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When Do Babies Start Sleeping Through The Night?

When Do Babies Start Sleeping Through The Night?

The one question every new parent asks is when do babies start sleeping through the night? Babies may start having a few episodes of sleeping for 6 – 8 hours through the night by around 4 – 6 months. They may do it once, or a couple of nights in a row and on other nights they may need your help.

Every Baby is different but there are some common patterns

It is important to understand that there is no switch you can flip to make this happen. Babies don’t just start sleeping through the night and then keep doing it forever; there is a lot of stopping and starting because there are so many factors that contribute to their sleep development, but there are a few theories that work; both on their own and in combination. Our role as parents is to help them learn and feel secure to achieve it. By the time they reach their first birthday, they become very good at it and not only do they need to sleep through the night, they want to.

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The minute you announce a pregnancy, especially if it is your first baby, every other parent immediately tells you to cherish your sleep because it will diminish significantly when you have a new baby. This is true to some extent. Babies have very different sleeping patterns to adults until they adjust to their new world and learn to sleep outside the womb. However, as difficult as that first year can be, it doesn’t have to be unbearable and the more you know and are prepared about what to expect, the easier you will cope.

Babies have very different lives inside the womb. They sleep a lot during the day while the mother is active; essentially rocking the baby to sleep. At night when the mother is still, they move around and stay awake. Women find it the hardest to sleep during the last few weeks of pregnancy as the baby becomes increasingly active.

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When babies are born, they need to adjust to a different routine that we impose on them, one where they learn to be awake more during the day and sleep through the night. This does not happen automatically and babies must learn to do this as they develop.

Babies must first reach some physical and cognitive milestones that will help them sleep through the night.

  • Newborns have a startle reflex called the Moro reflex. Until they are around 4 months old they will respond to disturbances such as noise, sleep cycles and other stimuli by startling. They demonstrate this by flailing their arms and being surprised easily. Losing their Moro reflex will help them sleep through the night.
  • Babies gain weight and grow. Whether they are being exclusively breastfed, mixed fed or are only drinking formula, they double their birth weight by around 5 months and will start to require solid food by around 6 months. A baby’s sleep pattern will change during a growth spurt. They may sleep more or they may fuss more. Sometimes they will sleep more during the day, which could affect their sleep at night.
  • Infants will gradually require less feeding through the night (night weaning). Breastfed babies tend to feed more frequently because breast milk is digested faster, however all newborns need to be fed every 2 – 4 hours. As they grow and when they start solids, they don’t need to feed as frequently during the night. When they are fuller, they sleep for longer and they learn to ignore their hunger during the night.
  • Babies will learn to self soothe. Whether it is by using a pacifier, sucking their thumb, holding on to a favourite toy or blanket or listening to music or a noise machine, babies will start to get through their sleep cycles independently. When they wake up or go into a lighter sleep, they start to return to deep sleep by themselves, without needing assistance from their parents.

When do babies start sleeping through the night? Some ways to help them.

  • Establish a good bedtime routine. You don’t have to watch the clock; don’t focus on the exact minute, just thereabouts. Dinner, bath, pajamas, a story or song, a goodnight kiss and a favourite toy or blanket, some ambient sound or music and a darkened room. Maybe even a pleasant room spray; Lavender is very soothing for sleep. The trick is to be consistent so they know what to expect and feel secure.
  • It is important to find a reliable way to comfort them if they call out to you. The book French Children Don’t Throw Food by Pamela Druckerman talks about the way in which French mothers wait a little when the baby cries out. They claim that newborns will be able to learn to sleep by the time they are 2 months old if we let them. They may not do it every night as other issues arise throughout their development, but ordinarily, when all things are well, they learn to sleep through the night earlier this way.

“Waiting is the key: the French do not do instant gratification. It starts more or less at birth. When a French baby cries in the night the parents go in, pause, and observe for a few minutes. They know that babies’ sleep patterns include movements, noises and two-hour sleep cycles, in between which the baby might cry.” – Michele Hanson, The Guardian

  • There are several ways to help babies sleep through the night.

“Some common methods include the Ferber method, the “cry it out” method, the “fading” method, and the “no-cry” sleep training method.” – Tamekia Reece.

You may be comfortable letting the baby cry themselves to sleep. You may prefer to pick them up and rock them to sleep, especially if you have multiples or other children and you don’t want everyone else woken. Most people settle for somewhere in between.

  • Focusing on awake times is sometimes more beneficial than worrying about how long the baby is sleeping for. If you understand how long a baby should be awake for their age, their day naps fall into place and this influences immensely how they sleep at night.

