We all know the saying, “When mama ain’t happy, ………” And yet another spin on this could be, “When baby isn’t sleeping, no one is sleeping.”
We recently received a question on our Facebook page from a mama inquiring, “Any safe sleeping natural remedies for a restless toddler-17month?” So we went to our SAFbaby Health Expert Adviser Cr. Randall Neustaedter OMD for the trusted tips.
May babies everywhere sleep soundly and may all parents sleep restfully. Thanks Dr. N for the info below that addresses contending with sleep problems for babies and small children. Here’s to a good night’s sleep!
Of all the problems babies and children can have, sleep is one that tends to disturb parents the most. When parents lose sleep they can be grouchy, exhausted, and overly emotional. Kids too. But a lot of children resist sleeping. Why shouldn’t they? Playing is more fun. Babies and older children may just have different ideas about the appropriate nighttime schedule than their parents. What is a parent to do?
Help! My Baby Won’t Sleep
Let’s start with babies.
How do babies learn to sleep? From their parents’ bodies and their parents’ biorhythms. Sleeping with your baby is the first and best gift you can give your baby to establish healthy sleep patterns. This will also help mothers get a good night sleep. It only makes sense. If your baby is sleeping next to you, then you don’t need to get up and go anywhere. Mothers and babies nurse, maybe change a diaper, and go back to sleep. Parents may be concerned that this easy access for nursing may encourage babies to wake up more often in the night. But getting up and going into another room to nurse is a lot more disturbing for moms.
Will babies get into a habit of frequent waking in the night? Perhaps they will. But the benefits of breast-feeding and the contact of babies with their parents’ skin certainly makes up for any inconvenience. Parents may have the notion that babies need to sleep through the night. Studies, however, show that in primitive cultures where cosleeping is always practiced, babies do wake frequently during the night to nurse.
I do not recommend allowing babies to cry in an attempt to convince them that their need and desire for attention and comfort in the night will go unheeded. This may succeed in discouraging their pleas for their parents’ attention, but at what cost? Convincing babies that they will not get their needs met is fairly easy to do. But studies suggest that babies who sleep with their parents are more secure and confident than those who sleep alone.
My Child Won’t Sleep. What Can I Do?
What about older children?
After your baby is weaned she may want to continue sleeping in her parents’ bed. Weaning itself in this situation may be difficult because of the easy access to the breast. That is why many people practice baby-led weaning. Let your baby decide what she needs. A two-year-old will often transition into her own bed starting with nap time. A toddler’s bed should be associated with fun and soothing activities like reading stories, quiet play, cuddling time with parents, and sleeping. She may even decide that sleeping in her own bed is a great idea. Or you may be able to convince her to go to sleep in her bed while reading a story and then sneak off to your own bed. Your baby may continue to come into your bed in the middle of the night, and this may persist for many years. But really what is wrong with that? This is a time for fathers to bond with their children, a time for family closeness, and a great time to continue snuggling and holding your small child. Soon enough they will grow up and never come into your bed again.
Some babies are just more active than others and don’t like to sleep as much. Older children who have active minds may have trouble turning off their energy to fall asleep. There are two types of sleep problems:
- kids who have trouble falling asleep and
- kids who wake up a lot during the night.
These sleep problems can come and go at different ages. Just providing some reassurance or giving a calcium supplement or warm milk before bed can be helpful.
Tips and Supplements To Help Children Sleep
From a chemical perspective these kids often have an overabundance of stimulating neurotransmitter production, particularly glutamate. There are several things that can calm these stimulating brain chemicals. Relaxation techniques can help to turn them off, including:
- soft music,
- sounds of the ocean,
- deep breathing, or
- a back massage.
Some natural nutritional supplements can help as well. Theanine, an amino acid, will help calm glutamate’s stimulating effect on the brain. Theanine can be taken in capsule form, usually 100 milligrams, or in a spray form (the Neuroscience product Endotrex).
Another strategy for older children is to stimulate production of GABA, a calming neurotransmitter necessary for sleep induction with a formula that promotes GABA (the Neuroscience formula of taurine and 4-amino-3-phenylbutyric acid called Kavinace).
For toddlers who have persistent sleep problems, meaning their parents are desperate for sleep, melatonin is a safe supplement that can help set the biorhythms responsible for sleep. Giving .5 – 1 mg of sublingual melatonin before bed is safe for children and can get them into a better habit of sleeping. These tablets can be ground up and put into something sweet, even for very young children.
Sleep is sometimes an elusive dream for parents. How many parents have humorous war stories about being kicked through the night by a restless toddler or sleeping on a sliver of their king size mattress or being woken repeatedly by multiple children in a tag team match of wakefulness? The good news is these sleep problems come and go with children and most of them end up with the same issues, staying up too late doing homework and sleeping until noon during adolescence whenever they can. Don’t worry, by the time they are in college they will be pulling all-nighters completing that project due tomorrow.
Additional reference books recommended by Dr. N to accompany this sleep article.
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SAFbaby Expert Health Advisor, Dr. Randall Neustaedter, OMD
Dr. Randall Neustaedter, OMD, has practiced and taught holistic medicine for more than thirty years in the San Francisco Bay area, specializing in child health care. He is a licensed acupuncturist and doctor of Chinese medicine, author of The Holistic Baby Guide, Child Health Guide, and The Vaccine Guide.
Visit his website, www.cure-guide.com, to register for a free newsletter with pediatric specialty articles. Office visits and Skype consultations are available by appointment.