So many parents - even of toddling or pre-school age children - struggle to get their children to sleep for the whole night without waking up or without them slipping into their parent's bed.
They wake; they demand milk; they need cuddles; they refuse to go back to sleep and they disturb you and everyone else in the house. And, at the sound of the child stirring at night send shock waves through the parents even if the little one is just turning over or breathing a little heavier than normal. So, even when they are not really awake... the parents are!
When sleep is in short supply all sorts of other repercussions occur. You're grumpy, your partner is grumpy, other children in the house are effected; your efficiency slips and everyone has a rotten time! Do you go to a doctor, let them scream it out, get up and give them everything they demand in order to get a easier and quieter life? It is incredibly hard and unless you're in the situation you really don't know how much endless sleepless nights can disrupt all your lives.
Why do they wake? Here are some thoughts:-
- Hunger: they may feel hungry and genuinely need food or some milk.
- Potty training: if they have just started potty training, they may have a more sensitive bladder and be aware when they urinate in the night even with a night time nappy on.
- Disturbed routine: if things have changed at home or school. A new teacher or childminder, things changed at home like Mum working more or Dad not home so often, or starting a new job.
- Outside influences: the neighbours have a new barking dog or a noisy motorbike.
- Bedtime: if you've move bedtime later or earlier this can impact on the sleep patterns.
- Stress or anxiety: are they worried about something at home or nursery?
- New baby: even a pregnancy or thought of a new sibling can effect their sleep.
- Poorly: they may be unwell so keep an eye on them.
- Teething: they may be uncomfortable with teeth emerging or causing pain even if you can't see any evidence.
- Growing pains: see our recent post on Growing Pains to understand this strange symptom.
How to help:
- If they ask for water, leave some by their bed so they can sip and return to sleep alone. Use a sippy cup if you're worried about spillages.
- Favourite toy: make sure any favourite toys are in bed with them for comfort and show them how to cuddle up with their toys at night.
- If you do wake and sit with them, keep it boring: no chat, no lights, nothing except a cuddle and return to bed.
Many children go through a stage, as they develop, where they take to biting objects, but worse, they start biting you and other children. This can be caused by a number of different factors:-
- It may be because they are teething and are literally trying to relieve some of the pain. Instead of biting a teether, they bite the nearest thing... which could be a parent or sibling or friend. This is common around age one.
- Slightly older children many just be experimenting and don't realise how much they can hurt others. This is common around 18 months.
- For children over 2, if they bite while playing with other children, this is more serious. It can cause more aggressive behaviour within the group, it can hurt and it can lead to real problems with their popularity with other peers.
What can you do?
- Make rules: make sure children know about sharing and taking turns. If they know this they are less likely to get annoyed if things don't go their own way.
- Supervise: Make sure you supervise carefully during playtimes and keep an eye on any problems that are brewing.
- Make an example out of the good children: praise good behaviour when it happens rather than just tell them off when they do wrong.
- Intervene and isolate: if they do bite, remove them from the situation and give them time away from the group.
- Provide alternatives: explain they can do other things when they are annoyed or disappointed. Try suggesting that if they get annoyed they should walk away or ask for help. Explain why this is better for them and all their friends.
- Focus on the victim: rather than give all your attention to the child who bites, focus instead on the child who was bitten.
- Don't ignore it - it won't just go away.
- Do try and give your child the vocabulary to explain when or how they feel. This may help them to communicate a problem rather than lashing out.
- Keep calm and deal with the issue gently. If you are really concerned seek medical help.
A baby's teeth start growing in the womb - while a mother is pregnant, the tooth buds appear in the gums and these are the foundations of milk teeth. Between 4-6 months milk teeth begin to break through the gums although this differs between different children. By age three, most should have a full set of teeth.
As each tooth develops, the gum above becomes very red and sore and swollen. Baby's cheeks can look flushed and they may get restless and irritable for some time prior to the tooth appearing and indeed once it breaks through. Eventually you'll see a tiny white bump on the gum. This is the new tooth!
Help through teething
Offer lots of comfort during teething and lots of cooled boiled water to drink. If your baby goes off food, try to offer more milk to keep them sustained and offer little meals more often, rather than trying to get them to eat if they don't want to.
- 1 in 2,000 babies are born with teeth already formed!
- Some babies don't cut their first tooth unti they are over a year old.
- Premature babies may get teeth later than full term babies.
- Most develop milk teeth when they are about to start eating solid foods.
Dealing with sore gums
- Rub baby's gums or show them how to bite on a teething ring.
- Keep any favourite chweing toys in the fridge as coolness will sooth the irritation. Try giving them cold things from the fridge to eat such as yogurt or cold apple.
- Offer teething gels or granules (available from a pharmacy) to sooth the pain.
Teething does not result in fever, chestiness, rashes, diarhoea or convulsions so if you baby gets any of these symptoms, take them straight to the doctor.
Every baby seem to go through that stage, where they pick up objects, off the floor, and put them straight toward their mouth; why on earth do they do this?! The answer is simple - it's all about exploring objects and textures! There are more nerve endings in a baby's mouth per square millimetre than any other part of their body. If they want to learn about or explore a new object, putting it into their mouth is an effective way to learn about it.
Whether they want to taste it, feel it or smell it, without much exception the item will end up in their mouth. This is perfectly natural and there it no real need to worry if you are sure that you home is relatively clean and that your baby has access only to things that are age appropriate.
How do I stop a baby putting things in their mouth?
The simple answer is keep things out of reach! A baby should only be able to get at things that are designed for an appropriately aged baby and nothing more! If you don't want dribbly keys, don't give the baby your car keys. If you don't want your mobile phone to be sucked, then don't give it to a baby! Certainly don't let them have access to anything small enough to be swallowed.
When will they stop putting things in their mouth? Babies up to the age of two may still put things in their mouth. This is because they want to learn about the world around them. By two they can use their hands much better to for exploring and experimenting, so putting things in their mouth should become less frequent. By the age of 3 it shouldn't be an issue any longer.
Why does it happen?
- Teething - As well as a means to explore, babies also will put things in their mouth when they are teething. When a tooth is about to break through chewing or sucking on something can be helpful.
- Evolution - Putting things in the mouth and gnawing also has an evolutionary explanation. By practicing chewing, babies are using and strengthening their jaws ready for when they can eat. They are building up muscles and practicing the eating motion.
- Speaking - Chewing on things is also a way for babies to prepare for speaking. The chewing manipulates their tongues and gets their mouths and jaws into practice for when they start using their mouths and tongues for making noises and eventually talking.
- Sensory organ - The mouth is a sensory organ so it's the most effective place for babies to put something new that needs exploring. Until 8 months, it's the primary sensory organ for babies.
Just don't worry too much about it. It's something all babies do in varying quantities.