An infant’s milestones may interfere with sleeping through the night. Knowing what to expect will contribute to how you survive them.

The first year of a baby’s life is one of the most dynamic. So much happens to them in that first 12 months and they experience many changes. It is important to provide consistency and a sense of security for babies so that they feel safe. Sometimes giving them the space and opportunity to sleep is all that you can do and the most common milestones just need to be endured. Staying calm and positive to get through the nights and days of upheaval and always returning to the routine will help immensely.

  • Babies will learn to roll, crawl, sit upright by themselves and stand; not necessarily in that order and sometimes they will skip a step. Their brains are processing these new abilities and this could prevent them sleeping through the night. Often babies will practice their new skills through the night when there aren’t as many distractions and this tends to keep them awake or disturb their sleep.
  • Babies will experience pain and discomfort associated with teething, illness and vaccinations. Fever, aches and stress will almost certainly mean that they take longer to fall asleep and may sleep for shorter periods. They may need medication, but mostly they need comfort and support to get through it.
  • Traveling or going on holidays and sleeping away from home, changes in the home like a new bed or a new baby brother or sister or any other break in the routine will affect an infant’s sleep patterns. It is our job as parents to make any transition as smooth and secure as possible.
  • When babies start eating solid food their bodies will experience changes that may affect their sleep. Their digestive systems will be working harder, they will wet and soil their nappies in a different way and they will remember the different textures, smells and tastes they have encountered through the day.

When something is wrong. Sometimes there is evidence that we need more help.

  • A snoring baby may not be cause for alarm, they may just be congested or in a very deep sleep. However it may also indicate that they have a condition called sleep apnea, which means their breathing is being interrupted.
  • If you suspect that your baby is having difficulty breathing it is important to look for signs such as bluish lips and fingers, wheezing or a caving of the chest. Irregular breathing could be a symptom of conditions such as asthma or croup and may need professional investigation.
  • Some babies experience acid reflux, which is when milk is regurgitated back up from their stomach into their throat causing burning and discomfort. They will vomit or spit up regularly after feeds and this can be uncomfortable and distressing. Often the symptoms of GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) will present when they are lying down, so sleeping becomes associated with pain and discomfort.
  • If an infant is not reaching their milestones including sleeping through the night on a regular basis by the time they turn one, they may need to be examined by a pediatrician. It isn’t a reason to immediately panic, but addressing issues early may contribute greatly to a resolution in the long run.

Ideally, a baby will sleep through the night sooner rather than later, but children, like adults, will have sleep interruptions and disturbances occasionally and with the right information and support, sleepless nights will become an exception rather than the rule. So next time you wonder when do babies start sleeping through the night, consider the facts listed above.

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Last Updated on January 12, 2021

Signs of Depression in Children (And How to Help Them to Overcome It)

Signs of Depression in Children (And How to Help Them to Overcome It)

Children, just like adults, can be depressed. Sometimes seemingly normal children with no major life issues can become depressed. It is the result of a chemical imbalance in the brain that causes clinical depression to occur. There are specific signs that you should recognize in your child if they are depressed. Getting them help and treatment is crucial to their mental wellness.

In this article, we will look into the signs of depression in children and how parents can help them to overcome it.

Signs of depression in children

The DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder) is the widely accepted instruction guide that professionals utilize for diagnosing mental disorders. The DSM characterizes a Major Depressive Episode as depressed behaviors that consistently last for two weeks or longer. Therefore, if your child has been “down in the dumps”, feeling hopeless or having sadness for more than two weeks, it should be cause for concern and investigated.

Below are signs of depression according to the DSM manual. The individual must have at least five of these behaviors present for a period of two weeks or longer to be officially diagnosed as having MDD (Major Depressive Disorder). Below is a summary/generalization from the DSM manual:

  • Feelings of deep sadness or depressed mood that last most of the day (for two weeks or more). For children they can present as irritable rather than sad.
  • Diminished interest in activities (again majority of the day or all the time).
  • Significant weight loss (not through dieting), or a decrease in appetite. In children, they fail to make expected weight gains while growing.
  • Difficulty sleeping (insomnia).
  • Either a slowing of psychomotor abilities/actions or an apparent agitation of these psychomotor abilities. This means that they either have moments that lack purpose and seem to be done because of agitation and tension or there is a significant slowness/retardation of their speech and physical actions.
  • Fatigue and loss of energy.
  • Feelings of worthlessness or excessive guilt every day.
  • Difficulty thinking, making decisions, or concentrating every day. This may be reflected in their grades.
  • Preoccupation with death and dying or suicidal thoughts.

