Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Can Little Changes Lead to a Little More Sleep?

As all of our readers know, waking up at night is important for young infants’ health and well-being. We understand how frustrating waking up can be. We know how it feels to literally ache for some sleep. But think of it this way, giving birth to a baby large enough to go 8 hours between feeds would be a lot more painful! So, for a least a few months, you’re going to be getting most of your sleep in relatively short stretches with lots of interruptions. We found a few recent studies that provide some ideas for some small changes in your routine and environment that might help you get just a little more sleep. While none of these tips will lead to your baby sleeping through the night, when you’re waking up so frequently, every little bit helps.

Stimulate your baby during the day to encourage more sleep at night.
After the first month or so (when babies' rhythms are completely chaotic), you’ll find that your baby is able to stay awake for longer periods of time. Try adding more playtime during the day to keep your baby awake so that she starts to concentrate longer stretches of sleep to nighttime hours.

Keep your baby nearby.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that your baby sleeps in the same room with you for the first year of life. Having your baby close by will keep night interruptions shorter, letting you get back to sleep more quickly when every minute counts.

Try some white noise.
Newborns can make a great deal of noise when they are dreaming. Having some low-level white noise will help you adapt to the fidgeting, squirming, and soft squeals so common in young infants. This way, you can sleep close by and wake readily when your baby really lets you know she needs you.

Use night lights (or low lighting) in all the areas you use to care for your baby.
Keeping lights low while you feed, burb, or change your baby’s diaper will help you get back to sleep more quickly when your baby is settled again. Bright lights will signal your brain to wake up and stay awake. Of course, you do NOT want low lighting if you are doing something that requires your full attention such as giving medication to your baby. Also, unless you want your baby to stay awake, leave the TV off. Flickering lights and noises will send signals to your baby's brain that its time to wake up.

Try infant massage.
In a very small but interesting study, babies who were given a massage at bed time for 14 days (starting around 2 weeks of age) were more likely (at 8 and 12 weeks of age) than babies who didn't get a massage to have their most active time in the morning rather than during the night. The researchers suggest that the daily massage sent a strong signal to the babies' brains to help them get better in tune with their parents' day and night rhythms.

Next time: Solving Baby Behavior Mysteries

Skuladottir A, Thome M, Ramel A. Improving day and night sleep problems in infants by changing day time sleep rhythm: a single group before and after study. Int J Nurs Stud. 2005;42: 843-50.

Lee KA, Gay CL. Can modifications to the bedroom environment improve the sleep of new parents? Two randomized controlled trials. Res Nur Health 2010; Epub Nov. 17.

Ferber SG, Laudon M, et al. Massage therapy by mothers enhances the adjustment of circadian rhythms to the nocturnal period in full-term infants. Dev Beh Ped 2002; 23: 410-415.

1 comment:

  1. A comment left at a baby food blog: add some breast milk to a breast pad and place the pad in the baby's sleep area.

    I tried this suggestion today adding a small amount of breast milk to my son's "binky" and he was able to soothe himself back to sleep after a premature wake-up this afternoon.