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Healthy Sleep — For Parents and Babies

Last updated: November 3, 2020

The earlier we start trying to instill good habits into our babies, the better and more successful we’re going to be in the future when it comes to developing good sleep patterns.

Dr. Sneha Subbarayan, Pediatrician, ThedaCare Physicians Pediatrics-Neenah

For parents, bringing home a new baby can be a wonderful experience. It’s also a time when their routines change drastically. This often includes the loss of a good night’s sleep.

Fear not. It’s possible to help infants learn a reasonable sleep routine that benefits both the baby and the parents, says Dr. Sneha Subbarayan, a Pediatrician at ThedaCare Physicans Pediatrics-Neenah. She recommends these steps.

Encourage Independence Early

“You should always do what’s best for you and your baby,” Dr. Subbarayan says. “The earlier we start trying to instill good habits into our babies, the better and more successful we’re going to be in the future when it comes to developing good sleep patterns.”

While some parents want to hold their babies as much as possible, Dr. Subbarayan recommends putting the infant down while they sleep. This helps babies learn how to sleep on their own and gives parents a much-needed break.

Babies generally have a 90-minute sleep cycle. During this, they’re ready to go back to sleep after about an hour and a half of waking time. Keeping track of it helps babies maintain their natural circadian rhythm and extends their sleep cycle through the night.

“As they get older, you can wean that down. You don’t need a one-year-old to be sleeping every hour and a half,” Dr. Subbarayan says. “They will gradually begin to stay awake for longer periods of time.”

Separate Feeding Time

Dr. Subbarayan also recommends separating feeding from sleep so that babies don’t associate the two. Instead, parents can help babies get drowsy by rocking or swaddling. Then put baby down before he or she falls asleep completely.

“That teaches them they can fall asleep on their own, without having to be held and rocked. As they get older, sleep training becomes a little bit easier,” she says. “They will already understand how to fall asleep on their own, without the help of a caregiver.”

Get All Caregivers On Board

One of the more difficult hurdles with sleep training is getting families on board with the plan. Loved ones such as grandparents might not have done things the same way.

“Babies thrive on structure and routine,” Dr. Subbarayan says. “If you change what they’re doing, it’s hard for them to learn consistency. Stays with grandparents or other caregivers can disrupt routines. I recommend setting clear expectations with other caregivers when it comes to the amount of sleep and how the baby falls asleep”

Practice Safe Sleep Habits

Pediatricians recommend that babies sleep on their backs to help prevent Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Infants also should not sleep with pillows, toys. or blankets (except for tight swaddling) because of the danger of suffocation. Babies should sleep in a darkened room in their own crib or bassinet, not in a regular bed, couch, or with other people.

For toddlers, accessories such as pacifiers and blankets can creaet a dependency on these items at sleep time. Parents may then end up having to search for the items or pick them up when they’re tossed from the crib or bed.

Consider Other Factors

When a baby struggles to learn the sleep routine or cries excessively, it may signal other problems such as acid reflux or colic. Parents should consult with their pediatrician or family medicine provider to help address those concerns.

Parents also should remember that even under normal circumstances, establishing a routine for their newborn can be tough, but it’s worth it.

“Parents should give their babies time to learn, and to know that ultimately it will give everyone more rest,” Dr. Subbarayan says. “Don’t forget, you have to take care of yourself as well. Then you’ll be in the best position to take care of your precious littles ones.”

Contact your ThedaCare pediatrician for more tips on how to establish a routine and navigate parenting challenges.

Tags: newborns parenting sleep training

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