Thursday, August 23, 2018

Sleeping Issues From Newborn to Tween

Getting a good night’s sleep is crucial for health at all stages of life. Insufficient good quality sleep can lead to mental and physical health problems, and even a few hours of lost sleep can make you cranky and tired. As with all aspects of childcare, kids will differ. Some children will sleep better than others right from the word go, and some seem to struggle to get to sleep and stay like it for more than a few hours at a time. When the teenage years roll around, the problem very often reverses, and you’re then struggling to get them out of bed! For younger children, there could be a variety of underlying factors as to why they aren’t getting the sleep they need.

Newborns and infants are the most notoriously difficult when it comes to sleeping for extended periods. There have been studies galore into why this should be so, with three factors coming out as the main causes.

·         Illness or discomfort: If the baby is crying or seems distressed, or is acting in any way out of the ordinary, you should consider whether they might be feeling unwell. They could be coming down with a virus like a cold, or it could be one of the common causes of discomfort and pain in infants such as colic or teething. Most of the time these are simple problems that can be home-medicated, but if the baby has a fever or becomes lethargic and hard to rouse, you should see a doctor. There are treatments for colic, acid reflux, and teething pain that are safe for babies, although sometimes it can be a case of trying each one until you find out which works! You can often get it right the first time if you make a note of every symptom they’re exhibiting and check it against a reputable medical source of information, like the WebMD Children’s Health Center website.

·         Hunger: Babies are best fed frequently throughout the day and night, as their systems are designed to be nourished this way. Some babies adapt well to a more rigid routine, and it’s possible to get them used to feeding on a less frequent basis. That means you are more likely to get a good night’s sleep, but on the other hand, many babies don’t adapt well and will grizzle and cry if not fed when they are hungry. It’s also amazing how much babies can consume! If you’re breastfeeding one of the worries frequently expressed is that you don’t know how much milk baby is drinking. If you’re concerned that baby might not be getting enough, the best approach is to feed them more often and use a breast-pump in between feeds. Doing so will increase the amount of milk you are producing so you can be confident you always have plenty for their needs. You can also supplement the breastmilk with formula, examples of which are detailed on websites such as Formuland.

·         Comfort: The psychological drives of babies are difficult to pin down precisely, due to the fact they have no way of communicating their feelings verbally. It’s also hard to conduct studies on babies due to the ethical issues involved, so the science behind the psychological needs of babies is far from complete. What is known is that physical contact is critically important for a baby’s development. If your infant is crying, they may simply need to be cuddled and comforted. Parents are often afraid that if they respond to a crying baby every time, the child will cry more often because it knows it is going to be picked up. The evidence doesn’t support this belief, in fact, babies who are always comforted when they cry seem to be less prone to this problem. The ultimate in close contact parenting is to keep the baby with you most of the time. Sharing a bed with baby is controversial, because of the risk of suffocation, but a bedside cot is a good compromise. Obviously, the demands of modern life may mean you can’t always be there for your baby, but trustworthy family members and friends, or professionals in child care will be just as effective in soothing a fretful baby.

Once your child starts to move about by themselves, they will be able to get out of bed and wander about, so your best bet is to use a cot or bed with extendable sides to keep them confined to quarters! Having a good bedtime routine will help prepare your toddler for sleep, and reading them a story once they are settled in bed will help them relax and drift off. If your little one persists in getting up and making a fuss, it’s time to be firm but kind. As long as they aren’t sick and there’s nothing wrong, they need to learn that bedtime is for sleep.

Older children
Nightmares and night terrors are the main problem for older kids. All children will dream, and some of those dreams may be nightmares, but they can become so real and terrifying that a child will wake up screaming and hysterical. They will need comforting and settling down to sleep again, which may take a while if they’ve been very distressed. Avoiding unsuitable TV programs, books, games, images, and conversations will help reduce the chances that nightmares will occur, but if they start to happen very regularly, it’s best to have a check-up in case there is an underlying cause. Bedwetting may accompany night terrors, or a child may just be experiencing trouble controlling their bladder overnight. Using sleeping underwear and waterproof bedding will help reduce the cleaning up, and you shouldn’t get mad at your child if they are taking longer to stay dry than their contemporaries. Again, if the problem persists, seek medical advice.

Every child will experience sleep disturbances of some kind as they grow up. Your role as their parent is to try and find the cause so you can address it, and be there to help them in any way you can to get the good night’s sleep they need.