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  Sleep – Altered sleep routine
I have a question concerning my baby’s sleep routine. I’m very confused as she used to have a wonderful routine at night where I just lay her in her cot at nine o ‘clock when she was sleepy and she fell asleep very peacefully (at the age of 4 months). When she turned 5 months old, she slept less during the day, and it seems that she’s not sleepy at all at nine, only at ten in the evening, but when I put her down it’ is an immense struggle to get her to sleep, and either me or her father has to lull her to sleep. I don’t understand the change… could you please advise.

This is not an uncommon situation. It seems that babies get to an age where experiencing the world becomes more important than the sleep they used to enjoy! It is not easy for baby to accept that you know better when it comes to sleep, so many babies fight off sleep, both day naps and going down at night.

The first thing to consider is whether you think your baby is getting enough sleep from her day naps. It is perfectly normal for a baby to refuse to sleep in the day, and then be so overexhausted at night that she simply cannot fall asleep. So if she is really grouchy, crotchety and overwrought at bedtime, then it could be that overtiredness is your main problem. Overtiredness is an extremely common reason for poor sleep in babies, and needs to be carefully managed by the baby’s caretaker.

If it is likely that overtiredness is the problem, then you may have to make some extra effort to get her to sleep a bit more in the day. At this age it can take quite some time to settle a reluctant baby, so don’t give up too quickly. Try some of the usual tactics – some winding down activities after a nice feed, and then a lie down in a dark, quiet room, and you may have the answer. However, if not, it would be perfectly acceptable to resort to other tricks – a nice drive in the car or trip in the pushchair might be enough to get baby to doze off. You would be surprised at how many of the day naps of babies are timed to coincide with a car trip – it really does kill two birds with one stone if you can get the timing right.

Then on to the night sleep. Do you have a night-time routine? This is an indispensable part of your baby’s successful sleep patterns. A bath is an excellent way of getting baby into a calm and contented frame of mind. You could experiment with one of the soothing bath additions on the market – lavender and camomile work well for some babies. From here on until baby gets into bed, things should be kept quiet and calm. No matter how tedious and boring it is for you, bedtime routines work best when they are adhered to quite strictly. Some quiet activites, perhaps starting with a massage after bath if baby enjoys that, will help baby wind down. A story, a song, a cuddle and maybe even putting a favorite toy to bed, can all help lead up to a quite and happy bed time.

Unfortunately if none of these strategies solve the sleep problem then you may have to resort to the method of letting baby cry. There are a few different ways to approach this, and they are discussed on the website www.babyonline.co.za in the section on sleep. You may find that the older baby is, the cleverer she is at pulling at your heart strings and luring you back into her bedroom. So if you want to address the sleep problem with this method, the sooner you do it the better! Good luck!

See also:

Sleep - Appropriate sleep routines (Jacqui Flint advises)

Sleep - Background noise

Sleep - Dealing with Catnapping (Author Erica Neser advises)

Sleep - Darkened room

Sleep - Night Terrors

Sleep - Reasons for waking

Sleep - Sighing

Sleep - Sleep routines for Baby (Author Erica Neser advises)

Sleep - Surviving Co-sleeping (Author Erica Neser advises)

Sleep - Toddler Sleep Problems (Author Erica Neser advises)

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