Night awakenings are a fairly frequent situation: 10-15% of children suffer from them from the first days of life. There are many causes for crying during sleep or resisting sleep. However, it should be noted that all children wake up several times at night, especially in their first year of life, but most of them fall asleep on their own. Those who wake up, have a whim and don’t want to go back to sleep, may have feeding problems, or suffer from separation anxiety, or have parents who are too apprehensive and impending.
Situations favoring sleep disorders:
breastfeed the baby during the day Some mothers misunderstand breastfeeding on demand, thinking they should feed the baby whenever they cry, which can also happen every 30-60 minutes. The stomach gets used to being frequently filled with small amounts of food, instead of waiting two hours between meals during the first weeks of life, and four hours at four months. This happens more frequently in breastfed babies, especially if breastfeeding is offered for each disorder and effectively becomes a pacifier. The child associates the power to the reassuring presence of the mother, therefore in moments of discomfort he will ask to be fed. This search for food for comfort can continue even in the oldest child.
- Feed the baby to sleep
If the last memory before sleeping is being attached to the mother’s breast, the breast or bottle can become a transitional object for the baby; when he wakes up, the baby may think that the only way to get back to sleep is to attach to the breast.
- Getting the baby used to drinking frequently during the night from the bottle
If the child knows he can count on drinks that are always ready during the night, he becomes addicted to it; often then the proposed drinks are sweetened and this poses further problems related to the risk of incurring more easily in caries of the front teeth.
- Cradling the baby to make him sleep
Many mothers routinely use this system, which is apparently the fastest way to get the baby’s sleep: used to being cradled and sleeping in the mother’s arms, if he wakes up during the night, he cries and waits for the mother appears before going back to sleep. They are children who fall asleep alone in their arms or on the couch, that is, outside their cradle and therefore do not learn to associate it with sleep.
- Entertain him during the night
Crying at night awakening is more frequent if the child perceives that he may have an advantage in him, like playing, being carried around the house, or being involved in anything else that prolongs contact with his parents. Sleep in the Latvian reinforces the problem. Often the situation starts for valid reasons (for example, the little one is sick, has a fever, breathes with difficulty because of the stuffy nose): the parents try to give relief to the child in these particular days, but then the little one gets used to it, it takes taste and requires the same treatment every night.
- Being in the period of separation anxiety
Separation anxiety normally occurs between 6 and 18 months. It can be seen during the day whenever the child does not see the mother or is left alone with the baby-sitter: these fears are accentuated at the time of sleep and during the night. Separation anxiety can become an important content of dreams.
- Change the diaper during the night
Some parents check if their baby is wet or dirty during the night and then change their diaper: the baby finds this situation comfortable and cries every time it is wet.
- Doing it too much sleep during the day
Remember that children can sleep up to a certain number of hours a day: if they have already had a good night’s sleep, problems can arise at night.
Sleepers can get used to sleeping at night if their parents follow the instructions we give. The improvement usually takes 2 weeks.
Remember that the initial habits, if they remain during growth, hardly change: a one-year-old child will protest vigorously against any change and will be able to cry for hours. If you leave things as they are, these children are doomed not to sleep at night until three or four years of age, when they will collapse in the evening and will fall asleep because exhausted by the rhythms supported by play and commitments.
How to help your child sleep better at night?
Depending on the type of problem of the child, different strategies should be adopted:
If your child wants to be fed at night:
- Try to extend the time between meals by at least 4 hours
Nighttime intervals between meals cannot be extended if these are short during the day. If the baby’s stomach is used to expecting frequent meals during the day, it will lead to hunger during the night and try to suck at every opportunity. This often happens to mothers who, to console the child, propose the breast. A practical suggestion is to pamper the baby without attaching it to the breast at least five times out of six; try to reach an interval of two hours between one meal and another, even progressively. If he cries give him the pacifier or rock him. Try to get him used to the five feedings around 5-6 months of life; as baby food is introduced, from the 6th month onwards, the number of meals will gradually decrease.
- Place the baby in a cradle when it tends to doze off, even if it is partially awake.
The baby must have the cradle, not the bottle or the breast, as a souvenir before falling asleep, that is, he must learn to fall asleep on his own and so he must do if he wakes up. night. These changes can give rise to tears: go to his room every 15 minutes, if he cries, but do not lift him from the cradle or give him food. Instead cuddle him, leaving him lying down and stop for a short time, about a minute, near him. Get the baby used to falling asleep alone, both in the evening and in naps during the day. When he cries during the night, help him get back to sleep, cradling him.
- Eliminate immediately the habit of leaving the baby a bottle in bed.
