Baby Not Sleeping?

If there were a magic wand that could do one and only one thing for our infant….  the majority of us would choose to have that magic wand put our baby to sleep.  Those nights when we’re able to just fall into bed and stay sleeping until morning are few and far between when we have our precious babies in the house.  While there is no magic wand, nor any proven cure for the quandary, there are some interesting facts about how an infant sleeps that can at least help us understand and hopefully keep us from going crazy.

For adults, as we drift off into sleep and the brain begins to wind down, we enter a stage of sleep called “quiet sleep”.  It is when our mind and body are the least active – the body is still, breathing is shallow and regular, and we sleep quite literally, heavy.  This will last about an hour until our brain gets turned back on and we enter what’s known as REM (rapid eye movement).  We come out of a deep sleep and enter a rather active period of sleeping where if woken; we will not experience that groggy feeling.  Our brain even tells us when we may need to go to the bathroom.  Adults tend to alternate between these two stages throughout the night.

Our child, however, is on a completely different schedule.  Research has found that infants will enter the period of light sleep, or REM, as opposed to drifting off as an adult would into quiet sleep.  On average, an infant will stay in this light sleep for about 20-25 minutes, gradually entering a deeper sleep.  The problem that most of us have as parents is that we don’t realize this.  We have been carrying our baby around for 20 minutes, she startles, twitches, her eyes flutter, and we may even see a little smile.  So we instinctively lay her down into the crib, and upon touching a cool mattress, she startles awake, and we start all over.  For our little ones, even though we’re ready for our own quiet sleep, try spending about 15-20 more minutes extra on your next try.  Allow your baby to go through his process of light sleep and enter into the deeper sleep period.  It takes a little extra time, but holding your precious little baby that much longer keeps adolescence a bit further away J

Another important fact to know about our infant is that his sleep cycle is shorter than an adult’s.  An adult sleep cycle (going from light to deep sleep and back again) on average lasts 90 minutes.  An infant’s cycle lasts approximately 50-60 minutes.  This means that after you have finally “put him to sleep” and you think he has entered deep sleep, he will come out of it sooner and back into a period of light sleep.  These moments are often times when the child wakes up after about an hour of sleep from being hungry, too hot or cold, anything that makes him feel uncomfortable.  We have to remember as parents that it wasn’t anything we did wrong.  There wasn’t anything we should have done differently.  It’s just the way they are wired.  Consider yourself blessed to have a child so normal that the slightest hunger pang will wake him, and you.

While it may be hard to take some nights, know that your infant is simply fulfilling a basic need of survival when awakening.  She needs to eat or a diaper needs to be changed.  We want our infant to awaken with the slightest change as she has squirmed herself into a corner or under her bedding.  She is healthy, normal and doing what she needs to.  Take comfort knowing that, and spend those sleepless nights holding her over and over.  It may not seem like it now, but those moments don’t last long enough.

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