Monday, 30 November 2009

Healthy sleep for your baby and child

Sleep is very important to your child’s health and well-being. Children who do not get enough sleep may have trouble getting through the day and, later, settling at night. Good sleep habits start from birth.

How much sleep does my child need?
Every child is different; some sleep a lot and others much less. This chart is a general guide to the amount of sleep children need over a 24-hour period, including nighttime sleep and naps.

Newborns (birth to 6 months)
16 hours a day (3 to 4 hours at a time)

Older babies (6 months to 1 year)
14 hours

Toddlers (1 to 3 years)
10-13 hours

Preschoolers (3 to 5 years)
10-12 hours

Newborns (birth to 6 months)
Newborns may sleep as much as 16 hours a day, for 3 to 4 hours at a time. It’s normal and healthy for babies to wake up during the night to feed. As your baby gets older, she will stay awake longer during the day and sleep for longer stretches at night.

Babies, just like adults, need the right cues to learn when it is time to sleep. For example, if you always put your baby in her crib to sleep she will learn to understand that this is the place where she sleeps. Even if it doesn’t work right away, over time your baby will come to understand.

Sometime after 3 months, your baby’s sleep habits will become more predictable and you can start developing a regular nap schedule. Trust your baby’s cues – she will let you know when she is tired. A sleep diary might help you to recognize a regular sleeping pattern.

Try to develop a naptime routine. It might include a regular, quiet cuddle time in a darkened room before it is time to nap. By 4 months, most babies need three naps a day, one in the morning, afternoon and early evening.

Healthy sleep for your newborn:

An over-tired baby will have more trouble sleeping. Napping actually helps a baby to sleep better at night, so keeping your baby awake during the day will not make your baby sleep longer at night.
Put your baby in bed when he is drowsy but awake. Remember to put him to sleep on his back in his crib using a firm flat surface, clear of soft items like pillows and stuffed animals.
It is okay to cuddle and rock your baby. You cannot spoil a newborn baby by holding him.
A pacifier might be comforting and help your baby to settle. However, never start using a pacifier until breastfeeding is going well.
Your baby will stir during the night. Give him a few minutes to try and settle on his own before going to him.
Avoid stimulation during nighttime feedings and diaper changes. Keep the lights dim.
Babies (6 months to 1 year)
At this age, babies will sleep an average of 14 hours in a day, but anything less or more can be normal for your baby. By this time you should have a fairly regular routine of naptimes, bedtime and wake times.

During this period your baby will probably change from 3 naps a day to 2, longer naps in the morning and afternoon. Every baby’s napping needs are different. Some nap for as little as 20 minutes at a time while others for 3 or more hours.

Healthy sleep for your older babies:

Maintain regular daytime and bedtime sleep schedules as much as possible.
A consistent bedtime routine is important. Many parents like to use the “3 Bs”: have a warm bath, read a book and settle into bed.
Avoid putting your baby to bed with a bottle.
If your baby wakes at night and cries, go to her to ensure there is nothing wrong such as being too cold or too warm, but don’t take her out of the crib. Comfort her by stroking her forehead or talking softly to reassure her that you are there.
Toddlers (1 to 3 years)
Most toddlers sleep between 10 and 13 hours in a 24-hour period. Sometime between 2 and 3 years your toddler will probably drop a nap, or will have some days when he needs a nap and others when he doesn’t. At this age many children experience sleep problems and resist going to bed.

Healthy sleep for toddlers:

Keep your toddler on a predictable sleep schedule. The bedtime routine that you established during the first year will be even more important for your toddler.
Naps should not be too late in the day as they can affect nighttime sleeping.
Avoid offering your child something to drink before bedtime. A full bladder can interrupt good nighttime sleeping.
Start to help your child wind down about a half hour before bedtime, ideally at the same time each day.
Be gentle but firm if your child protests.
Make the bedroom quiet, cozy, and conducive to sleeping.
Soft, soothing music might be comforting.
Security items (such as a blanket or stuffed animal) may become important at this age.
Preschoolers (3 to 5 years)
Preschoolers typically sleep about 10 to 12 hours a day. Children give up daytime naps during this period, some as early as 3 years. Consider using naptime as a quiet time for your child to read and relax. It’s common for preschoolers to wake up during the night, and to have nighttime fears or nightmares.

Healthy sleep for preschoolers:

Avoid stimulants, such as drinks with caffeine.
Avoid television before bedtime. Don’t allow your child to have a television, computer or video games in his bedroom.
Some children will try to delay bedtime. Set limits, such as how many books you will read, and be sure your child knows what they are.
Tuck your child into bed snugly for a feeling of security.
Don’t ignore bedtime fears. If your child has nightmares, reassure and comfort him.
What are some common sleep problems?

Sleep deprivation: Some children do not get enough sleep. If your child is fussy, cranky or has difficulty staying asleep at night it might be because she isn’t having enough nap time or is not going to bed early enough.
Separation issues: Your child may have difficulty relaxing and going to sleep if she feels upset that you are not there. An extra long cuddle before bedtime, a security object such as a blanket or stuffed animal, or leaving her door open when you put her to bed may help.
Nightmares: Most children will experience nightmares at one time or another. Nightmares can happen after a stressful physical or emotional event or can be caused by fever. Your child may call out to you for comfort. Talk calmly, cuddle and reassure your child.

When should I talk to my doctor?

Loud snoring
: If your child is snoring loudly on a regular basis, this may be a sign of a problem. Talk to your child’s doctor.
Sleepwalking: Sleepwalking is a disorder where a child awakens partly, but not completely, during the night. The child may sit up in bed and repeat certain movements, such as rubbing his eyes. He may get out of bed and walk around the room. When you talk to your child, he usually will not answer you. If your child sleepwalks it is important that you ensure the area is safe. Gently guide your child back to bed without waking him. If the problem continues, contact your doctor.
Night terrors: These are different from nightmares. Children with night terrors scream uncontrollably, may breathe quickly and appear to be awake. If you wake them, they are likely to be confused, and may take longer to settle down and go back to sleep. They usually occur between the ages of 4 and 12, but can happen to children as young as 18 months. Most children will outgrow them, but if they persist talk to your doctor.


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