“Good sleep is essential to a baby’s growth and development. It is expected that on their first year of life, babies should sleep between 11 and 18 hours a day, and during this time have growth hormones actively working on their physiological and emotional development at three times the normal rate.
A baby who doesn’t get enough good sleep will exhibit very real developmental problems that may include hyperactivity, aggression and learning difficulties. His physical and mental growth may also be impeded, and he may experience more behavioral problems and a reduced ability to pay attention and concentrate.
According to Dr. Luis Rivera, a Diplomat of the Philippine Pediatric Society, Fellow of the Philippine Society of Sleep Medicine and a Pediatric Consultant for Makati Medical Center and Asian Hospital, “Sleep for babies is not just rest for the body. It assists in brain development, proper learning and, to a certain extent, social adjustment. And since our growth hormones are released during sleep, the child is given developmental and growth values as well. Poor sleep can impact growth—they become stunted, or thinner, or smaller, crankier, and they develop slower.”
Dr. Rivera further explains, “What a baby really needs is good sleep, which is really nighttime sleep.”
Quality and duration of a baby’s nighttime sleep has a greater impact on overall growth and development than daytime sleep according to studies. At night, a baby’s brain development kicks in at full speed, as neurons grow and develop at an accelerated pace. This allows the child to develop cognitive and organized thoughts that allow him to learn and unlearn all the sensory input he encountered during his waking hours.
One of the best treatments for sleep problems in children is to adapt a regular bedtime routine that will signal the transition from wake to sleep for the child.
A good way to adopt a baby bedtime routine is to consistently practice it every day because, according to studies, babies as young as a few weeks respond well to bedtime routines.
The Baby Bedtime Routine is a simple three-step process. As per Dr. Rivera
1. Give the baby a relaxing five-minute warm bath.
2. Give the baby a two-minute oil massage applied with downward strokes for her limbs, clockwise circles on her tummy, outward sweeps on the chest, small circles on her head and face, and sweeping downward strokes on her back and feet. It would be best to perform the massage while talking to your baby in a soothing voice to further calm baby and get her ready for sleep.
3. Engage in quiet bonding time, talking to baby with a soothing voice in a dimly lit room. This will allow you both to wind down and welcome sleep. Some moms can use this time for breastfeeding, singing, or reading a story. It would be best to put your baby to bed as soon as she gets drowsy, but while still awake. This teaches her to be self-soothing and makes her more able to put herself back to sleep when she awakes during the night.
Dr. Rivera attests, “I actively recommended the bedtime routine to two or three of my patients recently and after three to four weeks, the babies were sleeping better. The bedtime routine is sleep-training for babies.”
According to studies, babies fall asleep 37 percent faster and experience 37 percent less night awakenings. The total duration of night awakenings decrease by as much as 49 percent, while at the same time increasing the length of babies’ longest continuous sleep by 23 percent. And more than just allowing babies to sleep longer and better, a well-rested baby also means a mom who is less tense, less tired and more energetic”.