Aah, sleeping like a baby

We've been delighted over the past week by the newest addition to the family, who has been staying with us.

Unlike his older sibling, he's a great sleeper, much to the relief of his parents.

Yet, even then, it seems, the 21st-century baby is not settling to sleep as well as its previous century counterpart.

The pressures of modern living mean that parents have less time to get baby to sleep than they did in the past and it's taking longer to do so. Parents reported that it could take up to almost an hour, which is, apparently, twice as long as it took 30 to 40 years ago.

If my memory serves me well, that's probably right.

This is explained by most 21st-century parents also working away from home and being desperate to get baby settled so they can have a bit time for themselves at the end of the day.

It's important to accept you are likely to have less evening-time with a baby in the house.

Any parental anxiety is picked up by babies and keeps them awake, much as stress can keep adults awake.

Today's babies also don't sleep as deeply, tending to wake up more often at night, taking longer to settle again for the same reasons.

The result is that today's parents are getting 30% less sleep than their parents did, and, as parents become more tired they get even more stressed, which unsettles baby further.

Up to two years of age children will generally find their own sleep times.

Apart from when late-night feeding is required, it's recommended not to disturb them before 6am, getting them into a pattern of sleeping 11-12 hours.

As they get a bit older you can decrease the daytime naps to maintain that pattern.

As they get older still you might have to use a range of other strategies to ensure you get a good night's sleep and some of the evening to yourselves.

If a youngster wakes during the night and disturbs you, calmly put them back to bed, tuck them up with a goodnight kiss and make a relatively speedy departure.

Doing any more can encourage this behaviour because they're enjoying your undivided attention, while an angry response raises stress and sleeplessness levels all round, and, without sleep, we all become two-year-olds!

• Ian Munro


Strategies to get a good night's sleep and some of the evening to yourselves:

• Try to keep things quiet and unstimulating for at least half an hour before bedtime.

• A warm bath can help.

• Avoid any food with sugar for at least an hour before bed.

• A bedtime story is a time-honoured way of settling children.

• Quiet background music can soothe, as can a light massage or stroking.



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