Sleep Problems in Infants

see also Sleep Problems, Sleep Problems During Pregnancy, Sleep Problems in Children

Generally speaking, newborn babies spend most of their time sleeping or dozing, waking only for feeds, nappy changes, and cuddles. By end of first year, most babies are awake for 8 hours out of 24, although they may spend 2-3 hours sleeping during the day; by the time they are seven to ten months old most babies, and their parents, sleep through the night without waking. Ideally, a baby should be allowed to sleep whenever he or she is tired, wherever that happens to be; a certain amount of background noise is no bad thing.

Most night-time sleep problems in babies under six months old are caused by hunger, so first resort should be the breast or the bottle. If this does not have a sedative effect, problem may be wind or a dirty nappy; winding baby or changing nappy usually does the trick. Discomfort of Colic or Nappy Rash, or running a temperature, can also cause night-time grizzling. In the long run, taking baby back to bed with you, or giving too many cuddles in middle of night, may create more problems than it solves.

Occasionally babies wake in middle of night because they have kicked all their bedclothes off and feel cold; a sleeping bag or sleeping suit usually solves the problem.

Once need for night-feeding stops, around age of seven to ten months, baby should sleep through the night; if he or she starts crying, don't immediately rush in to give reassurance; he or she will probably go back to sleep within a few minutes. If attention is always given on demand, baby may start to exploit the situation! That said, changes in routine can be very upsetting to babies, and at such times they genuinely need extra cuddling and reassurance.

Specific remedies to be given every 30 minutes starting 1 hour before baby's bedtime and every 30 minutes if baby wakes; 10 doses is maximum

  • If baby has had a shock or a fright Aconite 30c
  • Baby irritable and impossible to please, only stops crying when picked up and carried around Chamomilla 30c
  • Baby too excited or overwrought to sleep Coffea 30c
  • Baby who wakes crying around 4 am and refuses to be pacified Nux 30c

Self-help: Make sure baby's room is warm, but not too warm (around 20°C [68°F is about right), and relatively quiet.

Baby should be woken up and given a late-night feed when parents go to bed. If baby wakes up hungry in middle of night, feed him or her immediately - if you are bottle-feeding, have everything ready you are likely to need. Give a proper feed, not water, as water will only temporarily allay hunger. If you find it difficult to get back to sleep, drink some chamomile tea - keep a thermos of it next to the bed. If you and your partner can take turns night-feeding, so much the better.

If sleepless nights are really getting you down, and baby is over 12 weeks old and going about 5 hours between feeds during the day, it may be worth leaving baby to cry for about 20 minutes before you take action; hunger crying is likely to continue, but habit crying will probably stop.

If baby sleeps through the night but wakes very early, best thing to do is change nappy and give him or her some toys to play with, while you go back to sleep for an hour or two. You could also try adjusting baby's internal 'clock' by making bedtime 15 minutes later each night until he or she wakes at a civilized hour.

Babies are very conservative and like to have a routine, so try to keep things in the same sequence and at roughly the same times each day. Avoid over-excitement in hour or so before baby's bedtime. Have toys and mobiles nearby.

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Ailment & Diseases

  Nappy Rash
  Sleep Problems
  Sleep Problems During Pregnancy
  Sleep Problems in Children
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Related to Problems in Infants
  National Deaf Children's Society
  Foundation for the Study of Infant Deaths (FSID)
  La Leche League Great Britain
  National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC)
  Cry-sis Helpline
  National Asthma Campaign

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