Sleeping Issues with Young Children
Troublesome sleeping in children
One of the most difficult aspects of raising children is dealing with sleeping issues. Babies are born with no in-built clock to help them to know when they need to sleep. Additionally, they have not developed normal sleep triggers associated with night and day. All this combines with parental stress and worry. Also mom is completely worn out from the delivery of the baby. This leads to sleep deprivation compounded by not being able to rest during the day .
Some of the issues that people experience are:
- Night time crying
- Whether to co-sleep or not
- Night time feeding
- Concern of what the lack of sleep is doing to your child (see a future post for more infortmation on this)
Sleeping Struggles – Why Do Children Cry as They Learn How To Sleep
Seeing your baby cry is one of the most heartbreaking moments. . You don’t want them to cry and you want them to be happy and healthy. Yet for this to happen they need to sleep. It would be ideal if your child learned how to sleep without crying or frustration. Every parent would sign up for that. Unfortunately, the truth is that all children shed some tears in the process. Let’s see why.
First children cry when learning to sleep as a protest to change. Children and adults alike hate change. Think about it this way. Do you remember what your favorite book was as a kid and how you wanted to read it over and over? This was despite knowing all the words and pictures. It’s normal to resist change and it is normal for your child to show their resistance with tears. After all, crying comes before words – not the other way around.
Second, as they learn to sleep they become frustrated as they don’t know how to. They no longer have you on their side helping them sleep, and they don’t yet know what to do . What’s interesting about falling asleep is that it is an inherent ability that needs to be learned. Yet you can’t teach anyone else how to do it; you can’t say to your child to close their eyes and sleep. Instead, each of us must learn how to settle into sleep. Your child hasn’t learned this essential skill yet and needs space and time to do so. This is why they need you to take a step back to achieve it on their own. The truth is, each of us has different techniques to soothe ourselves into sleep. Your child will find a way that’s perfect for them over time.
Yet your child won’t discover these things if you are standing right next to them and pick them as soon as they cry. With this intervention, your child will not have the motivation to learn how to fall asleep on their own. If you help your child, they will cry harder as the touching feels like a tease reinforcing the crying.
Co-Sleeping: Should Your Child Sleep In Your Bed?
The distress of your child crying while learning to sleep is hard to handle. Further, moms who breastfeed often find it more convenient having their baby in bed for feeds. This leads to many families deciding to trial co-sleeping. So, what is co-sleeping? It is where your child sleeps in bed with you. It is one of the most debated and controversial topics related to pediatric sleep. Some people argue that co-sleeping is the natural way to raise a child as it fosters a stronger bond. But, others will tell you that co-sleeping is risky, ridiculous, or even dangerous.
So, which approach holds the truth?
First, it’s important to understand that co-sleeping is not magic. Many parents have found their babies did not sleep deeper or longer with their parents close by. In fact, some parents found their child slept longer and woke less when they slept int their own crib. Yet whether you choose to co-sleep is a personal decision. If both parents and child are safe and rested, then co-sleeping is nothing to worry about.
As expected, co-sleeping has both advantages and disadvantages.
- Constant closeness when awake. Many children and parents enjoy this.
- Immediate action and support for any sleep-related problem
- The ability to nurse and respond to other nighttime waking’s with ease
- More time to spend with your child
- In some cases better sleep for both the child and the parents
- Parent sleep less effective if their children are restless sleepers
- Parents may end up sleeping in separate rooms which can lead to relationship strain
- Children’s and adults’ sleep cycles do not coincide
- Parents have to go to bed when their child does which may limit their evening activities
- Parents have little privacy
- There may be a slight increase in the risk to the infant from SIDS and related causes.
The decision to co-sleep is yours and needs to must be the parent(s) own based on your own philosophies. It is important that it is not made by pressure from your child or anyone else. Another family’s experience with co-sleeping should not influence your decision. Your child is unique and your family is not the same.
Sleeping Problems and Nighttime Feedings
Babies by the age of 3 months will often no longer need nighttime feeds. Yet, do not expect nor insist on this happening suddenly. Many parents believe that feeding at bedtime and overnight will help sleep. Yet it can have the opposite effect. If your child is still requiring many feeds overnight it can be these feeds that are causing the waking’s. Thus, if your child is at least 3 months old you may need to consider reducing the number of these feeds. Additionally, if your baby has large feeds at night they have learned these are mealtimes. To drop these feedings suddenly wouldn’t be wise or nice.
Solving The Problem
If excessive feedings at night are disrupting your child’s sleep it is easy to fix. Two things need to addressing. First is to reduce and then end the nighttime feedings. This is to avoid their sleep-disrupting effects. Start by gradually decreasing the number and size of nighttime feedings. Don’t stop the feedings without reducing them first though. A program designed to allow new patterns to develop will be easier for your child to follow. The goal is to move your child’s feelings of hunger from the nighttime to the daytime. Once there is only a one nighttime feed, you can stop it right away. This is because the total amount of food during the night is now small.
The secong thing you need to teach your child new sleep associations. This so that they can fall asleep without being held, without eating, and without suckling. You can work on both things at the same or different times. If you are working on both together, put your child in bed as soon as the feeding is over. Even if they wake and cry. If you nurse your child and they sleep next to you place them in the bed as soon as the feed finishes. This way they will learn to fall asleep without using your breast as a pacifier. Remember they have recently fed so are not hungry. You need to change their expectations of how to fall asleep.
Within a week, you will have eliminated the nighttime feeds. After that, continue using the progressive waiting at any waking at night. The waking’s will slow and then stop over a period of a few days to a week
I hope that you have found this review of some of the common issues faced by parents with children sleep useful. Over the next few posts we will explore some futher issues and concerns. We will then discuss some strategies to use to help improve your childs sleep.
As always I welcome any comments on the post. Whether at the bottom of this post or through our contact form.
We look forward to having you back soon.