watch as the Parents share how much ‘research’ they did and how it helped them.
Kriti talks about her baby sleep struggles
Image Courtesy: kiddohut.com