Please note that if your child is suffering from the loss of a loved one and is processing through the stages of grief, it is normal to have these signs of depression. If they seem to be stuck in the depression stage, then it is time to pursue grief counseling to help them along in the grieving process.

However, if they are not suffering from a bereavement or a medical condition that would cause the above symptoms, then they should be taken to a professional for possible diagnosis and treatment of MDD (Major Depressive Disorder).

How to help your child with depression

Depression is not to be taken lightly. Especially if suicidal thoughts are present. The child’s feelings and emotions are real and must be taken seriously. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), suicide is the number two cause of death for individuals between the ages of 10 and 34.[1]

Professional help is recommended if you believe your child fits the criterion for MDD (Major Depressive Disorder). You can take your child to their paediatrician for an evaluation and referral. Depending on the severity of the symptoms, they may benefit from medication such as anti-depressants.

Most professionals do not dispense medication as the first remedy for depression. Instead therapy is the first line of defense against depression, with medication being paired with therapy if the therapy is not enough or the symptoms are severe enough.

Testing

There are assessment tools that professionals can utilize to help in properly determining whether your child is depressed. The three tools used in assessing depression in children are:

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  • The Children’s Depression Rating Scale (CDRS)
  • Children’s Depression Inventory (CDI)
  • Clinical Global Impression (CGI)

Taking your child to a professional mental health counselor, psychologist or psychiatrist can help ensure proper testing and assessment occurs.

Therapy

There are many types of therapy available today. It is important to find a professional that specializes in childhood depression and the treatment of such.

Cognitive behavioral therapy is one of the leading therapy methods in treating childhood depression. For younger children, play therapy is useful in treating childhood depression as children are often able to better communicate through play than conversation alone.

What parents can do at home to help their depressed child

Besides seeking for professional help, there are a couple of things that parents can do at home to help their depressed child:

1. Talk with your child about their feelings in a compassionate and empathetic manner.

It can feel high pressure to sit face to face and ask your child about their feelings. However, going on a walk, playing a board game or playing alongside your child (chose whichever is age appropriate for your child) can allow them to relax and open up about their feelings.

Ask your child open ended questions that require more than a simple yes or no to engage in more meaningful conversations. Never judge while they are being open and honest with you because it will inevitably cause them to shut down and move away from being open with you.

It is okay to allow for periods of silence during the conversations because sometimes the child is processing their thoughts and emotions during your time together. You don’t have to fill the space and entire time with talking as silence at times is helpful.

2. Provide activities that help them relax and de-stress.

For smaller children, there are simple ways to help them relax.

Provide play opportunities that they find relaxing such as coloring, painting, working with Play-do or clay, or playing with sand and sand toys. Again, find activities that interest your child and are age appropriate are helpful in making them relaxed.

3. Limit screen time.

Technology is not helpful in making your child less depressed. It can often be an escape that keeps them from further opening up about their feelings and emotions.

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Limit time in front of the TV, laptop, smart phone, video games and tablets, etc. Any electronics that seem to prevent your child from face to face interactions should be limited. Ask Dr. Sears cites that researchers have found kids who have higher levels of screen time are at greater risk for anxiety and depression.[2]

Provide alternate activities to replace the screen time such as hiking, crafting, drawing, constructing, biking and playing outside, etc. Some children may be so dependent on their screen time as their source for entertainment that they may need you to participate in alternate activities alongside them in order to get engaged in the activities.

You can’t simply tell your child to go outside to play if they are suffering from depression, lack friends and are used to sitting down and playing video games each day after school. Go outside with your child and do a nature hike or take your child to a playground and have fun together to get them engaged in these alternate activities.

4. Promote outdoor time and physical activities.

Encourage your children to take part in activities that especially involve nature such as nature hikes. Do these activities with them to help them engage in the activities. Again this is an opportunity for open conversations to occur and quality time to take place.

5. Help your child when problems and difficult tasks arise.

Assist them by helping them break down the task into smaller and more manageable parts. Children with depression often have difficulty taking on large problems and tasks and find them overwhelming. Helping them by breaking down the task into smaller and more manageable tasks will assist in helping raise their confidence when the small tasks are mastered.

Small tasks mastered lead to bigger tasks being mastered over time. It is a process over time, patience and a willingness to work alongside your child. This does not mean doing the task or taking on the problem solely yourself. Many times all the child needs is for you to break down the larger task into smaller more manageable tasks and for you to patiently talk your child through the completion of these smaller tasks.

