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When you have your baby the only time you can relax and do other important things is when your baby sleeps. Sleep deprivation is very common during the first few months and it is important that you are prepared for this! You will become cranky, confused and may not have any energy to do anything. When your baby does go to sleep you will undoubtedly have one hundred and one other things to do than go for a sleep yourself.

All newborn babies are different and the amount of sleep and the pattern in which they sleep varies however there are guidelines that you can follow.

Sleeping is a necessary requirement and believe it or not every baby goes to sleep eventually! Some babies are angels and these babies sleep through the night almost from the word go. This is an extreme and not the norm.

The middle ground is a baby that sleeps for round about four hours in the night before requiring a feed.

The other extreme is a baby that only sleeps for very short periods leaving you exhausted, frustrated and barely able to function!

By the time your baby is six months old, they should be sleeping through the night however this may seem to long a time to wait and so there are a few handy hints to help you achieve this aim.

Adults have sleeping patterns and so therefore do babies and children. The problem is that these patterns need to be learned and don’t come naturally therefore it is up to you as a parent to teach your baby.

A baby’s initial sleep cycle lasts only about an hour and this means that they become restless and may waken. Some babies can get back to sleep by themselves whilst other babies may need some reassurance and comfort or some may simply need food.

As your baby develops the cycle lengthens resulting in longer periods of sleep.
A newborn is unable to understand the difference between night and day therefore their sleeping pattern is split roughly half during day and half during the night. It is up to you as a parent to teach them that night is for sleeping and several short naps is all that is required for daytime.

It is important that during the first few months that your child is left no longer than four to five hours between feeds. A baby needs to eat frequently and often which is especially true if you are breastfeeding. When a baby cries it is because they need or want something. A baby needs a lot of reassurance and love. They need to feel safe and comforted and the environment in which they are sleeping is all important.

A Moses basket or crib is all that is required when you have your baby. These provide the right level of support for your newborn. A baby may feel swamped and ‘lost’ in a cot. Some babies may take time to get used to sleeping without you but it is extremely important that you do not take your baby into bed with you as not only will this become a hard habit to break for both of you. There is a risk of SIDs if this happens and also a risk of squashing your baby. Some babies just may not settle and so sleeping in the same bed as their parents is the only way anyone gets any sleep.

To help get your baby to sleep at night there are a few things which can help such as taking your baby for a long walk prior to bedtime, giving him a bath and ensuring they have had enough to eat. It is also important for you to establish a routine as early as possible so that your baby learns that after his bath he goes to bed.

Ensure the room is the right temperature and that there is not a lot of noise prior to bed time, however some noise in the room your baby is sleeping in ensures that they will get used to other household noises.

During the day try and ensure that they have a nap at certain specific times. Some babies like a nap in the morning prior to lunch whereas others have one just after. It doesn’t matter which but if your child follows one pattern then try and ensure that this is adhered to. Babies can have three naps a day but this drops off to around one main nap and eventually tails off to none!

If your baby cries when you put them to bed then there are various schools of thoughts as to the best way to get your baby to sleep. You can leave your baby to cry and they will eventually fall asleep unless there is an underlying problem such as colic and teething. Your baby may cry for a long time and you may want to pick them up to soothe them but it is extremely important that unless the crying is disturbing that you leave them until they sleep. The other school of thought is that you have to pick up your baby as soon as they cry and soothe them until they fall asleep.

The middle ground of these will probably be nearer the mark for most parents and will ensure a good nights sleep.

Most newborns need some form of comfort in order to fall asleep. This could be a breast or a dummy and so it is important that these are gradually reduced so that eventually your child falls asleep on their own and without you. Therefore when they waken up during the night they can fall asleep without any prop or comforter.

If despite everything your child is still unable to sleep without waking up then perhaps it is time to contact your GP or midwife and they can put you in touch with the correct resources.

To ensure a good night’s sleep for everyone it is essential that a bit of work is done by you as a parent during the early days so that by the time your baby is a few months old they are in an established routine and can sleep on their own without the need for any assistance. This is an achievable reality if you follow some of the above simple steps.

Alan Murray is the webmaster of a baby names site which covers a wide range of baby topics including a giving birth section.

Earnest Parenting: help for parents of sleeping babies.

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