baby not sleeping

Baby not sleeping, Mommy not sleeping, what to do?

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You don’t know the struggles of a being a new parent until you actually go through it. Maybe you’re living something like this: I am desperate for suggestions. My baby is not sleeping at night. Her “bedtime” is at 3 or 4 am!! I am sleep deprived. I am a first time Mommy, my baby girl is 5 months old, and still does not sleep the whole night, what can I do! How much your baby is sleeping? Mine only takes power naps. Not sleeping well!

If baby not sleeping, mommy … and dad are not sleeping 🙁 So, what to do?

If your child is older than 4 months old, before that age they’re still sleeping short periods all day long, there are solutions to the problem of sleep deprivation of the whole family.

Experts opinion on “baby not sleeping” problem

Many parents who let their children to sleep with them, felt guilty. This is no doubt because the SIDS organizations include it in possible risk factors.

Leading child health experts such as William Sears, Penelope Leach, and James McKenna believe that having your baby in your bed is an excellent solution to the “baby not sleeping” problem. Baby settles easily and everyone sleeps more.

However, our culture teaches us that having the baby in its parents’ bed is wrong, that it could cause mental harm to the baby and that we might allow the baby to develop poor habits. Not to mention that it might damage the relationship between mom and dad.

All of which, says Professor James McKenna of the University of Notre Dame, Indiana, are just cultural assumptions. Not a scientific fact. Ninety percent of mothers around the world sleep with their babies. Even McKenna believes we are, in fact, biologically designed to sleep together.

It’s only in the last century that we have been asking: ‘Where will my baby sleep?’, he says. Also ‘What will my baby eat?’ is another question we’ve only been able to ask recently. “The biology of the baby has not changed in 200,000 years. So why have these questions arisen?”

“All the models of what is ‘normal’ for babies were constructed in the 1950s and 60s when we thought that babies should sleep alone and be bottle-fed,” he explains. When a baby cries because he is separated from its source of nourishment and comfort, his mother, we think the baby is behaving badly. When in fact his reaction is quite natural.

Sharing bed may protect against SIDS

Many health professionals and SIDS activists advise against sharing a bed with your baby because in some cases it can be a contributing factor to sudden infant death. This is particularly true when a parent smokes; when a parent is affected by alcohol or other drugs, especially sedatives; or when the baby becomes overheated or covered with soft bedding. However, James McKenna believes that in other cases sharing a bed may even defend against SIDS.

Researchers now link SIDS to failure to ‘wake up’ during sleep. McKenna showed that not only do mothers and babies ‘wake up’ each other constantly throughout the night (without fully waking each other up). But babies who normally sleep with their mothers spend less time in deep sleep, which is harder to wake up. Babies sleeping with their mothers also breastfeed longer and more frequently than babies who sleep separately. McKenna and his research colleagues conclude that ‘by increasing breastfeeding, bedsharing might be protective against SIDS, at least in some contexts’.

What this all boils down to is that sleeping with your baby is fine. As long as you exclude the known risks of SIDS, such as smoking, alcohol and other drugs and overheating/suffocation, having your baby in your bed, in a crib next to your bed or even in a hammock that hangs over your bed is safe and beneficial.

Many parents, including me, find that sharing their bed with their baby or toddler means everyone sleeps better at night.

Mothers, says William Sears, are designed to respond to their child’s cries and ignoring them is hard and stressful. Babies whose cries go unanswered lose a sense of trust in their caregivers. He says, ‘the more you trust your infant’s signals, the more he trusts himself’.

Sears believes the best sleeping arrangement is one in which the baby doesn’t have to cry to meet his needs: “When mothers and babies sleep close to each other, their sleep cycles are synchronized.”

Controlled crying?

You may have heard of other method for “baby not sleeping” problem: controlled crying, or crying it out’. It is a technique often recommended to parents who feel that their child needs to be taught to put themselves to sleep. Because the technique has been spread by word of mouth, what some parents call controlled crying bears little relation to the techniques actually recommended by pediatricians and sleep experts.

In the 80s, Dr. Richard Feber proposed a technique he taught to the parents of a ten-month-old. It included putting her in her crib and leaving the room for five minutes, returning and settling her for two or three minutes without picking her up. Then leaving the place for ten minutes before returning, then 15 minutes. Fifteen minutes would be the maximum crying time the first night. The second night they would leave her to cry for ten minutes, then up to a 20-minute maximum. He predicts ‘normal’ sleep behavior in the second week.

However, it is important to realize that no studies have been done on the long-term effects of the controlled crying method on babies of any age, and particularly on babies this young. So, before you try any variant of this technique, consider whether you want your baby to be part of this uncontrolled social practice.

Final advice

One last piece of advice. I suggest that you do a mental check if your baby has a good environment for a peaceful sleep. Does she have good temperature conditions, low light and little noise in her or your room ( if you agree with the idea of co-sleeping)? Is her crib as well as her crib mattress safe? Is it free of toxic or other materials that can affect your baby with allergies and other similar reactions?

If you’re planning to co-sleep with your little one, take a look at our posts about baby bedside cribs.

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