I have had three local mothers in my over twelve years of parenting counseling who had babies under the age of six months who truly did not sleep. It was very difficult. All three cases were very active little girl babies who had a difficult time gaining weight, and once they became mobile older babies/toddlers they were so active that no one other than the mother could seem to watch the baby without the child ending up on the top of refrigerator,etc. They were also toddler masters of getting through baby locks and other child-proofing devices. Whew!
I would like to go over a few points regarding sleep for these types of babies and then children in general.
For babies under the age of 6 months who “don’t sleep”:
1. Realistic expectations are key. Know that there will be times they don’t sleep well due to teething and other developmental stages. Also, how many hours a day are you expecting them to sleep? Babies need time to be outside, time to play on the floor as well as the older babies. They can also be a passive witness to what you are doing from the viewpoint of a sling. Some babies also sleep very well in a sling.
I am sure many of you have seen “the sleep table” in “The No-Cry Sleep Solution” – there are things in this book that I vehemently disagree with, but I like the sleep table :) It details the number of hours each day infants of different ages sleep, how many naps a day of different ages take and how long those typical naps are. For example: a six-month old is typically taking two naps a day for a total of 3-4 hours and sleeping 10-11 hours at night for a total of 14-15 hours whereas a 2 year old is typically taking one nap a day for one to two hours and sleeping around 12 hours at night for a total of 11 hours of sleep.
2. Biologically, we do not want babies to enter a deep sleep and “sleep soundly” though the night at an early age because 1. this decreases calories for most breastfeeding babies; studies have shown even babies at 10 months can receive up to 25 percent of their calories at night if mothers will still nurse their babies at night. 2. not breastfeeding at night increases the chance of you getting your menstrual cycle back at night and takes away natural child spacing and 3. the rate of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome is highest between 2 to 5 months, so we don’t want deep sleeping then. We want arousal out of sleep here and there to keep our babies breathing.
Please see these back posts regarding sleep and co-sleeping: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/05/25/the-early-bedtime/
3. For a baby under 6 months who is not sleeping well, but in a developmental plateau, not getting sick, and not teething, please check yourself. How anxious are you about them not sleeping? Babies pick up on your anxiety!
4. Check warmth. I find babies who are like this, and who are not gaining weight well, are often actually cold. Check these back posts on warmth:
5. Check for food allergies and sensitivities, reflux and colic. There have been some studies showing a positive resolution of colic with care from a qualified pediatric chiropractor; this may be worth a try. For reflux, try www.pager.org
6. As these children grow, I think it is VERY, very important to institute quiet activities with active ones, and yes, periods of rest. We have had several posts in the past regarding “quiet time” that were hot debate. You can see those here: and here: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/09/23/more-about-quiet-time/
Some of these children, particularly when small, will not just go and lay down at a rest time. But it is worth it to all lay down together, to read a book or light a candle and snuggle together for storytelling. That break is important.
It is also important to note, I think, that these children NEED time in nature. That may be only time they actually slow down and get involved in digging in the dirt or other really rhythmical activity that really transports them to a quieter place.
In the next part of this, we will look at what to do when sleep for the whole family is an urgent need, and also a Waldorf view of sleep!