Now that your baby is older, the times when your baby will become sleepy are more predictable. Another way of saying this is that the biological sleep-wake rhythms are more mature. This allows you to change your strategy to keep your child well rested. Previously, at about 2 months of age, the focus was on brief intervals of wakefulness to avoid the over tired state; now you can begin to use clock time as an aid to help your child sleep well. Stated simply, you can use your child's natural sleep rhythms to help your child fall asleep. Let's start in the morning and go around the clock.
Starting the Day:
Most children will awake to start the day about 7 am, but there is a wide range (between 6-8).
The first nap occurs about 9am and it may last about an hour or two. Sometimes, you will stretch your child to get to this time, or you may wake up your child at 7am in order for your child to be able to take this nap. Please remember that previously you focused on maintaining short intervals of wakefulness, but now your try to anticipate your child's predictable best nap time. If you child takes this nap too early or too late, then it is difficult for your child to take the second nap on time. This morning nap disappears between 15 and 21 months.
The second nap occurs about 1pm and it may last about an hour or two. The most common problem at this nap time is too long of an interval of wakefulness following the first nap. This causes your child to become over tired. The time window for this second nap is between 12 noon and 2pm but you may notice that your child's own time window during which it is easiest to fall asleep is much narrower. This afternoon nap commonly continues for about 4 years.
The third nap may or may not occur. If it does occur, it may vary between 3 and 5 pm. Also the duration of this nap may vary, but it is usually a very brief nap. Usually, this nap disappears by about 8 months.
Because of the variability of the third nap, the bed-time may also vary. Most children are ASLEEP between 7-9pm. The most common problem at bedtime is keeping your child up too late. If the child is put to sleep after his time of tiredness, he has more difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep. If you keep your child up past the time when he is drowsy, for example, because you return home late from work, then you are depriving your child of sleep. Please try to avoid making your child over tired as you would not deliberately make your child go without food when he is hungry.
First Night Waking:
This may occur 4 to 6 hours after your child's last feeding. Some children do not get up at this time. Feeding your child differently, or giving cereal will not help your child sleep better. There is a shifting from deep sleep to light sleep throughout the night. Partial awakenings or light sleep stages called arousals occur every 1 to 2 hours when your child is asleep and sometimes, your child will call out or cry during these arousals. Loud crying during these arousals signify an over tired child. If your baby is not sleeping with you in your bed, going to your child at the time of these partial awakenings will eventually lead to a night waking or a night feeding habit. This is because your social stimulation, occurring when you pick up your baby, hold your baby, and feed your baby, will eventually cause your baby to force himself to a more alert state during these arousals. Consequently, he will learn to expect to be fed or enjoy the pleasure of playtime with his parents at every arousal. However, if you are sleeping with your baby and breast feeding, you might promptly nurse at all of these arousals while your baby is still in a somewhat deep sleep state, and then no night waking habit might develop. The most common problem regarding these naturally occurring arousals is to project psychological problems into out children such as saying that they must be lonely or afraid. However, 4 to 6 hours after the last feeding, many children are hungry, and you should promptly respond by feeding.
Second Night Waking:
This may occur around 4 or 5am. Some children do not get up at this time. Most children who do awaken at this time are wet, soiled, or hungry and a prompt response is appropriate. Maintain silence and darkness, because you child should return to sleep. A common mistake is to play with your child, and prevent the return to sleep. The return to sleep is important so that your child will be able to comfortably stay up to the time of his first nap. Although this pattern of getting up once in the middle of the night and/or in the early morning is common, some children will simply get up once around 2 or 3 am, or not get up at all. Some night waking is very common during the first 8 months.
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