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Sleep Training: More shut eye for you all!

Written by Jacqui Flint

Bringing a newborn home for the first time can be very daunting and also overwhelming. There are so many books that parents can read, there is also the Internet you can browse, and then of course there are family and friends who are all too eager to give advice.

What you will find is that all that advice is contradicted by other advice, and this can lead to total confusion, leaving you not knowing what to do and, more often than not, a parent lands up doing nothing!

The best piece of advice I can give you is to listen to your natural intuition because no one but you has to live with your baby, and no one else knows your baby as well as you do.

Remember, what worked for your sister/mom/friend/colleague may not work for you, and that is okay because it boils down to “different strokes for different folks”.

Start off the way you want to end off:

- Your baby must learn to sleep through household noises. No turning off the TV, unplugging the phone and whispering. Think further down the line: you want to be able to have your friends over for dinner and if it becomes a late, rowdy night it won’t interrupt your baby’s sleep.

- Your baby should learn to fall asleep unassisted so that he isn’t reliant on the bottle, breast, rocking etc, in order to fall asleep. When your baby is a newborn and only weighs 3.5kg, there is nothing cuter than having him fall asleep in your arms. It’s when he is 9 months old, weighing 12kg and he still has to be rocked in order to fall asleep that it isn’t cute any more.

- Your baby must feel secure enough in his relationship with his parents that if you aren’t there he is okay with that. For example, you want to be able to go out on a date night and have someone babysit him and know that the babysitter won’t battle to put him to sleep and neither will you receive a frantic phone call at 10pm to say he is still awake, please come home.

Things to be aware of:

If a baby needs a milk feed in order to fall asleep the following could happen:
- He never learns to fall asleep unassisted.
- Milk has sugar in it, so when he cuts teeth that sugar stays on his teeth and could cause tooth decay.
- When it is time to potty train (from 2 years of age), and you shouldn’t give him anything to drink 45 minutes before a day nap and 45 minutes before bed time, how will he fall asleep if he relies on his bottle?

Your baby should be on an age-appropriate day-time routine.
- Remember, the success of your baby’s night is dependent on how successful his day-time has been. If he hasn’t had his full kilojoule intake during the day you can expect him to wake hungry at night, and if he doesn’t sleep enough during the day, according to his age, you can expect him to wake frequently at night.
- Sleep induces sleep - the better a baby sleeps during the day, the better he will sleep at night.

Common myths:

- My baby hasn’t slept well today so she’ll be exhausted come the end of the day and sleep right through the night.
- My baby is 8 months old and keeps waking throughout the night and I am hoping it is just a phase he is going through and he’ll outgrow it soon.
- My 7-week-old still wakes for a feed, so I’ll give him water instead and then he’ll stop waking up.

The dummy:

- Recent research has shown that if you dummy your newborn you can reduce the risk of cot death.
- From 4 months of age put the dummy on a dummy chain, attach it to his babygro, trace his hand down the chain to the dummy and teach him how to put the dummy in his mouth.
- From 9 months of age a baby actually doesn’t need a dummy any more.
- A dummy should only be given at a day nap and at bedtime so that it is associated with sleep.
- A child who talks with the dummy in his mouth may develop speech problems later on.

Teething:

Most babies teethe from 6 months of age and by the time they are two years old they have a full set of teeth, i.e. 20. Many parents blame everything on teething – don’t be fooled. You can still implement your sleep training even if your baby is teething.

Sleep training:

- It doesn’t matter what method of sleep training you implement, there will be crying and that is because your baby isn’t getting what he wants, and as a parent you must be guided by his needs and not his wants.
- A baby certainly knows what he wants and if he doesn’t get it he will get angry with you, and that is okay.
- Sleep training can’t be done in isolation, you have to look at a baby’s routine holistically. Below is the Baby Love Puzzle, which outlines this very clearly.
- All the pieces of the puzzle need to be addressed and problems rectified where necessary before sleep training can be implemented, hence sleep training is the last piece of the puzzle.

And lastly…

Parenting is not all about sleepless nights and screaming infants – there is so much more! By ensuring your baby is on a healthy, flexible and age-appropriate routine, and by applying your natural intuition, parenting can be a joyous, fulfilling and happy experience.

Here’s to you, your baby and well rested nights!

Today's Child