We all need sleep, but babies sleep needs can vary enormously depending on their age, stage and maturity of the brain. Babies who are born pre-term can often sleep for long periods and the need for nourishment will also affect how long the baby will sleep.
Their are two states of sleep :
- Rapid eye movement (REM) – and this is known as active sleep as as the mind is processing events and experiences that have occured throughout the day. In a child under 12 months most of their sleep is REM.
- Non-rapid eye movement (NREM) – known as quiet sleep whereby the body is resting and restoring. This is where babys’ energy levels are restored and is vitally important to your babys’ health and wellbeing.
Why is sleep so important?
Relaxation : The central nervous system (CNS) needs time to rest. The brain continues in electrical activity even throughout sleep. This is measured with an EEG – electroencephalogram.
Recovery : The bodys’ muscles need time to recover as do the metabolic processes. During sleep growth hormones are released to renew tissues, red blood cells and aid bone production.
Encouraging good sleep patterns
- It is very important to encourage a good sleep routine for your baby. There are various ways that you can this :
- Throughout daytime when baby is awake talk and play to baby giving lots of stimulation
- When giving night-time feed don’t over excite baby, try to keep evrything very calm and soothing and follow a routine of feeding, changing and settling the baby into cot.
- Repeat routine each night and baby will feel secure.
- Give your baby time to settle in the cot alone as this will allow baby to learn to go to sleep. Babies often cry for a little while at the initial separation but soon settle. Check on baby after about 5 minutes and always stay within hearing distance.
How do I get bed-time routine?
Initially your baby will probably sleep in a cot next to your bed, but very soon it is safe to have baby sleeping safely in own room.
By around 3-5 months your baby may be mature enough to settle into a bed-time routine. You can adapt your routine as the baby develops.
Suggested routine :
- A bed-time bath or wash and dressed in comfortable nightwear.
- Allow baby to give goodnight hugs to family.
- Take baby to room and gently say ‘goodnight, it’s time for bed’.
- It is best to give last feed in the babys’ room where he is going to be settled.
- Rock baby gently in your arms and sing lullaby.
- Some babies find it comforting to be gently patted.
Following routine is very comforting for baby and will help them to feel secure. A tired child will soon settle if established routine is in place. This may also prevent stress to the parent if baby is familiar with a good routine.