Lullaby, say good night
Establishing a proper sleep routine is crucial to helping babies sleep CHARMAINE KHOO reports.
The birth of a baby, as joyous and exciting as it is for parents, can also signal the start of many sleepless nights for them.
"In the first three monthsof life, babies seldom sleep for more than four hours at a stretch without needing a feeding," said Associate Professor Daniel Goh, head and senior consultant of the department of paediatrics at
the University Children's Medical Institute at the National University Hospital.
"By three to six months, sleep is more settled and most babies are expected to sleep through the night with just one or two night wakings. Unfortunately many children do not achieve this."
Establishing a proper sleep routine is key in helping infants manage these problems.
"Developing a routine each night before bedtime helps an infant leam when bedtime is approaching," said Ms Kang Phaik Gaik, a senior parentcraft and lactation consultant at Mount Alvemia Hospital.
She said that dear signals should be given to an infant that the time for him to sleep is near. This includes bathing and massaging the baby, playing soft bedtime music and dimming the bedroom lights.
Singing lullabies and reading to the infant can also help.
"There are many methods parents can use for getting an infant to fall asleep Parents need to decide which method will work best for their infant and their parenting style," said Ms Kang.
Helping an infant develop self-soothing skills is important as well. This means that the baby learns to fall asleep on his own.
"Infants who are self-soothers are usually able to sleep easier and longer as compared to signallers - those who cry and need parental intervention for initial sleep onset and subsequent night-time arousals," said Associate
Professor Jenny Tang, deputy head of the department ofpaediatric medicine and the head and senior consultant of the respiratory medicine service at KK Women s and Children's Hospital.
Prof Goh said parents can encourage self soothing by exercising restraint in responding to the child's demands whether fussing or crying, and by avoiding night-time feeds after the baby turns six months.
Night time feeds may become a learned behaviour which can lead to more frequent and prolonged night wakings.
He added that parents should also refrain from rocking or patting the baby till he falls asleep as it encourages dependence on parental intervention.
Some infants may have difficulty distinguishing between night and day. This can cause them to sleep more in the day and stay awake at night.
Ensuring bright light exposure in the day and dimming the lights and lowering sound and other stimuli in the night will help the child establish the day-night differentiation said Prof Goh.
Instilling good sleep habits in babies is imperative as sleep is vital for their growth and development.
Said Prof Tang: "Sleep deprivation can impair a child s growth, cognitive abilities and lead to adverse influences on his or her temperament and behaviour."
Ms Kang said: "The quality and quantity of an infant s sleep affect the well-being of the infant and the entire family."
Is your baby having trouble sleeping? Here are some ways to help him.
Ensure that the baby eats well in the day
"Make sure the infant is getting enough to eat in the day. An infant who is not satisfied with daytime feeds will wake up hungry at night," said Ms Kang Phaik Gaik, Senior parentcraft and lactation consultant at Mount Alvernia Hospital.
The baby should be comfortable
Ms Kang said that the infant's diaper should be changed and he should be put into comfortable clothes before sleeping.
Make sure that the baby is relaxed
Avoid vigorous activities and excessive stimulation before bedtime. This includes physical activities, scary stories or television, said Associate Professor Daniel Goh, head and senior consultant of the department of paediatrics at the University Childfren's Medical Institude at the National University Hospital.
Create a suitable sleep enviroment
Noises that can wake a baby should be blocked out. This can be done by keeping the windows closed or playing consistent, gentle sounds like lubbabies. Dim the lights.
Set a fixed bedtime
This is adjusts a baby's body clock so that he sleeps at the proper times.