When baby just won't sleep

MALAYSIA - Sarah Ong was taken by surprise when her second child kept her awake through the night.

The 34-year-old mother didn't know what to do as her first daughter had no problems sleeping through the night.

"I never had issues with my first girl as she developed a self-designed sleep routine. However, when my second child arrived, she kept me up many hours every night.

"That's when I realised that, to help us both sleep peacefully at night, I had to come up with a solution," said Ms Ong.

She began researching and studying ways to help her daughter develop a better sleeping habit. She decided to study sleep training and later received a certificate from the International Maternity Institute in California.

According to Ms Ong, the top three sleeping issues most parents come to her about are children waking up frequently throughout the night, bedtime struggles and children who do not nap.


She notes that some parents allow their children to throw tantrums when they cannot sleep, which she calls the "cry-it-out" approach.

The child will wail till he is exhausted and eventually fall asleep on his own. But he will sleep in the next day to make up for the sleepless night.

This contributes to a cycle of restless nights for the parent and child.

"This can lead to a grumpy household," said Ms Ong, who suggests parents take the time to set a sleep routine for the child with sleeping difficulties.

"You must be willing to clear away your schedule to work with your child for at least two weeks."

One of the first concepts parents need to understand is the "awake-window", which is how long a child stays awake between naps or bedtime. Each child will have different sleep patterns, depending on his age and daily activities.

"The awake time of newborns to six-week-old babies should ideally be 45-60 minutes...," she said.

"After each hour of activity, it is advisable to put your baby down for a nap for 15-60 minutes (60 minutes being the maximum amount).

"The longest awake-time for babies of all ages is towards dusk. This is because you want to allocate enough hours for your child to be tired so he can sleep throughout the night without interruptions."


Other factors can lead to interrupted sleep patterns.

"What and when you feed your baby are very important. For example, dinner should be about an hour before bedtime. Hungry babies tend to wake up frequently and over-fed babies will have restless sleep," Ms Ong said.

The condition of the child's bedroom also affects his sleep.

"It's easier for babies to sleep in a pitch-black room. Toddlers can be afraid of the dark as they'd have developed imagination. You can use a dim light to offer them some comfort," said Ms Ong.

"Another way to help your child sleep peacefully throughout the night is to play white noises to drown out other sounds that could wake your child up during the night."

White noise is a consistent, repetitive sound. Parents can search for and download such noises off the Internet or find applications for the smartphone.

Ms Ong also noted that siblings can assist their younger brother or sister with their sleep patterns.

"Once your elder child has developed his or her own sleep pattern, they can encourage the younger sibling to do the same.

"If their age gap is close, their sleep schedules can be synchronised," she suggested.

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