Different babies need different amounts of sleep and what is appropriate in one child, is not necessarily what is appropriate in another. This is usually termed as baby sleep strategies. Nine out of ten babies under twelve months will need a daytime nap and some need two. These naps may vary from 15 minutes to two hours in length between six and twelve months of age.
A child may be put down to sleep at any convenient time between 6 PM and 10 PM or even later, but this time will become a long-term habit. Babies may take up to half an hour to fall asleep and then sleep for more than ten hours, but most also wake at least once during the night.
A baby who becomes used to falling asleep with a dummy in its mouth may be unable to return to sleep if the dummy falls out during the night. Tie the dummy to a short ribbon and attach this to the clothing collar. When the baby wakes and starts to cry for the dummy, run the infant’s hand from the collar down the ribbon to the dummy and let them reinsert it themselves. Most children learn this trick by eight months of age.
It may become necessary to teach the child to fall asleep on its own. When starting a new scheme to teach a baby to sleep, start by changing the sleep environment by altering the position of the cot in the room and installing (or removing) a night-light. The baby should be put in the cot while awake and then allowed to fall asleep.
If the baby cries, this can be dealt with in three ways:-
- leaving the child alone to cry itself to sleep.
Very tiring on the nerves and may lead to an insecure child.
- controlled crying.
This means comforting the child when it starts crying, but during the night extending the time between each comfort session. As soon as the child settles it should be left alone immediately and allowed to fall asleep by itself. If crying starts again, return after an increased time to comfort it again. On subsequent nights the times between each comfort are slowly extended further.
- allowing the child, in its cot, to fall asleep while a parent lies beside the cot.
Initially the parent may be actually touching the child gently with a hand, but gradually, night by night, the parent moves further and further away and eventually out of the room.
Spending a week or three changing a child’s sleep habits will be very tiring for the parents and possibly stressful in the short term for the child, but in the long term all will benefit.
After one year of age sleep problems steadily decrease, but even at three years of age one in twenty children wake during the night.