The first check with a crying baby is food. Are they getting enough food? My friend’s child was not sleeping. She was breast-feeding, had two other children so she knew what she was doing, but was getting very tired of all the crying. She went to the doctor who told that her baby was hungry and needed to supplement with formula. She gave the baby a bottle and it began to sleep. Although she had plenty of milk, it wasn’t rich enough. She was a busy mom with two other young children. This was not an indictment against her motherhood. Nor did she feel any less of a woman because her milk wasn’t rich enough. She was simply thrilled her child was now getting what it needed. As a parent you need to do what is best for your child.
Having established that your child is not hungry, the next thing to check is moisture and temperature levels. Are they wet, too hot or too cold? When children are wet or if they have soiled their nappy they will be uncomfortable and a change is required. If they are cold they will need to be covered. Full sleep suits or the sleeping bags that snap onto their shoulders are great, as they can’t roll out of them.
Now, having done all that, we can discuss a few common questions regarding sleep or the lack of it.
1. What if my child cries?
There is nothing wrong with letting your child cry. In fact if you constantly pick your child up at every demand, you will only get a more demanding child. If you constantly go in at every cry the expectation will be for you to be there.
We had a colleague who had an eighteen-month-old child who had not slept through one night. Both parents were frazzled beyond belief. In speaking to them we soon realised the problem. The mom couldn’t stand to hear the baby cry. She felt like she was being a horrid mother if she didn’t respond.
What had transpired was the development of a bad habit. This child was used to getting catered too. So the parents agreed that they would let him cry and they wouldn’t go in. They told us it was a nightmare for the mom. She “slept” on the floor outside his door all night. But her husband had to stay with her so she wouldn’t go in. The child cried on and off all night long. But the next night when they put him down in bed he slept. Yes, he cried for a while at first but they resisted going in. It was amazing how good they all looked at the end of a week. They were amazed how good they felt after a full night’s sleep.
Babies and children develop bad habits just like adults. You need the strength to resist the temptation of going in and cuddling them, feeding them or giving them a drink. If you cater to this game it will never end. All you are doing is prolonging the bedtime. Let your good night – ‘I love you – see you in the morning’ – be your last words to them as you go out the door.
Next week we’ll talk about what to do if your child keeps getting out of bed.