Those who haven't had babies to look after may not understand a mother complaining about her child's sleeping habits. But the rest of us know how difficult it can get with a baby who just won't sleep at night, a toddler who still wakes up five times a night, and a preschooler who won't sleep in his own room because of the blue monsters.
Every age and stage brings with it a unique set of sleep problems, and it may be four to five years after you deliver the baby that you can count on getting a complete undisturbed eight hours of sleep. However, it is exactly the time most couples go for baby no. 2, and that means another round of sleepless nights . It is, therefore, of paramount importance that you instill good sleeping habits in your baby as soon as you can, so that both the baby and you are rested and ready for a fresh day of feeding and changing, plays and giggles.
First of all, it is important for parents to understand that sleeping off is not an easy task for a baby. It is not a natural instinct like sucking or breathing that come pre-programmed with birth. Of course, it is a natural need, but it still is a skill that needs to be taught to the baby. Sleeping peacefully requires a lot of trust, and the infant has to believe that world will still be okay once he wakes up. Mom and Dad won't disappear like the cute rattle that he lost a moment back. (Okay, It's still under the blanket, but what does a baby know?). The fist couple of months outside the womb are used up just to get accustomed to the hostile environment called world. So a newborn baby pretty much just eats, poops, and sleeps. I sometimes think these are the most relaxed period of parenthood. But once your little baby turns two months old, it is time to start her training in good sleeping habits.
Start with searching for your and your partners preferences' about baby's night time. Would you like her to co-sleep? Will you prefer her in a separate bed in your own room. Will you want her to sleep in her own room by herself ? Think of these with a long term perspective : Cuddling and rocking your angel to sleep one night may feel heavenly, but doing it 365 night in a row is another matter. Consider also, your and your partners energy levels, need of privacy and togetherness, and your baby's own preferences. Whatever you two decide, now is the right time to implement it. At such a tender age, your baby would learn whatever you teach her, and a less involved kind of parenting is the best long term way for both the parent and the child. It might take a week or two of training, but consider the enormous benefits. If you spend 30 to 45 minutes everyday carrying, cuddling and cajoling her to sleep, imagine the amount of time and energy you would save if she learns to sleep by herself!
Carefully monitor your child through out the day for his sleep patterns. As soon as his energy levels dip and he starts feeling drowsy, put him in for sleep to his crib or bed. Stay there, console him if he cries, pat him, even carry him back if he is very upset. But as soon as he is drowsy again, put him back to bed. Avoid rocking him to sleep. After a few difficult sessions, the baby would soon get the idea that crib or bed is for sleeping. It is amazing how fast these little ones adapt, only if we grown-ups would let them!!
If you have already missed this window of opportunity, and your child has now established a different, and difficult sleeping behavior, you might still have troubles, like the ones enumerated in the beginning. But we shall discuss those in a different article. You must, never, underestimate the importance of sleep : A good night's sleep is absolutely essential for the baby, but more so for the caregiver, because a day waits just beyond the night, and so much needs to be done.