Recent studies have demonstrated the importance of sleep in the development of a child’s brain. But can be really difficult for itchy eczema babies and children so how can you ensure that your eczema child is getting enough sleep? Read our guide to teaching itchy babies and children to settle themselves and sleep.
Why does my child need lots of sleep?
All parents know that kids get grouchy when they are tired and appreciate when sleep is necessary but recent research shows just how important sleep is in the longer term to the growing brain. A new study in the British Medical Journal reports a significant relationship between sleep and brain development in children and babies. The Millennium Cohort Study followed 11,000 children and the findings were similar to a 2008 Canadian study published in the journal Sleep. These studies showed that the majority of children who had irregular bedtimes up to age three years old were negatively affected with regards to maths skills, reading and spatial awareness, as well as experiencing language problems. In addition those who regularly had less than 10 hours sleep at night were more at risk of developing ADHD.
The studies concluded that the deep sleep which is prevalent in young children is linked to brain development and the REM sleep plays a major role in developing the visual parts of a developing brain. Other studies have shown that deep sleep encourages the production of cerebral proteins, vital for childhood brain development. So there is scientific proof that if a child is not getting enough sleep their brain will not get the chance to develop fully.
If you can establish good sleep habits early not only will you be giving your eczema child the best possible start, but the whole family will benefit from getting enough sleep.
How can I develop my eczema baby’s sleeping skills?
Falling asleep can be difficult for an eczema baby as itchy skin can stop them from dropping off. This makes is all the more important that you help them learn how to relax enough to let sleep roll in.
Establishing a regular bedtime routine is fundamental in teaching a baby to sleep. Bedtime routines best started within 60-90 mins of a baby’s last nap of the day. The bedtime routine should be around 15-20 minutes in length and should be repeated every night. It could include a short, warm (not hot) bath with a cap of prescribed emollient (e.g. Dermol), singing a lullaby, massage, cuddling or reading a book (the ones with flaps and textures are great for keeping little fingers out of mischief). The more you carry out the routine, the easier it will be for your baby to fall asleep. This routine can also be used in the 5-10 minutes just before a nap, just so your baby gets used to the process of going to bed.
Once a little one is tucked up safely in bed, leave them to drop off to sleep by themselves – the ability to self-settle will serve them (and you) well as they get older. Eczema babies often scratch as they are dozing and this can stop them falling asleep. Covering scratchy fingers with scratch mitts or ScratchSleeves will reduce the chance of scratching keeping your baby awake.
Learning to self-settle
All babies will wake in the night, and it is so tempting to check on them as soon as you hear something. But if you can bring yourself to leave them for a minute or two before going in, they may well go back to sleep by themselves. Giving a baby time to self-settle can avoid waking them up further (our kids have always chatted and shouted in their sleep) and help them to learn to go back to sleep by themselves. When our little ones were small we would give them a couple of minutes before we went in the first time then, if we needed to go in again we would leave it a few minutes longer each time – they rarely got to more than eight minutes of noise before dropping off by themselves, but we do have very tolerant neighbours.
If you are concerned about whether your eczema baby is scratching or truly distressed, you might consider getting video baby monitor or using you smart phone or tablet with a baby monitor app (if you’re using a phone remember to mute the ring volume!). This allows you the peace of mind from checking that they are okay without needing to disturb them.
How much sleep does a baby need?
Babies and children require differing amounts of quality sleep. Here, we outline the average amount your child will need – depending on their age:
- Newborn babies of 1 to 2 months – 10.5 hours to 18 hours per day at irregular times. It is normal for babies to be very active during sleep. This includes twitching, making noise and suckling.
- Infants of 3 to 11 months – Most babies should be sleeping 9-12 hours per night with 1 to 4 naps in the day lasting anything from 30 mins to 2 hours
- Toddlers of 1 to 3 years – Should sleep for 12 – 14 hours in one go. However, it is fine to decrease naps to one or two a day by 18 months.
There are more top tips for helping an older itchy child to sleep in our post on ‘How to Get an Eczema Child to Sleep’ and ‘How to Build a Fun Bedtime Routine for an Eczema Child‘
For more information on comfortable bedtime clothes for your eczema baby please visit https://www.scratchsleeves.co.uk/