Having a baby is the happiest moment in a parent’s life. But for many first-time parents, the joy comes with a price as they find themselves drained and fatigued soon after welcoming their bundle of joy. Sleep deprivation is one of the biggest reasons for this. The good news is that there are many common sleep mistakes new parents make and they can be corrected for a better night’s sleep!
It’s not surprising that new parents make these mistakes as they are doing it for the first time and of course the baby didn’t come with a user guide. Most parents go through a few rounds of trial and error to figure things out.
And no, contrary to popular belief, it’s not as simple as giving your baby a nice bath, diffusing lavender oil in the room, playing some soft music, turning the lights off and singing a couple of nursery rhymes. Such routines are important to help babies to sleep, but sleeping through the night is another story.
Read on to find out the common sleep mistakes new parents make and how to avoid them.
1. Inconsistent methods
On some days you feel loving and you rock your precious angel to sleep then gently place her in her cot. Then there are days when you are dead beat and you just climb into bed with your baby and let her nurse herself to sleep (and you fall asleep in the process). Change is the only constant, right? Wrong. This is one of the common sleep mistakes new parents make.
Sleep expert and parenting coach, Zoe Chu of SG Supernanny, explained that when you keep changing the way you get your baby to sleep, they get confused! Yes, babies do get confused about their sleep methods and that makes it more difficult for them to sleep.
Babies need consistency for a good night’s sleep.
You need to find the method that works best for you and your baby and stick to it. Religiously. Do also ensure that you stick to the same place. Don’t get them to sleep in the nursery one day and in your room on another day. The environment needs to be the same.
2. Pacifiers may be cute, but don’t get dependent
The pacifier seems heaven-sent for many parents. It magically stops the baby’s screams and accelerates their sleeping process. Many parents have complained that it’s impossible for their babies to sleep without the help of the pacifier.
But the problem starts when you remove this prop. Of course parents wouldn’t leave the pacifier in their baby’s mouth all night long. So if the baby wakes up in the middle of the night, it’s only normal she would scream for it. You can forget about the baby soothing herself to sleep.
Some parents shared how they ended up taking the hard way out. They let their baby cry it out, night after night. Then finally one night, the baby slept through and they never looked back at the pacifier.
So this is another common sleep mistake new parents make. Save yourself the trouble and don’t start using one if you haven’t already been doing so.
3. Attending to baby immediately
As new parents, it’s only natural to feel terribly disconcerted when you hear your baby wailing. Instinctively you reach your arms to pick the crying baby up, and soothe her back to sleep. But do take note that this is one of the most common sleep mistakes new parents make!
It’s perfectly normal for babies to cry a little in their sleep.
Parents need to understand that it’s perfectly normal for babies to cry in between their sleep cycle and the best way to go is to let the baby settle herself. Otherwise, your baby will start to expect someone to pick her up the moment she starts to cry and you can kiss your sleep goodbye.
Wait it out for a bit to find out if your baby is just fussing, or if she is really hungry and needs a feed. Likewise, when your baby naps, don’t respond too quickly if she cries after maybe just half an hour of napping. She’s likely to be just partially awake so just let her fuss for a bit and go back to sleep.
4. Rushing bedtime
Yes, we are fully aware of the great sense of relief that parents get when their baby finally sleeps but remember, baby needs to be ready to sleep. If your baby is still wide awake and bursting with energy, don’t be too quick to do the bedtime routine and force them to sleep. This will result in a baby who will scream and protest because they aren’t prepared for bedtime.
You need to allow your baby sufficient time to wind down. The bedtime routine should be relaxing enough to increase melatonin (the hormone that controls your sleep and wake cycles).
5. Delaying bedtime
Having said that rushing baby to bed is a bad idea, prolonging their bedtime way past what it should be is a terrible idea as well. Among the common sleep mistakes that new parents make is keeping baby up longer to spend more time, especially in the case of working moms. They get home late and feel guilty and push back baby’s bedtime.
Working moms might push back baby’s bedtime to make up for lost time in the day.
But this leads to a baby who is too tired and eventually gets cranky and has even more trouble sleeping. When babies get overstimulated, they get hyperactive and it’s tough to get them settled. Children need a lot more than the eight hours of sleep that adults need.
6. Wishful thinking that sleep problems self-resolve
I’m sorry to burst your bubble but no, sitting around and hoping that your child’s sleep issues will get better in time is unfortunately a myth. Sleeping, akin to other behaviour, is something that needs conditioning. It is a skill that you have to teach your child.
Create the right environment for your child to acquire the right sleep skills, as absurd as it may sound to you.
7. Dreams that baby will sleep through the night
It’s idealistic to think that your little baby can sleep through the night. Their tummies are tiny and they need to eat frequently. Before three months of age, they also have completely no concept of day and night so you can’t quite expect them to be able to know that night is for sleep and day is for play.
The general consensus among the experts is that babies who are older than 3 months, and more than 6kg, and who are thriving, can sleep for about six to eight hours at one go. But of course, every child is different.
Let me also dispel the myth that feeding them cereal or formula milk will keep them full and thus help them to sleep longer. It doesn’t work that way. Of course when they start solids, you can expect them to sleep for longer periods but it only happens if you create the right environment and instil the right practices.
With determination and consistency, you can improve your baby’s sleep patterns.
On a concluding note, do remember that there isn’t one right way to solve your baby’s sleep problems. If you have been making any of these mistakes, remember that these are the most common sleep mistakes new parents make, so it’s perfectly normal!
You need to do a lot of trial and error and patiently work out what’s the best way to go. If you don’t meet with success immediately, take your time. And don’t let everyone around you confuse you with their conflicting advice.
Babies, parents, families, they are all different. What works for one may fail miserably for another. So hang in there moms and dads, and remember that this too shall pass!
Source: Channel News Asia
Republished with permission from: theAsianParent Singapore