If they are yawning, it’s too late

Babies have no circadian rhythms. Parents must look for the subtle, early signs of tiredness.

Parents often present to general practice teary and anxious because their baby lacks a predictable sleeping pattern and is hard to settle.

Sometimes there will be an underlying condition causing the sleep disturbance that needs diagnosing and treating, but often what the family is experiencing is completely normal, says Cindy Davenport, a registered nurse, and the clinical director at Ternity Group.

“Before that 12-week mark, there is very little evidence of any predictable circadian rhythm,” she says.

“They are meant to mix up their day and night, and they often do until they’re almost five or six months of age.

“For example, a three-month-old is meant to wake around the clock to feed (as is a six-month-old). They’re biologically adaptive to feed around the 24-hour clock.”

Cindy Davenport will present her informative lecture featuring more infant sleep tips in Healthed’s webcast on Tuesday 2nd August. Register to attend here.

When presented with a baby that is otherwise healthy and sleeping normally for that developmental stage, sometimes all GPs need to do is lower the parents’ expectations and provide a few tips.

“Parents, they’re tired, they’re looking for some quick and some easy strategies, some helpful things for you to give them,” says Davenport.

To give parents a sense of control over the unpredictable sleep patterns, GPs can teach them to look for “early tired signs”, which suggest that a baby is ready for another sleep.

The signs that a baby is winding down for a sleep are quite subtle usually, and include: a blank stare, a long blink, a baby that becomes easily bored, a baby that looks away and then looks back.

These early signs of tiredness are followed by late signs of tiredness, which are more obvious like yawning, hiccups or rubbing eyes.

“If you’re seeing a baby yawn, it’s almost too late,” says Davenport. “They’ve missed that window of opportunity and they are in fact heading into that overtired stage where it is harder to get a little one to settle.”

For more infant sleep tips, register for Healthed’s webcast on Tuesday 2nd August

The information in this article is from the Healthed podcast: ‘Women’s and Children’s Health Update: Why Babies Will Not Always Sleep – Tips for Parents’.

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