My guest article on “Sleep Solutions for My Fussy Baby” for Today’s Motherhood has been published! View the write-up in the Jun/Jul 2010 issue, pages 22-23 or below.
During pregnancy, I prepared extensively for delivery day and breastfeeding, while missing out on one topic – sleep. What a major mistake! When Vee (the fussy, gassy, clingy light-sleeper arrived), I became nearly obsessed with ways to help him fall asleep and stay asleep. Sleeping problems that we faced initially:
- He demanded to be carried and rocked or bounced to sleep. Otherwise, he would cry forcefully.
- It took up to five hours to help him nap.
- When finally asleep, he fussed every 35 to 45 minutes in the day and every 1 to 1.5 hours at night.
- He refused to fall asleep in the car-seat or stroller, so outdoor trips had to be planned meticulously.
This article shares with you some ways that helped him (and I) sleep longer and better.
1. Tummy Massage
Vee has the reputation of the gassiest baby that my confinement helper has seen. He passed gas so frequently that it even shocked him into tears at times. My nurse taught me to do tummy massage for him and it was amazing how much gas he could pass out during each massage. Relieving the gas for him enabled him to sleep more comfortably.
2. Swaddling and Babywearing
Even as a newborn, Vee did not like to sleep in a cot. His startle reflex which continued for many months also awakened him easily. Swaddling enabled him to sleep more peacefully, and he self-weaned from it at 6.5 months old. We had to specially order two large swaddles from the U.S. to wrap up the 9kg dumpling.
On some days, even carrying did not settle him, so I wore him in a baby sling to calm him down and walked around the house until he fell asleep – a good way to exercise at home.
3. White Noise
This work marvellously and we are using it even today for the 15-month old toddler. When he cried miserably in the early months, turning on the hairdryer for a while would calm him down. Throughout his nap and night-time sleep, rainfall sound would be looped continuously to mask out household noises since he is a very light-sleeper. (Read reviews about products that produce white noise here.)
Initially, I resisted co-sleeping. When Vee kept fussing after night-time feeds at four months old, I was spending entire nights trying to get him to sleep in his cot instead of resting. Finally, I gave up and let him sleep with us. Co-sleeping (done in a safe way) enabled me to breastfeed him lying down, tend to him easily and he fussed less. It may not work for everyone but certainly worked for us.
5. Eliminating Night-Time Diaper Changes
He is a heavy-wetter and easily pees through conventional disposable diapers. His sensitive skin also cannot tolerate most diapers for more than six hours. After a diaper change, it could take hours to settle him back to sleep again. Eventually, I found modern cloth diapers that are super-absorbent and breathable to last him up to 12 hours without any leak and rash. This was a big step to help us sleep more peacefully. (Read more about night-time diapering options here.)
6. Appropriate Clothings and Room Temperature
From about six months old, Vee has been suffering from eczema rashes on his face and inner folds of limbs which flare up when he is warm. Therefore, we experimented with the room temperature and found that a cool environment kept his rashes down and eventually enabled him to sleep soundly. He is dressed lightly during day naps and wears a T-Shirt and pants at night. We realised that not every baby needs to wear long sleeves, mittens and socks to bed; do what is most comfortable for your little one.
7. Sleeping at an Angle
Between four and seven months old, Vee regurgitated milk very often and had slight reflux problems which caused him to scream at night. Letting him sleep on a surface raised at 30-degrees eased the reflux and allowed him to sleep much better.
8. Bedtime Routine and Early Bedtime
Adapting a bedtime routine enabled Vee to tune down more easily for bedtime. At night, he gets a sponge bath, feed, bedtime stories, songs, massage and then encouraged to sleep. For naps, he gets the same routine without the sponge bath. He stays very alert when the surrounding is bright, so his sleeping environment must be dimly-lit. Even the walls near the bed have to be free of posters as he gets totally excited seeing them.
He also fell asleep more easily and slept longer when bedtime was brought forward to about 8.30p.m. It was only when he grew older that his bedtime shifted later and we started enjoying evening outings.
Sometimes, I wonder how many gassy, heavy-wetting light-sleepers with reflux and eczema problems are there. If we can get enough sleep, I am sure you can too. Explore to see what works best for you and your baby. Sweet dreams!
Read these reviews on some of our favourite sleeping aids:
If you are a Mummy-to-be, how are you preparing to sleep well when baby arrives?
If you are an experienced Mummy, how are you helping your baby / toddler to sleep better?