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All about sleep

​​​​​​​​​​ The infant and the older child often require help from their parents to learn how to go to sleep and return to sleep. Most new behaviours take time to establish and it can vary for each individual child. Newborns will often wake frequently for feeds, feeding up to 12 times per day and sleep for 1-3 hours.

Whereas the older infant may feed 3 – 4 hourly with the first block of sleep at night up to six hours, then may wake more frequently the rest of the night.

The early weeks as a parent may feel challenging, as it can seem that there is no pattern to your baby's behaviour. However, the more time you spend getting to know your baby's cry, tired signs and hunger signs the easier it will become to soothe your baby as well as helping your infant to feel safe and secure, and as they grow, are better able to manage their emotions.

The older child may still require help to settle to sleep but the strategies you use will be different to helping an infant sleep. Your child and family health nurse can assist you with strategies to help your child learn to sleep.

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Healthy sleep for kids​

 When can I start to help my baby learn to sleep?

All babies need help learning to sleep. Some will become great sleepers while others may take some time before achieving good sleep habits. A number of factors can determine when an infant is ready to learn to sleep.

These factors are:

  • The age and size of the infant
  • How loved and secure the infant feels
  • Whether the infant is ready to learn to sleep

A newborn may sleep for short periods only given their small stomachs. However, as your baby grows and their stomach becomes bigger, they can hold more food to sustain them for longer sleep periods.

It is not recommended to try to feed baby more than they want to take, as this will make baby feel very full in the stomach making it difficult for them to settle to sleep. As a parent if you spend time getting to know your baby, being there for them when they cry, your infant will learn that they are protected and loved by you and will learn to trust and feel secure. As they grow and develop, they will be less likely to cry for long periods and be more easily soothed by their parent.

Sleep and feeding


 

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In a 24 hour cycle babies will have periods where they feed frequently, periods of wakefulness and may have longer sleep cycles.

Baby's are very good at regulating how much breastmilk they take.The length of each breastfeed will vary over the 24 hour cycle. A baby with a very full in the stomach may find it difficult to settle to sleep.

As a parent spending time getting to know your baby and being there for them when they cry, your infant will learn that they are protected and loved by you and will learn to trust and feel secure. As they grow and develop, they will be less likely to cry for long periods and be more easily soothed by their parent.

Sleep and child development


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​Baby’s find it difficult to self-settle to sleep before 12 weeks of age and rely on their parents to look and listen for their tired signs, as they are not always able to fall asleep without the support of their family.

Sleep is as much about development as it is the environment baby sleeps in. During the first year of baby’s life, parents will need to help baby learn to sleep and return to sleep. We all learn differently, some baby’s may take longer to learn to sleep than others. However over time as baby's develop they will eventually learn to sleep.

 How do I know my baby is ready to go to sleep?

​Everyone has tired signs, for adults it is generally yawning, while for infants and children the need for sleep is linked to the change in their behaviour. For the infant under 6 months of age, they will show tired signs such as: jerky arm or leg movements, tight fists, frowning or staring, sucking fingers, rubbing eyes and having difficulty focusing.

The older infant/child will tend to be irritable, easily upset not really knowing what they want. They will show signs such as rubbing eyes or yawning, not wanting to play with their toys and become clumsy in their movements.

Once you the parent have seen your baby’s tired signs these then are the cues for you to start settling baby/child to sleep. How you help teach your child to learn to sleep will depend on their age

If your infant/child is finding it difficult to go to sleep, please contact your child and family health nurse who be able to support and guide you through helping your baby learn to sleep.

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 How long should my baby sleep for?

Adults and babies have different sleep cycles. An adult may wake briefly a number of times through the night returning to sleep without even knowing they had woken. However, babies up until 12 months of age, have a sleep cycle where they lighten their sleep every 40 minutes. During the lighter sleep periods they will wake more easily.

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Parents may be able to help their baby return to sleep by having a darken room and gently patting and shushing their baby back to sleep. It can sometimes be difficult for your baby to join their sleep cycles together, and at this time, they will need their parent to hold and cuddle them so they don’t become overtired. ​​