By Dr Mike Marinus, dad to Megan and James plus a Chiropractor in Blairgowrie with a special interest in family practice and paediatric care. Click here to hear his podcast. This is the 8th in our series on babies by Dr Marinus. Find his other articles here.
“You are the best mother your child has ever had. Your best is good enough for your child.” – Una Van Staden.
I sat down with Sleep Coach Una Van Staden from Pikanini baby and picked her brain about how best to get our little ones into good sleep routines.
Sleep habits and issues tend to go far beyond the mechanics of just falling asleep and so we need to look deeper into things like our child’s routine, diet and amount of stimulation they get during the day.
Keep a log
The first step is to start keeping a day and evening log of your baby’s sleep. You will be surprised to find that they sleep way more than you think they do even though it doesn’t feel that way. As adults we are used to getting an uninterrupted 7 to 8 hours of sleep to feel well rested so we assume they must be suffering the way we are but for babies it’s not broken sleep, it’s just how they work.
Everyone needs to work together
When you are working towards a good sleep routine, it’s not just your baby that needs to be focused on. Everyone involved from siblings to nannies must be on board with turning your home environment into a peaceful, sleep conducive space for it to work. It’s important that everyone be on the same page and use the same methods to put baby to sleep so that we don’t end up with confused babies and frustrated caregivers.
No less than 45 minutes or more than 3 hours
Anything more than 3 hours and they begin to mix up their days and nights but… they do need some time to process all the new information they come across and sleep is the time to do it. Anything less than 45 minutes and they can’t process effectively. Now it doesn’t matter if they get five 45 minute sleeps or two 3 hour sleeps as long as they are not awake for too long in between.
Too much awake-time increases stress
Babies can only stay awake for a certain amount of time before their stress levels kick in. A 6 week old baby cannot be awake for more than 1 hour before he starts pumping adrenaline into his system to keep him awake. This means that if baby woke at 6am, he needs to be fed, burped, have had nappy changed, stimulated and made drowsy and asleep again by 7am. Now that seems almost impossible but remember that babies don’t need to feed every time before they go to sleep.
Signs that babies are overtired are: rubbing eyes, losing eye contact, pushing you away and covering ears with their hands. They are saying they have had enough information and need time to process it. If these signs become elevated we have missed the cues and our babies become distressed. If you miss the cues (like we all do from time to time) take baby into a quiet room and give him sensory input like calm singing, humming and deep pressure.
Having a soft piece of fabric which is used ONLY at sleep time can become a sleep signal and association for your baby. You can even put some breastmilk on it to make it smell more like mom. It is important though to only use this ‘taglet’ for sleep time otherwise the magical sleep association will be broken.
Combine bath and bedtime routines.
It should not take longer than 45 minutes from bath to bed because the warm water releases the feel good hormone melatonin but the effect is lost after 45 minutes. Baby should stay in the bedroom areas and not be exposed to the hustle and bustle of the rest of the house. Wait for dad to come home before you bath so that baby and he can have stimulating playtime before the routine of bath and then bed begins.
Click here to find companies that help you get your baby to sleep.