If you feed the baby before he goes to bed, don’t let him hold the bottle by himself; feed him in a room other than his bedroom; keep the meal separated from sleep. If the child still requires something in his mouth to fall asleep, give him the pacifier.
- Eliminate night meals gradually.
At first try to match the last meal with 22-23: if the child is used to a further night meal, feed him quickly and uncomfortably: avoid keeping him up long after the meal for the burp. For every other awakening cradle him so he has to go back to sleep. After daily meal times have improved and are normal, at regular intervals, begin to reduce the amount of milk you give your child gradually overnight, 50 gr. per meal, until you no longer feel the need. If you breastfeed, attach it to one breast only for a few minutes.
If he cries without reason during the night:
(it is the child who is not hungry and calms down as soon as he is raised)
- Place the baby in the cradle when it is simply sleepy, but still awake, both day and night. Leave it in the cradle a soft object (doll, stuffed animal) that becomes a constant companion when it is sleeping (transitional object). Even if it gives you pleasure to cradle the baby in his arms, get used to putting him down when he is sleepy. The child must fall asleep remembering as a last thing to be in the cot, not in his mother’s arms; must learn to fall asleep alone; if he’s nervous, rock him to calm him and until he almost sleeps, but stop before he sleeps at all.
- Go to your baby every 15 minutes if he cries or wakes up in the night
Babies often cry a little before going to sleep or calming down: these are not harmful. When the child continues to cry, go to him every 15 minutes and do not stay there for more than a minute: behave calmly, whisper to him that you feel good, since everyone is sleeping at that time. Add a few more words and caress it tenderly, do not turn on the light, do not pull it up from the cot. Don’t shake it, don’t play with it, don’t bring it to the Latvian, don’t stay with it for long: most of the babies after 2-3 minutes of crying will calm down and go back to sleep. If the crying continues, come back to him after 15 minutes and stay close to him for no more than another minute. This way of behaving will not encourage the child to persist in his attitude.
- Cradle the baby for only a short time if he cries at night
As long as your baby doesn’t learn to fall asleep by himself, let the night be as quiet as possible. Go near him if he cries, rock him until he is sleepy again; however don’t talk to him, don’t take him out of his room, don’t turn on the light. Get used to falling asleep alone at the time of afternoon or evening sleep, you can then use the same system in the middle of the night: come to his crying as already said every 15 minutes and try to stay close to him for a short time, without consoling him excessively. At this point the problem should be solved in a few nights.
If he cries at night out of anguish:
(it is the child aged between 7 and 18 months who has separation anxiety even during the day)
- Stay close to your child if he is afraid.
At bedtime, even for the daytime nap, place him in the sleepy but awake bed, stay close to him to calm him down, but don’t pull him up from the cot, at most sit next to him on a chair with his hand on his body; just talk to him first, then stand by him in silence. Consider staying in your room to sleep if you are in the middle of the night. Offer the child a comforting, plush-like object that can function as a transitional object (with which he feels safer, as if he had company).
- Get away briefly every 15 minutes
Take time off for 1-2 minutes every now and then, to teach him that separation from you is tolerable and that you will return; leave the door of your room open and a light on if you are afraid.
- Don’t begrudge cuddles during the day
Respond with many caresses and cuddles to your child’s anxiety: some little ones need to be taken for a walk during the day longer in a stroller, in a baby carrier or in a backpack. If you have resumed work as mothers, give them more attention on your return; for example, play hide-and-seek or disappear suddenly and reappear soon afterwards: separation anxiety and the child’s insecurities can be treated during the day.
What to do in general in all cases of sleep problems:
- Put your child to sleep in a room other than your own, from 10-12 months onwards
If this is impossible, create a divider between the baby’s crib and you, so that he cannot see you if he wakes up.
- Avoid long naps during the day.
Wake up if he sleeps for more than two hours; if you take three naps during the day, try to take it to two.
- Do not change the diaper during the night.
Clean it only if it is very dirty or has a reddened bottom: in these cases, keep the lights dim, change it gently, do not spend time talking to it.
- If you get up from the bed, let him stay, don’t try to put it back
upside down Will jump up like a spring whenever you try to get away from the room; you can hang out without your help; if you immediately insist on laying it down, everything will turn into a game. Wait for yourself to find small consolations and put yourself back down.
Contact your pediatrician if:
- attempts to make your child sleep have failed despite the rules set out here, after about 20-30 days
- you realize that you are entering yourself in a nervous breakdown, so the baby’s crying becomes intolerable for you
- it seems to you that the child’s sleep problems stem from other causes.