There is almost nothing more unnerving or difficult than a baby or child who isn’t sleeping, especially at night. Even the best books out there can’t fully prepare a new parent for the first few months and truly the first few years.
And, without fail, just about everyone has an opinion to share, a home remedy they swear by or a tradition that has been passed down for generations for which you must try.
All that goes out the door when it’s 2:00 a.m., the baby is crying, and that good advice amounted to nothing. Take a step back and a deep breath because most of the time there are reasons why this is happening and they are nothing to fret about.
Why isn’t my child sleeping?
1. Those Darn Teeth
With just about everything baby, there are general rules of thumb and then there is your baby. Generally, most babies will start getting their two bottom front teeth starting around 4 -6 months old, however, a few have earlier growth, while others develop as late as a year old.
Teething is usually accompanied by some level of pain as the teeth push through and because every new sensation can be overwhelming to a baby, this can cause some sleepless nights for everyone. Luckily, this is typically just a 5 – 7-day process, and won’t happen every time new teeth come in.
Be very careful on which pieces of guidance you decide to follow; years ago mothers would apply a couple drops of whiskey to the sore gums, but this is frowned upon nowadays as wrong, especially with all of the other safe and effective products on the market today.
By far, the best product on the market is the Wink Naturals Teething Gel. The problem with so many over-the-counter and homeopathic remedies is they contain harmful drugs, which can lead to long-term effects.
No parent should have to put up with treatments that are risky or to subject their precious one to unnecessary discomfort. The ingredients to be aware of are benzocaine – once known as Americaine —and belladonna. Both of these have side effects that are rare but very serious and aren’t always discussed even among medical professionals.
2. Rumbly Tumbly
Many well-meaning individuals have suggested over the years that babies shouldn’t eat too often or they will get fat. Yet, if you ask any mother with a newborn how often their baby eats they might say something along the lines of every hour or all the time.
Babies have a good sense of when they are full and when they are hungry, and when a mother is breastfeeding it may be difficult to gauge how much the baby is actually eating. Suckling helps a mother’s body to produce more milk, especially during growth spurts, so this might mean several late-night feedings.
As for the fatting up part, this is exactly what a growing, healthy baby needs. Regular visits with the pediatrician will let parents know if there are areas of concern, but the majority of babies that are allowed to eat when they want, are given plenty of time and space for activity and are monitored for any significant changes grow up to be healthy adults.
The best advice from doctors states that juices, sodas other sweetened drinks should not be a part of a babies diet in their first year, and breast milk is best, but using formula is just fine. A full tummy helps to make a tired baby.
3. Too Much to Process
A baby is protected from so much sound and light stimulation before he or she is born, and then is exposed to unfiltered ambiance throughout the day and evening.
Some have compared this to the inability of adolescents and adults who have played particularly focused and repeated pattern games, and then tried to go to sleep; images and strategies continue to plague the person and keep him or her awake, even when extremely tired.
So much is being processed by a baby, and even a little bit older child, which overstimulates their little brains and doesn’t allow them to calm down and sleep.
Keeping with regular routines is ideal but isn’t always possible. Some parents insist that a warm bath and a little bit of massage with a calming lotion can help a baby to unwind.
Others cuddle with their little one in a low-lit room for a while. Whatever the solution may be, making sure to not bombard a young one with too many toys, too much noise, and too many changes to the routine will help to limit the overstimulation issue.
4. Where Does It Hurt?
One of the most worrisome factors of parenting is when a child is in pain, and he or she isn’t able to tell someone where it hurts. As said before, most everything is new for the baby or child, and the sensation of pain can feel completely astounding.
The pain can be as simple as some built up gas that isn’t being expelled, an illness that is accompanied by some level of discomfort or aches after getting a vaccination. Diagnosing the cause may be difficult at times, especially if there is no definitive reason behind it.
Going through a checklist of common issues, like gas or hunger, helps to narrow the possibilities. Never rule out the option of talking to the pediatrician when there are ongoing problems and nothing seems to work.
But, patience and understanding should be at the forefront of every parent’s mind. Some of the information printed in the baby books truly does serve great purposes, including in these moments; a cry is a baby’s only form of communication.
A high-pitched, quick on-set cry might indicate that he or she has been hurt. This can happen when they get their shots or if they get pinched while buckling them into their car seat.
A moaning cry maybe a feeling of being sick and all-around low-level of body ache. There are different cries that indicate hunger, boredom, fear, and need for attention. It takes time and a little intuition to understand the different cries, and when pain is one of them.
5. Need for Touch
Babies are surrounded by warmth and touch at the beginning of their life and creation. This need for touch and closeness doesn’t go away, in fact, it can be the solution to other problems, such as overstimulation, pain, and fear.
Opinions might begin to pour out, like from great-aunt Betsy, asserting that holding a baby too much or sleeping with a baby in bed will lead to dependency, years of having a child sleeping in the same bed or requisite human contact that is in excess.
None of these have been proven to be the fact, but instead, studies have shown that early physical closeness leads to better emotional and social connections, better ability to cope with stress and better ability to create and keep long-term relationships.
Many pediatricians warn against having an infant in bed with his or her parents; there have been unfortunate instances where a baby has been smothered accidentally.
Make decisions on having or keeping a baby in bed while taking into account personal sleep habits, the ability to wake if the child is in distress and advice from your pediatrician.
When All Else Fails
Sometimes, everyone is tired, no one can seem to calm down, and help is needed. Drug-free remedies are available for both parent and child to help get them over that last hurdle and get that much-needed sleep.
The Adult Zen Sleep Melts and the Children’s Sleep Melts can be that ounce of sanity that makes all the difference. These don’t even have to be the option of last resort; when any of us are left with few choices, we tend to make rash decisions.
Setting out plans based on routine, understanding of a child or baby’s necessities, and know stress limits can help to avoid breakdowns and turning to great-aunt Betsy’s wild pieces of advice.