Rise and Shine Feature – Parenting workshop with Heidi Murkoff on Baby Sleep

Parenting Tips from Heidi Murkoff, from Rise and Shine Expo
Parenting Tips from Heidi Murkoff, from Rise and Shine Expo

From 27 to 29 September 2013, Rise and Shine Expo, an informative expo to raise happy and healthy children was held in Singapore. There were more than 100 seminars, workshops and trial classes held and I’m privileged to have the front seat to the workshop by Heidi Murkoff, titled ‘What to Expect in the First Year’.

Heidi Murkoff is the author of ‘What to Expect When You’re Expecting’, a book conceived during Heidi’s first pregnancy and her What to Expect series has since sold more than 34 million copies in US alone and published in over 30 languages. It has even been turned into a film, ‘What to Expect When You’re Expecting’, starring Cameron Diaz, Jennifer Lopez, Chris Rock, and Elizabeth Banks.

Last week, we’ve covered questions relating to baby feeding and today, we are covering the baby sleep questions asked during the Rise and Shine Expo.

Q1: What is a suggested Bedtime routine?

Heidi:  Bedtime routines are a relaxing way to unwind at the end of the day for both parent and baby – and allows an older, active baby an opportunity to brake gradually for bed, instead of trying to go suddenly from 100 to 0 gradually. A bedtime routine should last about 30-45 minutes and should include a bath, massage, jammies, snack or milk, brushing teeth (if there are any), story time, cuddles and with good night ritual of saying ‘good night’ to family members, toys, animal friends. Keep lights low and music soft (no TV in the background) during the bedtime routine.  A snack of complex carbohydrates and protein can help keep a little one’s blood sugar even through the night, which can result in sounder sleep. Most important advice on bedtime routines: keep them consistent…same time, same amount of time, same order.

Q2: How to encourage afternoon naps?

Heidi:  First watch for your little one’s sleepy cues (yawning, rubbing eyes) and catch them before baby goes from sleepy to overtired (an overtired tot has a tougher time settling down for sleep).  Use a modified, shortened routine for naps – without the bath. Naps are as important for a baby or toddler as nighttime sleep – and in fact babies who don’t nap are less likely to sleep well at night.  Plus, babies do some of their most important developing during sleep, including naps – and it gives little ones a chance to recharge their batteries.  Just make sure the nap doesn’t come so late in the day that it interferes with nighttime sleep.

Q3: What about a baby who keeps waking up in the night?

Heidi: The problem isn’t waking during the night – we all wake during the night, but we’ve learned (hopefully by now!) how to fall back to sleep on our own.  That’s an important life skill that all babies eventually have to learn.  While feeding a baby during the night is fine for younger infants, by 4-6 months, they no longer need those nighttime feeds…they’ve just become a habit.  To help your baby learn how to fall back to sleep on his or her own, look at how he or she is falling asleep at bedtime.  That’s a child’s “sleep association”.  Feed or rock or cuddle your baby to sleep, and he or she will come to expect that same crib-side service at 2 am.  Best to put a baby down for the night drowsy but still not asleep, so he or she can fall asleep on his or her own – and know how to fall back to sleep on his or her own.  Bedtime routines are also a consistent, predictable transition to sleep – a positive sleep association: bedtime routine means I’m getting ready to sleep.

Q4: What about Co-Sleeping?

Heidi: Sleeping with a baby in the same bed generally isn’t recommended by doctors, simply because it can be less safe and has been linked in research to a higher risk of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome).  If you do want to sleep in the same bed with your baby, there are safety precautions you must take, such as sleeping without pillows of fluffy blankets, not putting baby against a wall or near any headboard that baby might become entrapped in (or entrapped between mattress and headboard).  Better and safer is to keep baby in the same room with you (being close to you but not in the same bed actually reduces the risk of SIDS), but in a safe sleeping space (crib or bassinet).  SIDS can also be prevented by not over-bundling the baby in heavy clothing (baby should be dressed lightly and the room should be comfortably cool), not putting anything in the crib but the baby (no pillows, blankets, plush toys, or bumpers), and keeping a fan on, circulating air. Also, use a pacifier (if your baby will take one) during sleep.

Do keep this in mind if you share a room (and doctors recommend that you do): babies are noisy sleepers (‘sleeping like a baby’ isn’t really as restful as people think).  They make a lot of noises, they move around a lot in their sleep.  So parents who co-sleep may actually find themselves sleeping less restfully, too, and may pick their babies up more often than necessary.  To avoid this, wait until your baby’s actually awake and crying to offer comfort or a feed.

Thank you Heidi for reviewing these Baby Sleep Q&A; watch out for next week’s post to see Heidi’s reply to other baby’s first-year questions, covering topics from sucking fingers to the dreaded household chores.

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