Sleep for infants

Go to any bookstore and you’ll find lots of books on infant care, including many dedicated to infant sleep problems. What does this tell you? 1) Infant sleep problems are common. 2) There is no simple solution that works for every baby.

My baby sleeps all day and is awake all night

Babies in utero sleep much of the day, soothed by the motion of mom’s active life. And they often awaken when mom lies down for the night. Therefore, babies are born with a reverse sleep schedule. It can take 4 to 6 weeks of effort to help baby learn that nighttime is sleep time. We suggest that you encourage nighttime sleep with soothing activities before bedtime. Establish a routine (e.g. bath, lotion, PJ’s, singing a song). Once baby is down for the night, avoid loud noises, turning on lights and disruptive diaper changes that tend to waken the baby. Realize, though, that your newborn will likely awaken often to feed for these first few months.

My baby used to sleep well, but is awake a lot now

Many infants who have learned to sleep well become poor sleepers around 7 to 9 months, which corresponds to their developmental phase of “separation anxiety.” During the day, she becomes frantic when she’s put down, cries when she sees her parents re-enter a room, acts afraid of strangers and falls apart at night. Does this sound familiar? Sleep is a separation event and your child at this age may become afraid during light sleep (about every three hours). Stick to your bedtime routine, and give baby extra security and hugs throughout the day to combat problems at night.

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is the sudden death of an infant under 12 months that remains unexplained after thorough investigation (currently defined as police examination of the death scene, autopsy, and review of the child’s health history). The peak incidence of SIDS is between 2 and 4 months. SIDS is one of the most unthinkable tragedies a parent can face. But there are steps you can take to lessen your worries and reduce the risk.

Remember, SIDS is rare!

SIDS incidence has dropped 50 percent since the 1980s, thanks to increased awareness. Today, five deaths out of 10,000 live births are attributed to SIDS. In other words, your baby has a 99.95 percent chance of not dying of SIDS.

Take steps to prevent SIDS

The exact cause of SIDS remains a mystery, but there are some known risk factors. We recommend that you take the following precautions to keep your baby safe:

  • See a doctor when you’re pregnant. Have early and regular medical care during pregnancy to prevent premature delivery, a major risk factor for SIDS.
  • Do not use cigarettes or illicit drugs during pregnancy. Tobacco and drug use increase the risk of SIDS.
  • Do what you can to prevent teen pregnancy. The SIDS rate is higher for babies born to teen moms. The more babies a young mother has, the higher the risk.
  • Wait at least one year between births, if possible. Having babies in short intervals is associated with higher SIDS risk.
  • Put your baby to sleep on her back. Sleeping on the tummy, and to a lesser extent the side, is associated with a higher risk of SIDS.
  • Place infants on a firm mattress with nothing else. Don’t place anything in the crib with the baby (no bumpers, blankets, toys). Use only cribs/bassinets that meet current Consumer Product Safety Commission standards. Don’t use a second-hand or garage sale crib/bassinet; it may not adhere to current CPSC standards.
  • Avoid inclined sleepers/positioners; the baby’s chin may fall to her chest and cut off her airway, or she may roll out of the sleeper.
  • Never leave a baby sleeping in a car seat for long periods, and never leave your child alone on a bed, sofa or changing table, even for a few seconds.
  • Do not co-sleep with your baby. Soft adult mattresses and heavy covers are a risk factor for SIDS.
  • Do not over-clothe baby at night. Keep the room at a comfortable temperature and lightly dress baby, just enough to keep her warm without having to use an extra cover.
  • Avoid exposure to cigarette smoke. The more smoke your baby is exposed to, the higher the risk of SIDS. This includes smoke on clothing or the interior of a car.
  • Breastfeed, if possible. Breastfed babies have lower rates of SIDS than babies fed formula. If you cannot breastfeed, please know that this is not a major risk factor, it’s just another piece of the puzzle.
  • Do what you can to keep baby healthy. Minor respiratory and intestinal illnesses are associated with an increased risk of SIDS. Discourage sick people from handling your baby and minimize her exposure to areas with lots of sick kids during cold and flu season especially if she is a young infant. Do a lot of hand washing with soap and water in your home when you are sick.
  • Consider using a pacifier. Although still controversial, some studies suggest that using a “binky” reduces baby’s risk of SIDS.
  • Call 911 if your baby seems to stop breathing during sleep or turns blue while sleeping and cannot be awakened.
  • Talk to your pediatrician. If you have worries about SIDS, please contact us at Eugene Pediatric Associates.

Sleep on back, play on tummy

Tummy time strengthens your baby’s neck and core but must be done while baby is awake and under adult supervision. Babies older than 1 month old should spend 3-5 minutes a few times a day on their tummies. Chest-to-chest positioning often comforts a baby during tummy time.