A toddler sleeps 18–20 hours a day or more. Soon after birth however, it becomes apparent that some sleep more at night and others more in the day. The same applies to feeding.
It is important and optimal that the mother tries to respect the “setup” of the toddler or the small baby. With children that sleep during the day, this can of course become more challenging. The breastfeeding regime should be amended to the needs of the baby. As the child ages, its sleep starts resembling the sleep regime of an adult. It is also important to be able to read the signals of the child, i.e. what he/she currently needs and what most suitable. If we try to force an unnatural biorhythm onto the child, it can result in problems in the sleeping regime, i.e. sleeplessness. If parents continually upset a child’s sleep, it can result in bad sleep habits and in upsetting the natural sleep rhythm.
Adults can easily catch up on their sleep deficit, but in small children, primarily babies and toddlers, the case is very much different. The less sleep they have, the harder it is for them to fall asleep and the harder it gets to calm them down or activate them. If the child’s sleep regime is upset, it does not mean that the child will be more tired and therefore sleep better during the night. The contrary is true. The child is tired and overstretched, which in turn triggers stress hormones, inhibiting sleep. It is good to keep in mind that the child can be tired from being distracted too much as well.
Mothers often ask whether sleeping together with the baby will help him/her in falling asleep and sleeping. This truly depends on multiple factors. There are families, where the parents sleep alongside their children and they consider it a natural thing to do. Then, there are mothers who find it natural for the baby to sleep in its cot. It is the hardest for mothers who do not know, cannot decide or do not believe themselves, seeking a road best for them.
Such mothers try to sleep in the same bed as the child, but are nervous from it, stressed from the fear that they will suffocate the child etc. This stress is then transferred on to the child. In this matter, instincts should play the primary role: forget all the advice about what is good and what is bad. What is most important is to oversee the child at all times, have him/her close to you and this is natural for a mother. That does not mean however that the child has to sleep in the same bed or that it may not. It all depends on the mother.
This text was prepared by lead pediatrician of Canadian Medical Care, MUDr. Silvie Knoppová.
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