And? Does the little one sleep through the night?
Most new parents know this question and unfortunately it expresses an expectation that is not very realistic. Hardly any other topic is discussed as controversially as the short or long sleep of babies and toddlers. Parents who do research will quickly find that there are very contradicting attitudes towards dealing with the sleep behavior of babies. The topic fills a number of books and guides, there are so-called special “sleep training programs” for babies and toddlers, there are special consultation hours for babies with sleep problems, as well as a lot of different utensils on the market that are supposed to help babies sleep better.
First of all, it is important to know why babies sleep differently than adults, how they sleep and how parents can learn to deal with it well.
What does it mean to sleep through the night in newborns?
For a newborn, sleeping through the night does not mean what we adults normally understand by it, but rather: sleeping for about 4-5 hours at a time! Newborns sleep a total of about 15-18 hours a day, but mostly only in short stages of 20-40 minutes – with perhaps a longer sleep phase of 3-4 hours at night.
One often hears about these so-called “good babies” who at 5-6 weeks sleep for 8, if not 10 hours at a time! Why shouldn’t every child be able to do that? Because these babies are the exception. Babies are not made to sleep so long without a break!
Why do newborn babies sleep differently?
Newborns have been programmed by nature to wake up often for several reasons:
- The food supply: the stomach of a newborn is about the size of its fist: it is therefore vital that the baby reports at least every 2-3 hours to satisfy its hunger. Breast milk is digested easily and quickly, allowing breastfeeding infants 8-12 x in
Drink for 24 hours.
- A protective mechanism against “Sudden Infant Death Syndrome”: Some SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) studies have found that one of the possible causes of this terrible phenomenon is the infant’s inadequate ability to wake up from sleep. Under certain circumstances, long periods of deep sleep can worsen this inadequate ability!
- The brain: it is better stimulated by the many short sleep phases by producing visual images that promote its development. With increasing age, the brain receives sufficient external stimulation and can then do without the internal stimuli during the REM phases *.
How do newborn babies sleep?
Babies have significantly shorter sleep cycles than adults. A sleep cycle consists of a REM and a NON-REM * sleep phase. Such a cycle lasts about 90 minutes for an adult and about half the time for a baby. Babies therefore have significantly more active sleep phases, more transition phases and shorter sleep cycles. This is the logical explanation for why babies wake up so often, and why they always take such short naps.
Your sleep has to mature slowly, but that can take “some” time – if not a few years!
Day and night rhythm
Most babies initially make no distinction between day and night. This is because in the womb they lived more or less in the dark and thus could not experience this difference. In the course of the first weeks and months of life, however, they gradually automatically learn the difference between day and night.
Parents can also help their baby a little with this: They can make more noise during the day and make everything as quiet and dark as possible at night.
The Ferber sleep training program
Dr. Richard Ferber, a pediatrician and director of the children’s sleep center in Boston, developed a sleep training program in the mid-1980s, which in Germany ten years later resulted in the book: “Every child can learn to sleep” by psychologist Annette Kast-Zahn and pediatrician Dr. Hartmut Morgenroth, quickly spread. This book is still very popular today and is sometimes touted as a kind of “sleeping bible” for babies.
The desired goal is that babies should learn to fall asleep in their own bed in their own room alone and without sleep aid and to sleep through the night for at least 11 hours.
The baby is therefore placed in its cot at a set time in an awake state and without sleeping aid. If the baby protests as expected, the parents should wait at least 3 minutes on the first day before going back into the room. After 3 minutes you can go to your baby to show him that you are there, you can also talk to him, calm him down, but you are not allowed to take him in your arms or lift him out of his cot. After 1-2 minutes you have to leave the room again. The next time they should wait 5 minutes before going back into the room. The time the baby is made to cry is increased by 2 minutes at a time, up to 10 minutes on the first day. The second day starts with a waiting time of 5 minutes, on the third day with 7 minutes, whereby it remains on the third day, just as the maximum time is never more than 10 minutes.
Prospects for success and effects
The problem with the Ferber method is that it often achieves the desired result. Depending on the child, it can take a few days to a few weeks until they have “learned” to fall asleep and stay asleep on their own. At this point, however, one should seriously question whether it is worth striving to make a baby cry so long and so often that it is forced to give up? According to graduate psychologist Stephan Mayer: “… only then did something bad happen. The child has given up. And resignation is really not a quality of a mentally healthy person ”.
