Is it possible to teach my baby about night and day?

As Evan woke for the third time that night, his sleep deprived, exhausted mom choked back the tears – is it actually possible that he needed another feed? As she stumbled through the darkness to lift him to feed him she felt desperate. Evan was a good baby actually a very good baby during the day – he slept for four to five hours at a stretch during the day but at night, he turned into a nightmare! He was waking every two hours at night and simply put, his mom was desperate and had no idea how she could keep it up for much longer!

It is very common for newborns to have their day and night muddled up and wake to feed more frequently during the day than at night. This can all be switch around very easily following 5 easy steps:

  1. Wake your baby as soon as he has been asleep for 3 ½ hours so that he feeds at least four hourly during the day. A newborn can be expected to demand a feed every 2 ½ to four hours during the day.
  2. Make the room dark for night sleep – from 6pm to 6am, the room needs to be as dark as possible. Use block out lining or curtains to ensure an absence of light. Melatonin – our sleep hormone is released in the absence of light, which is why we are drowsy at night.
  3. Do not wake your baby at all at night for a feed, unless advised to do so by your doctor. Let your little one wake up on his own to feed and feed him when he wakes if more than three hours have passed. If he is feeding well during the day and gaining weight, he will start to stretch this longer and longer at night.
  4. During the day your new baby (0-6 weeks) can be awake for up to 45 to an hour at a stretch – do all care during this time and stimulate him for a short period while awake.
  5. Do not fuss with or stimulate your baby at night. Try to not even make eye contact or change his nappy unless he has soiled it at night. In this way you won’t wake him fully. Just feed, burp, feed on the other side and put him down to sleep.

Mary’s problem had suddenly arisen in the past few weeks, Jaden was a good sleeper but now, at 15 months he suddenly had turned into a monster at night! At 2 am for the past week, Jaden would become restless and then call out and eventually start to cry. Going in to him, he would ask to be picked up and want to go out of his room. He simply wanted to go to the lounge, watch some TV and have a bottle there. He would play quietly on the floor for up to two hours before looking drowsy again. His mom was at the end of her tether and was exhausted when having to get up after two hours sleep at 6am to start her day.

Occasionally toddlers and even younger babies start to be very awake in the middle of the night. Try these steps to manage your older baby back to a good night sleep:

  1. Make sure your little one is not going to bed too late. 7pm is the latest a baby or toddler must be in bed and any later and you could be looking at a little one who is simply overtired. Over tiredness often leads to night wakings and even night terrors.
  2. Deworm your toddler if he is over one year of age as worm infestations of the gut can wake little ones at this time and they battle to settle again.
  3. Make sure your toddler has a good diet with sufficient protein and iron.
  4. Make all interactions between 6pm and 6am muted – calming and not stimulating.
  5. Set a boundary, even if your little one goes through a stage of being wakeful in the middle of the night. Set the boundary that he may not leave his cot. Sit with him and offer a sip of water but no feeds and definitely do not leave the room with him. If he is very wakeful, use Rescue Remedy to help him settle a little quicker. By not budging on this boundary the night wakefulness will be short lived.

By Meg Faure