6. Help your child reduce life stress.

When children are depressed, they have greater difficulty handling life activities in general. Cut back on activities that cause stress to increase and look for ways to help reduce stress in your child’s life.

7. Foster a positive home atmosphere.

Reduce or eliminate negative attitudes, language and conversations. Also avoid raised voices, passive aggressive behaviors and any form of physical violence in the home.

Make your home a safe haven for your child instead of an atmosphere that is ever volatile (in words, emotions or physically). Make it a calm environment that makes your child feel safe and secure mentally, emotionally and physically.

8. Help your child see the positive in life situations.

Point out the positives in a situation rather than the negatives. Help them see the bright side of any situation.

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Be a model of seeing the positive in life by speaking words that are uplifting, encouraging and positive. Resist the temptation to voice negative thoughts that come to mind as your child can feed off your emotions and words.

9. Believe your child when they talk about how they are feeling.

Listen to them patiently and take their words seriously. Do not discount or minimize their feelings. Express empathy and compassion when they do open up about their feelings. Help them utilize “I feel” statements in expressing their emotions.

10. Keep watch for suicidal behaviors.

Such behaviors include your child/teen researching this topic online, them giving away their possessions and a preoccupation with death.

Seek professional help immediately with the presentation of suicidal behaviors or thoughts. Keep this number on hand and use it when in doubt: National Suicide Prevention Lifeline Phone Number 1-800-273-8255.

11. Keep all prescriptions, alcohol, drugs and weapons locked and away from children and teens.

This is a given for all children, but even more imperative for children who are depressed as they have an increased likelihood to abuse drugs and alcohol. They also have an increased likelihood to attempt suicide. So keep weapons and tools such as ropes and knives that can used for suicide out of the child’s ability to use.

12. Spend quality one-on-one time with your child.

Make the time during your day, every day, to spend quality time with your child. You may have limited time and cannot provide an hour or more a day to dedicate to one-on-one time with your child, but you should provide a minimum of 20 minutes a day with your child spending quality one-on-one time together. Try the suggested activities listed in point #3.

13. Be an encouragement and supporter of your child.

Show love and not frustration or anger because of the situation and your child’s condition. Help keep your attitude positive so your child can also see the positive.

Provide daily words of affirmation that are not based on end results (such as a grade or a win) but instead praise the effort they put forth. If you praise the outcome, they will be disappointed when their efforts don’t pan out. If they are praised for their efforts regardless of the outcome, their confidence is built based upon something that they can control (the effort they put into things).

14. Help your child to live a healthy lifestyle.

Sleep is a very important factor in your child’s mood. Not getting enough sleep can cause an entire day to be upset. According to Sleep Aid Resource, children between the ages of 3 and 18 need between 8 and 12 hours of sleep each night:[3]

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    Ensure your child is eating a healthy and balanced diet, getting physical activity/exercise daily and plenty of sleep time.

    15. Help your child foster positive relationships and friendships with their peers.

    Set up play dates for your younger child and encourage older children to invite friends over to your home.

    16. Talk about bullying.

    It can be one of the causes of your child’s depression, so discuss their life outside of home and their interactions with their peers. Help them recognize bullying and discuss how to handle bullying properly.

    17. Help your child follow the treatment plan outlined by their doctor, counselor, psychologist or psychiatrist.

    Make sure you know the treatment plan that your child’s health care professional has outlined for child. This may include counseling session recommendations, medications and recommendations to follow through with in the home. Completing the plan will help provide optimal results for your child in the long run. A plan doesn’t work unless it is followed.

    18. Recognize that professional treatment takes time to show results.

    Don’t expect results for the first few weeks. It may take a month or longer, so be patient and understanding with your child.

    Depression in children is curable

    Depression in children can happen for a variety of reasons. It is quite treatable.

    Professional help is recommended if your child can possibly be diagnosed with a depressive episode. There are interventions that can be implemented in a professional setting, at home and at school. The key is having a plan of action to help your child.

    Ignoring the problem or hoping the depression will just go away is not a good plan. Treatment is imperative to curing depression in children.

    The first step is talking to your child’s paediatrician to get the ball rolling. He or she will refer you to specialists in your area that can help your child overcome and conquer their depression one day at a time. With you by their side, each step of the way you will get through it together and it is quite possible for your relationship with your child to be strengthened in the process as well. That can be your silver lining or positive outlook on the situation at hand.

    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] National Institute of Mental Health: Suicide
    [2] Ask Dr. Sears: It’s a Virtual World: Setting Practical Screen Time Limits
    [3] Sleep Aid Resource: Sleep Chart

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