However, sometimes this method doesn’t work at all! On the website www.ferbern.de you can read testimonials from parents who testify that the Ferber method did not work at all with their children and, on the contrary, led to serious negative consequences! Some children have resisted this method so fiercely that the parents were forced to abandon their attempt and it often took a long time afterwards to rebuild a relationship of trust between them and their child!
There is also the risk that some parents will start using the method even earlier than when they were 6 months old! The book also contains some “tips” for babies from 5 weeks of age, such as introducing fixed evening meals and delaying the morning meal for up to an hour!
Dr. Ferber had already distanced himself from his own method in 1999 in an interview with John Seabrook, which was published on November 8, 1999 in “The New Yorker”, and even confessed to some of his statements (for example his negative comments about the family bed) has, he would wish he had never said that. In this article he makes it publicly clear that his method is not suitable for every family and should not be used to justify making children scream!
What options do parents have to cater to their baby’s needs while getting as much sleep as possible themselves?
One possibility that is still very hotly debated today is certainly the family bed. And yet it makes sense: you put a baby in bed with its parents and it falls asleep peacefully, snuggled close to its mother or father. When it wakes up, it only needs to open its mouth, its mother pulls it a little closer, it breasts, sucks until its hunger is satisfied and goes back to sleep peacefully. His mother hardly woke up either. She reacted before her baby was really awake, put it on while half asleep and then immediately went back to sleep. Because, interestingly, the sleep of a nursing mother adapts to the sleep rhythm of her baby! Just like her baby, she sleeps less deeply, wakes up more easily and falls back to sleep more quickly. Mothers who sleep with their children almost all report that they get more sleep and feel more rested in the morning than mothers who sleep separately from their children. And all of this without the baby crying loudly, without getting up, turning on the light, in
to go to another room, to calm the crying baby first and only then to breastfeed. Then it is important to bring the meanwhile awake baby back to sleep in its own (meanwhile cold bed), then go to bed again and – not be able to fall asleep again immediately. Not too long after that, the baby may cry again and the whole scenario begins all over again!
A good option for co-sleeping is offered by the cot available in stores these days, which are open on one side and can be attached to the parents’ bed on this side.
Another alternative would be to set up a separate bedroom for mother and child.
It is important that everyone involved feels comfortable with the solution that has been found and that they wake up refreshed in the morning!
The “family bed”: co-sleeping and co-bedding
- The family bed, as the name suggests, is usually a (hopefully quite large) double bed, which has been converted into a family bed, where parents and one or more children sleep together.
- Co-sleeping means sleeping in a shared room. Co-bedding, however, means that several people share a bed.
- Sleeping in the same room as the parents is recommended by experts for the entire first year of life, in contrast to co-bedding, which is still controversial.
- According to various studies, sleeping together in the same room reduces the incidence of sudden infant death syndrome. Sleeping together contributes to the fact that babies sleep less deeply (as already mentioned, sleeping too deeply can even be dangerous), that they are breastfed more often and for longer (which ensures a healthy, age-appropriate development) and that they are thus protected against sudden infant death syndrome .
The official recommendations of the “Baby-Friendly Hospital” initiative, an initiative of WHO and UNICEF
Sleeping together in the family bed is safe for the baby if the following points are observed:
- You and your child sleep best on a firm mattress. Water beds, old mattresses and sofas must not be used
- Your baby should be lying on his back
- Sleep facing your child as much as possible
- Your baby must not get too warm. The ideal room temperature in the bedroom is 16 to 18 ° C
- Do not over-dress the baby: it should not wear more layers of clothing than you. It is best to use a sleeping bag for the child so that your child cannot slip under your duvet and become warm.
However, you shouldn’t sleep in the same bed with your baby if you (or someone else is in bed)
- Are a smoker
- Have drunk alcohol
- Sick or otherwise unable to respond to the baby
- Have taken drugs or medication that make you sleepy.
In conclusion, one could conclude that babies sleep differently than adults for biological and physiological reasons. It is certainly not easy for young parents to adjust and …
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