How to make baby sleep : the Possum sleep
Researchers have been looking at how babies’ sleep is managed.
And according to them, that needs to change!
Baby’ sleep is a real source of fatigue and stress for their parents. Often the same advice and injunctions can be found. The stated goal: the child must learn to sleep at night and manage his sleep and nighttime awakenings on his own. A whole program, which does not necessarily work …
Babies don’t need to learn how to sleep.
Be reassured, a team of Australian researchers has studied the question for us and proposes a new approach for the sleep of babies from 0 to 6 months: the Possums Sleep Intervention model.
Have we discovered the secret to put your babies to sleep?
You’ve probably heard the classic “Let her cry a little.” Or “He-he needs to adapt to you and not the other way around.”
Does that sound counterintuitive to you? Maybe you’re even uncomfortable with this advice. Who is serene when a little one is screaming alone in his room?
Fortunately Koa Whittingham and Pamela Douglas – two Australian researchers from the University of Queensland – have taken an interest in the question.
After analyzing the plethora of methods and conceptual frameworks around the sleep of the little ones from 0 to 6 months. They related them to
– their concrete experiences: they both work with parents as psychologist for one and as pediatrician for the other.
– current knowledge on the physiology of babies and the biology of their sleep.
The result? A series of benevolent advice to improve the support of toddlers in establishing a healthy relationship with sleep.
1. Do not wait before intervening
You’ve no doubt read that you shouldn’t respond immediately to your baby’s protests and wait a few minutes to see if he or she goes to sleep alone.
The child comes forward because he needs his parents – for example, to reassure him. If you don’t intervene, he will simply learn that there’s no point in crying for reassurance.
But his need is unchanged, he’s just not going to communicate it to you anymore, or less often.
So it’s blurring the communication between you.
2. Let baby fall asleep right after feeding or bottle-feeding if she.he wants to.
At about 3 months, parents are often advised to delay falling asleep a little bit after the feed. This will help to separate breastfeeding from falling asleep.
Australian researchers advise the opposite.
Your child should be able to sleep when he is sleepy. He will associate the notion of drowsiness with the fact of sleeping. And thus develop a healthy relationship with sleep. It may even save you a lot of trouble in a few months time.
3. Don’t be too rigid about sleep schedules.
Between about 0 and 3 months of age, your child lives on the time of his or her internal clock. And the internal clock is set around 25 hours. This makes it difficult for him to follow a 24-hour schedule. And his total sleep time varies for you from day to day.
Plus, there’s a wide variation in sleep needs between individuals – and yes, even among toddlers. Your baby isn’t an average, so don’t panic if he doesn’t sleep the number of hours listed in the textbooks. If your child needs to take long naps during the day, he may just be a heavy sleeper, but that doesn’t mean he won’t sleep at night.
4. Getting rid of lists of signs of fatigue
You may have been provided with a list of common signs of fatigue in children – some of them may seem quite obvious to you.
But apparently these lists can be misleading. Each child expresses himself differently. With a list, one naturally tries to “check off” one or more items on the list. On the contrary, without them, you will be closer to your child: you will learn to decipher his language and better understand its manifestations.
The authors of the study also point out that some babies show signs of the fatigue listed when they are bored by lack of stimulation. Learning your child’s signs of fatigue will help you avoid confusing them with signs of boredom.
5. Stimulation is positive, even before bedtime.
You’ve already heard that too much stimulation makes it difficult to initiate sleep.
However, researchers have discovered that it is actually positive and helps the child feel tired so that he or she can sleep. Your child associates fatigue with sleep, and that’s bingo!
In fact, the more tired your child gets, the greater the tendency to fall asleep, and if he or she has the opportunity, he or she will simply fall asleep.
The connection between baby and parents is made through feeding and sensory stimulation.
Okay, but how do you get your baby to sleep at night??
For Dr. Koa Whittingham and Dr. Pamela Douglas, the logic is simple: babies don’t need to learn how to sleep. If their other needs are taken care of, they’ll simply sleep the time they need.
. Make baby sleep close to you, even during the day
They advise, during the first 6 months, to make your child sleep within reach of your touch. That is to say near your bed at night and in the same room as you during the day.
During the day, naps are therefore taken in the same room as you, with the noises of everyday life: the natural light and sound cues will help your child gradually make the difference between day and night and settle into this rhythm.
If your child needs to be fed or reassured, you’re close by – which is convenient for you, and good for your child, who feels reassured to have his needs met.
. Stimulate baby during the day
The principle is to guarantee abundant sensory stimulation during the day, feed your baby on demand and let sleep take care of him when he needs it. Try not to actively prevent your baby from falling asleep when it’s dark, but don’t let this stop you from doing your daily activities, even noisy ones.
. Touching your child to reassure them
The connection between baby and parents is made through feeding and sensory stimulation. Touch is very important to calm and reassure your baby. It’s not the only sense that comes into play, but it’s apparently crucial. And if you hold him/her in your arms, he/she will also feel the rhythm of your breathing and the beat of your heart, which will also bring comfort.
During the day, naps are taken in the same room as you, with the noises of everyday life: the natural light and sound cues will help your child to gradually learn the difference between day and night and to settle into that rhythm.
If your child needs to be fed or reassured, you’re close by – which is convenient for you, as well as being good for your child who then feels reassured that he or she has his or her needs.
What about the parents in all this?
The Australian research team believes that for a baby to be well, his parents have to feel well too – it makes sense. How you live and what you feel will of course have an impact on your child and their sleep.
When baby arrives, after you’ve taken some bearings, know that you can maintain an active lifestyle! It’s good for you and helps you feel fully satisfied. What will help you feel serene?
• Get a little exercise every day
Simply go out for a walk or even start a gym program, for the more motivated.
• Getting up at the same time every day
This allows you to enjoy the morning sun, a real boost for morale and energy. You can then take naps during the day while your child sleeps.
• See your friends
They’re all going to want to see your child anyway. Go for a coffee or visit a friend. And take your child with you: it’s great for them to be exposed to the outside light and see new faces.
• Play around
It’s important to keep up activities that make you happy. Especially if you’ve given birth, as postpartum hormones will try to play tricks on you and can be a real blow to your morale. Keep doing what you enjoy and don’t hesitate to bring your baby to your activities: your presence will reassure her. He/she will also quickly get used to outside noise, being around people and seeing unknown things.
Finally, you should know that our two Australian researchers have made it clear that perfection is not necessary – lucky again! – and that when it comes to meeting the needs of your child and yours, there is room for “mistakes” and experimentation. They advise you to be flexible and caring towards yourself, the important thing being to cultivate joy and positive emotions in your home.
Sources : Whittingham K, Douglas P. Optimizing parent-infant sleep from birth to 6 months: a new paradigm. Infant Ment Health J. 2014;35(6):614‐623. doi:10.1002/imhj.21455
With careful observations and studies, researchers confirm we now know that babies and toddlers are deeply feeling beings. Don't you want to understand those feelings to have a even better communication?For long time, we believe babies didn't think or feel much before...