Pediatric sleep specialist, Dr. Bharath Reddy on good sleeping habits in children

In this the second part of the interview, Dr Bharath Reddy provides helpful tips on managing your child’s sleep patterns and ensuring that your child gets good sleep through the night.

Here is the transcript of our interview with Pediatric Sleep Specialist, Dr. K R Bharath Kumar Reddy. Please note that the transcript has been edited for clarity and brevity and is not verbatim.

This interview is part of a series of interviews about ‘Sleep in children’. You can see the first part of the interview here

How do sleep cycles develop from early ages?

Some parents are lucky, and their baby sleeps all night, starting at an early age. However, most babies need some help to learn how to sleep through the night. It’s easier to help your baby develop good sleeping habits during the first six months than to correct bad sleeping habits later on. The first rule for any age is that you should make sure your baby or child falls asleep where you want her to sleep. If she falls asleep in your arms, then when she wakes up, she’ll want you to help her fall asleep again.

How should a mother manage a new born baby’s sleep pattern?

  1. The most important sleep skill a baby needs to learn is self soothing skills. One needs to put the baby in a crib drowsy but awake, and allow the baby to self soothe oneself from drowsy to sleep state. This enables the baby to fall asleep easily after any normal night time awakenings.
  2. Hold your baby when he/she is fussy and crying and at other times its ideal to place them back in the crib.
  3. After being in the womb for 9 months, babies have their nights and days reversed. So, one needs to keep the baby’s room dark at night and brightly lit during the day, limit daytime time naps, keep him active and feed every 2 hours when he’s awake and when one feeds at night do not make it very interesting but a boring experience with no rocking or playing.
  4. Finally, have a consistent place for the baby to sleep. These are the basic principles which will help you develop healthy sleep cycles in your baby in the long run.

How to manage the sleep pattern of an infant?

By the time a baby reaches 6 months of age, they are able to sleep for 8 hour stretches. Here, you need to give one last feed before bedtime, and allow your self soothe to bed, and try to discontinue middle of the might feeds. Not every whimper at night means your baby is hungry and need to close the night kitchen sooner. This will not be easy but both partners need to support each other through this as your baby is definitely going to be demanding at this time. Stick to it, as your baby would have fed sufficiently through the day to last the night. The question of whether the baby sleeps in the same room or different arises around 9 months, but is to the discretion of the parents. But the principle is the same, that allow the baby to sleep in a place where you intend him/her to sleep for many months to come. Avoid picking up, rocking, feeding etc as much as possible through the night and allow your baby to self soothe.

Can you alter the sleep pattern to ensure that your child sleeps without disturbance through the night?

Sleep patterns are established very early in life and it may be very difficult to change this as times passes. So it is important to get these principles of sleep in children right at an early age and it will last long. But it is never too late to help change a child’s sleep pattern. Parents are humans too. They need to sleep at night to be able to take good care of the baby during the day.

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