While sleep is important for every living thing it is especially important for growing and developing babies. While adults need sleeping time to regenerate skin, fingernails, and cellular functioning, babies need their sleeping time to allow their bodies to develop muscles, limbs, skeletal structure, and brain development. Babies will have random sleeping patterns until they are about 6 months of age and will sleep on and off for a few hours at time, spending most of their time asleep. Sleep is a basic need for the physical recovery, reinvigoration and growth of a baby’s body. It is also crucial for brain maturation, learning and memory. The hormone most responsible for a baby’s physical growth is secreted mostly during the deep sleep stages of a baby’s sleep. Without enough sleep a baby can be at risk for stunted body maturation.
When a baby is born, her brain is about 30 percent of what her full brain size will ultimately be. During the baby’s first 3 years the brain grows very rapidly to reach almost its full adult size. It is believed that REM sleep is an essential stage of sleep that facilitates this brain growth and development. This is why babies spend so much time getting much needed and crucial sleep when they are in infancy.
During REM sleep the brain digests and stores all of the information that the baby took in during her wakeful hours. Disruptions to this stage of sleep could lead to a lack of learning of all the things taught to the baby when she was awake and alert. When babies don’t get enough sleep or if their sleep is disrupted too often they tend to get very agitated, nervous, hyperactive, and can become difficult to manage or soothe. Keeping to a regular schedule of naptimes and a relatively consistent bedtime helps the baby develop a healthy sleep pattern.
Here is some advice for getting your baby to develop a comfortable and healthy sleep pattern with the least amount of stress on either one of you.
* Use a safe crib with minimal bedding. Remove all toys from the crib before putting your baby to sleep. Also, make sure the room is dark, quiet and at a comfortable temperature.
* Place your baby on her back to sleep. While side or tummy sleeping is not considered completely safe, back sleeping is a preferred position both as recommended by doctors and seems to be favored by babies themselves.
* In the evenings, make your home quiet and less active so babies will start to associate this quiet evening time with going to sleep for the night.
* Put your baby to sleep as soon as she shows signs of drowsiness. This will help teach your baby to be able to fall asleep on her own and will make it easier on you to get your baby to fall asleep.
* Create and maintain an enjoyable and simple bedtime routine such as a bath, listening to soothing music, or reading your baby a bedtime story. This will help your baby relax before sleeping as well as look forward to the routine and in turn going to bed for the night.
The more regular your baby’s sleep habits become, the more consistent your own sleep habits can remain.
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