Short Naps: Those 15-20 minute naps are killers! Just when you think you FINALLY get a break the baby is up before you have fully formed a thought about how relieved you are. This takes a little work on your part but it can help to stretch out naptimes. Put your baby down for a nap as usual, but don’t go anywhere. Sit nearby where you can hear when baby starts to stir. (This is where a good book comes in handy!) When you hear baby just begin to wake up go and do what you need to do to settle baby down again. You can pat his back, just put your hand on him, caress his head, lay down and snuggle up, breastfeed or offer a bottle. Do whatever it takes to keep your baby from fully getting to alertness. For me it worked best to lay down next to the baby and offer the breast. Once baby is back to sleep you can sneak off again, but still don’t go too far. You may find that baby goes through this pattern a few times for each nap and while the naps are labor intensive for you right now, they should be lasting longer. Once your baby gets used to having these longer stretches of sleep, the nap-waking should back down a bit and may even stop. I never thought it would work, but it got my non-sleeping child to eventually take 2.5 hour naps on a regular basis.
The Non-Sleeper: Yawn. I am sorry if you have one of these. The child with the boundless energy that never seems to get tired. It is helpful to read a book that has some good solid sleep research in it like Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child (although I personally disagree with the cry-it-out method that he teaches, his information is solid.) A child who is a non-sleeper may need some extra help getting to sleep. And you may have to get especially good at picking up on the first cue that they are tired because their second wind comes on fast and hard.
Teething: The advent of teething is the death knoll of many a good night’s sleep. The baby who previously slept well almost all the time can suddenly become the one who wakes every half hour all. night. long. Teethers can help for calming the little one down while you prepare them for sleep. Gumomile Oil is a natural painkiller for baby’s mouth. And Tylenol is always a favorite for an unhappy teething baby.
Developmental Stages – rolling, crawling, walking: Learning a new skill seems to set baby’s brain on fire. They just cannot stop practicing it. Did you ever have to study for an exam in school and you just couldn’t stop thinking about it long enough to sleep? That appears to be how it works for a little baby just learning a new skill. Neither their mind nor their body can stop from practicing the new skill over and over. For example, you may find your new crawler trying to crawl in his sleep and waking himself up. Your new walker may be pulling up over and over. I think these times just have to pass. After a few rough nights things seem to settle back down a bit and baby gets too tired to practice his skill while sleeping.
One-Year Sleep Deprivation: My big confession about baby sleep is that I am always much more sleep deprived when the baby hits one year old than I am during the first several months. I think it is mostly the developmental stages that are coming so fast at that age and how fast they are growing and learning, but my babies are always at their worst when it comes to sleep at this age. There is not a whole lot to do about this, sometimes you just have to realize that your own brain power may be a little diminished for a while until you can catch up on your sleep.
Becoming Verbal: Once baby starts to really become verbal, the fun returns to sleepy time. Suddenly lovely bedtime books take on new meaning. The moon become their magical companion and seems to be loved by every one year old. Your child can understand what you say better and can grasp some element of what is happening. This is a developmental stage and may set your child back a bit, but communication with your child can be more open and rewarding. You can tell your child, “Mommy needs to go feed the dog” (or some other very short chore) and leave the room. Just be sure to come back very quickly. Building the trust that your child has in what you say will allow you to leave the room for longer and longer periods.
Dreamland and Monsters: As baby gets older and more verbal, they will be more likely to have vivid dreams and imaginative thoughts that can leave them frightened at night. A snuggle toy can be comforting. Using a deodorizing spray or other nicely scented spray and give a few shots around the room to make the environment relaxing. I give an extra couple of squirts on their pillow. The deep breathing as they sniff it helps to relax them very much.
There will always be bumps along the road to good sleep for your child, but if you have a good framework in place they will keep returning to that until the next bump hits. As hard as it is on those rough nights, try to remember that these times will someday be only a memory, and a relatively sweet one at that.