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Not getting enough sleep is a big problem for both the body and mind. Not all new parents will be sleep-deprived. Unless you have looked after a baby who does not sleep, it is difficult to try to imagine what this is like.

In the first few days, newborns can sleep from sixteen to twenty hours a day. By week two, it is important to develop a sleeping and feeding routine. This will be a big help to parents learning to interpret their baby’s different cries.

With a routine, parents will be able to distinguish between their baby’s hungry, tired and bored cries from the timetable. Routines also help young children and babies feel safe and secure. Once their needs are met, they will be happy and contented..

Unfortunately, there are other factors that can affect the way your baby settles and sleeps. Tizzie Hall, an international childcare expert who has been working with babies and parents for more than 18 years, shares some tips to help your baby settle down:

Breast Refusal
When a baby suddenly refuses to feed from the breast, most mothers tend to be surprised, upset and confused with what is happening. The common reasons are either the baby is ill or there are too many distractions in the room you are trying to feed in. The first thing you could do is to move to a quiet and darkened room, and try to feed her again. Never try to force your baby to take the breast as this will not help. Besides causing both you and your baby distress, it could result in your baby never taking the breast again.

Winding
Your baby could take in air while she is feeding and when air accumulates in the tummy, she tends to be unsettled.

Mothers are encouraged to spend some time at the end of each feed “winding”, just to make sure that the baby burps. . Sometimes, if a baby is not winded enough, the air comes up so fast that it brings some milk up. A very young baby can take up to fifteen minutes to burp. If you reward your baby for burping by putting her straight back on the breast or bottle, she will quickly realise what you want and burp faster for you.

Colic
Colic seems to occur in about one in every five babies and is equally common in breastfed and formula-fed babies. A pattern of unsettled behaviour and continuous crying, usually in the evenings, is observed. Putting babies on a structured routine can counter the effects of colic. If the routine is followed correctly, the crying often disappears within 24 hours.

Gastro-oesophageal Reflux
This condition affects many babies but frequently goes undiagnosed. This happens when the baby has a weaker sphincter muscle at the top of the stomach. The muscle is supposed to let the food in and not let it flow back out of the stomach, but when it is weak, it allows the contents of the stomach to go back up into the baby’s oesophagus.

All babies are born with a weak sphincter muscle and many experience posseting (little vomits) as a result. This is perfectly normal. Other babies, however, become very uncomfortable as they can experience very painful burps and heartburns like adults. In more serious cases, the bottom of the oesophagus becomes inflamed and if left untreated, inflammation and ulcers in the oesophagus can cause scarring, resulting in difficulty swallowing. 

Babies suffering from this condition are often difficult to feed, constantly arching their backs and screaming during and after a feed. If you think your baby may have a form of reflux, you should talk to your paediatrician.

Constipation
A baby is usually only considered constipated if she goes without a poo for more than seven days and when it does come, it is hard and pellet-shaped. Constipation is rare in babies up to three months, even if formula-fed. If your newborn poos once a day, it is not classified as constipation even if it is slightly hard.
 

For an older baby who has started solids, symptoms of constipation may include: irritability, abdominal pain and gastric discomfort, a hard abdomen which softens after a bowel movement, blood-streaked stools or hard-to-pass, pellet-like stools.


Nappy Rash
Nappy rash is a common problem. Sometimes, the nappy area is infected with thrush or affected by dermatitis, but in most cases the skin under the nappy is damaged by moisture.


You should change cloth nappies about twelve times in a 24-hour period and disposable ones about six times in a 24-hour period. Always change cloth and disposable nappies after any bowel movement, no matter how much poo there is, as the poo can burn the skin. But despite the most intense care, it is common for babies to get nappy rash once in while.


Establishing bedtime rituals
Besides addressing the above factors, another way to help your baby sleep well is to establish bedtime rituals from young. For example, you could read the child stories, let him drink his milk and help him clean his teeth half-an-hour before bedtime. Providing your child with clear bedtime signals will allow her to settle down more readily and avoid the fuss of getting her into bed. 

 

Maybe Baby would like to thank Tizzie Hall for permitting relevant extracts from her book titled ‘Save Our Sleep’. Tizzie will be in Singapore from 27 to 29 September 2013 and for more information on her upcoming event in Singapore, click here!

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