1 Aug 2022 | 7 min Read
Author | 740 Articles
Managing sleep in infants and toddlers is a challenge that most new parents face. Especially, with mums who are breastfeeding their newborns, setting up a sleep schedule is important for a baby’s health. In a candid interview with BabyChakra, sleep consultant and mum Amrita Saraf shares her expertise in managing sleep for your little munchkins.
I live in Pune with my husband and 3-year-old daughter, Anaika. I am originally from Kashmir but have grown up in different parts of India. Apart from my profession, I also enjoy writing and you will see glimpses of that in the content I create online.
I am an Infant and toddler sleep consultant. My own journey with my child motivated me to understand and dive into the world of pediatric sleep. We had no awareness about sleep when our daughter was born, and there were hardly any resources available. The resources I found online were material on sleep training, that we didn’t want to practice because it went against our instincts.
We didn’t want to practice cry-it-out methods. So I started educating myself on the subject and saw how easily my daughter responded to the changes. I started guiding other parents and then realized all parents are suffering because of lack of sleep. I decided to bridge that gap. My biggest motivation to start was the fact that I never wanted another mum to struggle the way I struggled in the first few months after my daughter was born. I want to help as many parents as I can. That’s my first and foremost intention.
My pregnancy was not easy. We went through a stillbirth five years ago and lost our son. When I was pregnant with my daughter, I was on injections every day for nine months and developed multiple health issues like allergic asthma, pubis symphysis dysfunction, and anxiety. My husband was my biggest support through the phase and we are thankful to god that our journey has been fruitful even through hard times.
Never doubt your supply, arm yourself with the right information because applied knowledge is power. Join relevant support groups and eat well and hydrate yourself. Trust your body.
As weird as it may sound, my work relaxes me. I even work on my holidays because it fulfils me. Apart from that, I enjoy going to the gym, that’s my me time. I am insistent on filling my cup every day so I can pour out more for my daughter and husband.
Babywearing, naps in the stroller, car seat etc are all great ways to ensure the baby gets to sleep on the go. It’s best to fill in more activities in the first half of the day when kids are fresh and so are parents, and keep afternoons slow. I always say that a late nap or a cat nap is better than no nap at all.
My pro tip is to help them unwind even before bedtime starts. This means calming activities like drawing, painting, sand play or sensory play etc before dinner, and reading, talking etc during bedtime. Toddlers take longer to wind down so they need more assistance. I also ensure there is ‘no-screen time’ two hours before bedtime.
I cover the importance of sleep, where parents may be making a mistake, and what ways they can support their child’s sleep. One of the most important modules of my workshop includes how to manage our own sleep as parents and get more rest. I also spend the end of the session answering questions for each participant.
Babies between 0-3 months sleep round the clock, sleeping for 16-18 hours in total through the day, with both cat naps and long naps. They sleep best with contact so parents should consider holding for naps and babywearing.
At 4 months, a predictable routine starts to develop because circadian rhythm has set in (our body’s 24-hour awake and sleep cycle). So between 4-6 months, they are on four naps. At six months they drop to three naps. At 8-9 months they move to 2 naps and stay on two naps till they are ready to drop to one nap routine between 15-18 months of age.
We can set a good bedtime routine as early as one month. A simple massage, change of clothes, lights off and nursing to sleep/rocking will help. Since there is no nap routine before three months, having a consistent bedtime routine helps babies sleep better.
Babies thrive on routine and having predictability to their day helps them. They don’t like surprises. A consistent routine helps them be calm, ensures good sleep, ensures parents get to rest and also helps in reducing bedtime struggles. When they sleep well, especially during the day, they sleep well at night as well. And sleep plays a key role in their growth, development and overall health. It starts from day one. So it’s essential to ensure babies are getting age-appropriate sleep.
One needs to be calm first in order to calm the baby as babies pick up on our energies. A crying baby can be distressing but the key is to bring the baby into your calm. Pick the baby up, go to a quiet and dark room, and gently rock the baby. You can try sushing and hum. First comes calm, then comes sleep.
You can also try a warm bath or step outside for fresh air and sunshine, that always helps. Few parents also swear by car rides but I suggest parents ensure their baby is not overtired in the first place so we don’t have to struggle so much to put them to sleep
It is not only advisable, but it’s also important. That’s how we help babies sleep longer stretches. It is called extending their sleep cycle by dream feeding. Dream feeding and nursing are the easiest ways to put a baby to sleep and help them sleep longer stretches.
Babies who are 0-3 months old should only be fed breastmilk/ formula. Nothing else should be offered to infants, apart from breastmilk and paediatrician-approved formula.
If you are struggling with your child’s sleep routine, do consider these valuable tips from mum Amrita Saraf.
Image credits – Amrita Saraf
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