Expert advice on establishing healthy sleep patterns for your baby
As a new parent, you may be wondering when and what to do in order to establish the right sleep habits for your infant. An interesting article ran this month in the Chicago Tribune that cited several pediatric authorities offering expert advice on this subject. Here are some highlights:
Dr. Kenneth Fox, pediatrician at North Shore University Health System and senior clinician educator at the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine, says the influence of sleep environment is important for all kids. Here are a couple things he recommends that you do to help strengthen or improve healthy sleep habits for your infant:
- By the time your baby is 4 to 6 months old, you should start a ritual of putting the baby to bed at the same time every day.
- Infants should sleep alone and in a crib without toys or blankets.
Dr. David Gozal, a pediatric sleep expert and the Herbert T. Abelson professor and chairman of pediatrics at the University of Chicago medical school, believes adequate sleep is a necessity for kids:
- Sleep is an important developmental process that your baby needs to ensure the brain and other organs develop in an optimal fashion. It should hold the same importance as good nutrition and physical activity.
- Reinforce to your baby or child that sleep is not only a very important and life-sustaining function, but that it's also a good and pleasant thing to do.
- Help regularize your baby's circadian rhythms early in his or her life by establishing a consistent sleep routine backed by an appropriate environment.
- Research has shown that sleep deficit can increase the risk of obesity, cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, impaired immune function and psychiatric troubles.
- Sleep deprivation in children can also lead to behavioral problems like attention deficit and learning troubles, and substantially hamper academic performance.
Dr. Stephen Sheldon, director of the Sleep Medicine Center at the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago, is a strong proponent of establishing healthy infant sleep patterns:
- Developing a healthy sleep routine at night and gradually tapering naps during the day should be compared to other developmental landmarks, like the ability to walk and talk.
- Parents should be consistent, persistent and flexible with their efforts. Children thrive on consistency.
The Mayo Clinic Guide to Your Baby's First Year, a new book by Mayo Clinic pediatricians, outlines baby's monthly sleep patterns for the first year and offers some tips:
- Babies typically sleep 16 hours a day, though often only one or two hours at a time.
- Encourage your baby to fall asleep in the crib rather than in your arms.
- Put your baby to bed at signs of sleepiness or fussiness.
- Leave your baby alone for a few minutes when crying to allow him or her to settle on their own.
- Encourage activity during the day by talking, singing and playing, but opt for soothing techniques at night like a relaxing bath or cuddling.
What do you think about these recommendations? What have been your successes (or challenges) in trying to get your little one to establish a sleep routine? We'd love to hear from you!
Source: Setting sleep patterns early can help babies, parents rest easy by Janice Neumann, Chicago Tribune, June 20, 2012.
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