Despite our best efforts, sometimes, some babies are just not good sleepers.
While I personally dislike the terminology, these babies are typically referred to as “Difficult Babies“.
If your baby sleeps happily through the night for more than 6 hours straight, this article is not for you.
Does your baby seem to wake up as soon as they are put down? is he constantly restless? Does he want feeding to sleep every time he wakes and then still won’t sleep because his tummy is too full from constant feeding?
If you can identify with these scenarios, we are here to help you.
I wish that I could tell you that I have found the answer – our first born didn’t sleep through the night until she was almost three years old, and even then, I am sure that it was not because of anything that we did as such. I think that she just grew out of it but I am still not even sure that there was ever actually a ‘problem’ as I think that the behavior is ‘healthy and natural’ – just not convenient or suited to our modern lifestyle.
We are all different so I think it is reasonable to expect that not all babies are going to be good sleepers.
I also don’t think that you have caused your baby to be a “bad sleeper” any more than other parents with good sleeping habits have caused their babies to be good sleepers.
Furthermore, I don’t think that your child’s sleep requirements are a result of a “mistake” or even that it needs to be fixed – as “fixed” implies that something is broken, and I don’t think that anything is “broken”.
I just think that some babies, like some people, have different sleep requirements – our species is made up of a rich and diverse genetic mix.
If you look at it from an evolutionary point of view, your baby’s sleep pattern would be effective at keeping them safe and in their mother’s focus. If for example, they were to sleep for long periods then they would get less food and less protection from predators. If left in the other end of the cave, they would perhaps even be eaten by a lion.
Although today it is not necessary for a baby to keep mum awake to stay safe, we do see it as a problem and try to fix it. This may result in more problems both now,and later in life.
Some people just put them in a distant room and let them cry it out – others use drugs like ‘Phenergan’, – which was recommended to us on more than one occasion (we opted not to use it, but it is your choice).
Each to their own, and I accept that I may be wrong, but I see the downside of these solutions as “putting the baby’s physiological health (and even possibly their physical health) at significant risk”.
Unfortunately, I never did find the perfect solution (and I don’t have all the answers) but there are a few things that we did try that did seem to work to some extent.
- Fix any ailments such as wind, heartburn, reflux with – well that is up to you, but if unsure then ask your local pharmacist. (We used Infacol, Zantac, & Panadol). We also found that raising the head of the bed a little (about 10 degrees) helped a lot with these ailments
- Keep them dry and comfortable
- Try varying the air temperature, the number of blankets and crib sheets
- During the day, keep them stimulated – feed their mind with new activities and experiences Swimming, play groups, walks in the pram, music, Kids’ TV, talk to them all the time
- Give them heaps of exposure to light (not direct sunlight, but bright environments) during the day, and keep it dark at night when you want them to sleep
- Make the most of it. We used to watch Colombo at 3am while we waited for our first born to wear herself out. It only caused frustration to try to get her to sleep when she was not ready for sleep
- Understand that there is no malice – you know yourself, when you can’t sleep, you can’t sleep. If you feel stressed and frustrated then your baby will sense that, and it will only make it harder for him or her to sleep. Try to relax and enjoy the time together. It won’t last forever, in fact if will be gone before you know it
- Do what works. It is much more important that you both get a good night sleep then for you to abide by someone else’s rules or expectations. As for bad habits – if it works then it can’t be bad, and even if it were then they will grow out of it when they’re 3
Yes, it can be frustrating, and very difficult to live in our modern world with ‘genetics‘, and ‘instincts’ that were developed over many thousands of years of living in a very different environment, and I don’t expect that the above suggestions will negate these issues, but hopefully they may help a little.
Remember, you will go in the direction that you look, so look for the up side. After all, are you trying to produce a convenient baby or a well-balanced successful adult.
Finally, and this is probably the most important bit…
You can only do the best that you can under the circumstances. Kids are tough, and they will survive, and you need to too. I am sure that there is more than one way to bring up a healthy, happy, and well-adjusted child.