Baby Sleeping Problems

Babies and sleep, two things that sometime really do not seem to go together. It is a known fact that babies sleep less during the weeks that their mental development is making a leap. But how much is enough sleep? How can you help your baby to sleep? Dr. Frans, leading expert on infant mental development, explains.

Food and sleep: the two necessities for the brain

Learning and discovering many things is tiresome, both to the body and the brain. After all, it is in the brain that the mental developments take place. In addition to food, the brain needs rest. If your baby gets enough sleep, it will facilitate learning and discovering new things.

Why does a baby sleep less during a mental leap?

Your baby's world changes completely and suddenly when he makes a leap in his mental development. He did not ask for the leap to happen and cannot influence it, but suddenly everything is different. He gets upset and you can see this in his sleeping pattern as well. Each baby reacts differently. One baby may almost stop sleeping altogether during the fussy phase of a leap, the other sleeps less during the night and more during the daytime, and still another may try to sleep but cannot. As a parent you should remember that these bad sleeping habits during a wonder week are normal. Once the leap is over, your baby will sleep better again.


Mum's sleeping problems during her baby's mental leap

If your baby is not sleeping, you too will feel the effects of the lack of deep sleep. One person may be more sensitive to this than another. If you find that you are so tired during the day that you almost take it out on your baby, just when he needs you the most, you are wise to get some rest in any way possible. Let things be and take an hour-long nap when your baby is asleep. Or ask your partner to step in for one night to comfort him when he wakes up during the night. If you are breastfeeding you can pump your breasts in the evening so your partner can feed your baby during the night.

How can I help my baby sleep well during a mental leap?

There is no magic formula to get your baby to sleep. If only there was one! You can help him by giving him the opportunity to process or digest the new impressions of the leap. Take it easy during those days when your baby goes through a leap. Put off demanding things and let him rest for a few days. It may be inconvenient to change your calendar around, but in the long run your baby-and yourself-will be more at ease and have peace of mind.

Too busy to sleep after a mental leap

Some babies have such a strong natural drive to master skills that they don't take the time to sleep until they are successful. You see this behaviour already at a rather young age. These babies allow themselves no sleep before they have reached their goal. It demands much of them, and of you. That is a personal quality that can be very useful later in life, but at this young age these children must sometimes be protected from themselves. Put the emphasis on trying something. Praise him for his efforts, regardless of the outcome. That way you distract your baby. If you find that it really requires too much from him, take a break. Get him out of that challenging environment for a while and do something calmer with him. Like reading a book.

Does a baby pretend to sleep?

Some babies do not like to be surrounded by a large group of people. They close their eyes and fall asleep or pretend to sleep. Many mothers find this annoying. They would like to show their friends that sweet smile and beautiful eyes. But it is not wise to wake up your baby if he shows you that he would rather sleep. You will notice that, as he grows older, he will like a group of people and by then everyone can see how fantastic he is.

Can a baby have dreams?

Just exactly what dreams are and what makes us dream is still a mystery. We do know in what stage of sleep people dream. This is not in deep sleep, but in dream sleep, called the REM phase. REM stands for Rapid Eye Movement. This phase of sleep is called this because the eyes move very quickly.

The amount of dream sleep declines over the first year. Babies devote the largest part of the night or day to dream sleep. Babies who are born after a pregnancy of 25 weeks even spend their entire sleeping time in dream sleep. By 32 weeks this becomes 80 percent. At that point the first signs of 'deep' sleep appear. Children born at full term spend 45 to 65 percent of sleep time in dream sleep. After three months 43 percent, after twelve months 30 percent, and by the time your baby has become an adolescent, only 20 percent is dream sleep.

Because a young baby's periods of dream sleep are longer than ours, it seems logical to assume that your baby dreams more then we do. Whether you can compare their dream sleep with ours is difficult to say. Sometimes as a parent you will see that your baby is dreaming, in a good way or a bad way. The question remains whether they really have 'story' dreams, or if they dream about basic feelings and emotions.

Help your baby sort out all impressions

Some babies find life far too challenging to stop. Tired or not tired, they just want to go on. The more stimulus they get, the more experience they want. In short, these babies keep themselves awake and do not allow themselves to sleep. No matter which way you have organized your routine and daily rhythm, these babies will often object when they have to go to bed. These little ones are sometimes called 'temperamental babies'. And if you are the dad or mom of a temperamental baby you cannot help but noticing that you have your hands full. A temperamental baby demands the most of you, but there is a reason for this! You could also replace the word "temperamental'' with "eager to learn" and "curious".

However you describe it, one thing is perfectly clear: sometimes you have to protect these babies from themselves. A baby just cannot go through an entire day with little or no sleep. Try this: play games that correspond to the mental leap your baby is in right now. These are the games that train the skills he is mastering, and these demand the most of your baby's brain.

Chances are that your baby's curiosity and inquisitiveness will be satisfied. Once you notice that he gets tired, treat him very calmly and be very restful. Wanna bet that he goes to sleep?

How much sleep does a baby need?

Not everyone is the same and needs the same amount of sleep. The number of hours our brain and nervous system needs to rest is highly individual. This applies to your baby, toddler and preschooler too. Of course there are averages. An unborn baby sleeps an average of 23 out of 24 hours. Shortly after birth the average baby sleeps approximately 16 hours per day. However, the duration of sleep varies between 10 and 23 hours! A 4 year old preschooler usually sleeps 12 hours straight and has an afternoon nap of about 1 to 2 hours.

Dr. Frans Plooij P.HD is a leading expert on infant mental development and the author of the bestseller The Wonder Weeks. The Wonder Weeks describes your baby's mental development and help him turn his 10 predictable, great, fussy phases into magical leaps forward. It describes in easy-to-understand terms the incredible developmental changes and regression periods that all babies go through during the first 20 months of their lives. The Wonder Weeks is available online in hard copy as well as in eBook and Kindle.

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