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Kerry Bajaj On The Importance Of Sleep Routine

Sleep is a crucial part of a baby’s daily routine. But what happens when babies don’t sleep well?

There are many things that happen when babies don’t get enough sleep. From crankiness to fussing, it can be difficult for parents to get their baby to sleep at night. Sleep deprivation may have lasting effects on your baby. 

Research shows that babies who are deprived of sleep have an increased incidence of weight gain, attention difficulties, and the development of chronic health conditions. A lack of sleep can also impact your health. 

When it comes to baby’s sleep, Kerry is the boss. Her daughters Leela, 5, and Rumi, 3, have been sleeping at 7 pm since they were 7 months old.

Pic courtesy: @kerrybajaj

After moving to India with her husband Karan, Kerry’s been bombarded with questions about their perfect sleep regimen.

Find all her answers in Sleep, Baby, Sleep: A Bedtime Routine from 8 to 8. Kerry, who has studied infant and child sleep in the US, shows you how a little discipline and a lot of patience can help inculcate good sleep habits for a lifetime. Well-reasoned, intensively researched and tailored for Indian parents, Sleep, Baby, Sleep will transform the process of putting a child to bed.

Pic courtesy: @kerrybajaj

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Keeping the many sleepless nights of babyhood behind, let’s take a step back and find out some of the less-noticed but great benefits of sleep routine directly from her.

 Kerry Bajaj, author of Sleep, Baby, Sleep discusses how sleep plays an important role in a baby’s mood, mental health, and overall development; how a little discipline can help in creating a routine for a child’s healthy sleeping habits, a routine that would be healthy for a lifetime.

Preeti Chaturvedi interviews Kerry Bajaj about her book and asks her frequently asked questions by parents.

The concept of Sleep consultancy is quite new in India, can you share some insights on what it exactly means and its importance?

Sleep is so important for a baby’s health, development, and for harmony in the family!  As a sleep consultant, I help families to set age-appropriate healthy sleep patterns for their babies and children. 

Pic courtesy: @kerrybajaj

The book Sleep Baby Sleep is said to be tailored for Indian parents. What were the major cultural differences that you noticed while researching for your book? 

One that I’ve noticed is that bedtime tends to skew later in India. I’ve met some families who want to shift bedtime earlier and successfully do so. I’ve also found instances where a later bedtime can work for families as long as the baby or child is getting their continuous night sleep and has a good nap schedule. It’s all about balance over the 24-hour cycle!      

It is said that dealing with bedtime battles and multiple nights wakes is a part of the new parent’s routine. How difficult is it to challenge and break that general notion?

Yes, multiple-night wakings are definitely part of life with a newborn. They need multiple feeds and don’t have a circadian rhythm in place yet. The night wakings can reduce over the first few months, and in most cases, a healthy baby can sleep through the night before turning one.   

I haven’t found it difficult to challenge that notion. I always ask readers and clients to check with their pediatrician about their baby’s sleep and feeding pattern.   

Pic courtesy: @kerrybajaj

 Can inculcating a proper sleep schedule will help in the child’s mental and physical growth? 

Yes, sleep is so important because that is when growth hormone is released. As I quote from Dr. Chittal in the book, “interrupted sleep is interrupted growth.” 

 Do you think the prevailing pandemic situation has affected the children’s sleep routine? If yes then in what ways?

Yes. When lockdowns began last year, I felt a small benefit might be that small babies would not be traveling and going for functions so much because that can be disruptive in setting a routine and honoring the need for restorative daytime naps. For the older children, being inside was difficult as they missed out on the gross motor activity needed to burn off energy and get tired for bedtime. I hope that all children can return to in-person school soon as I feel that the daytime routine is beneficial.   

 Is the sleep consulting session personalised for every child?

Yes of course! Every family I work with is a fascinating puzzle. We get very detailed information about who lives in the house, the support system, any caregivers that are involved with the baby, the layout of the baby’s sleeping space, siblings, the values and parenting philosophy, feeds, sleep associations, exactly what the baby wears to bed, room temperature, everything! I get to work with many families again when they have a second baby which is such an honor and a joy.   

Many children deal with nightmares often and feel scared to sleep alone. Parents cave in and let their kids sleep with them in order to make them feel safe. Is this the correct way to deal with this issue or are there better ways?

This is a great question. You should always comfort a child who is scared. Whether or not you bring them into your bed is another matter. If an older child is scared, you may want to use night light and also monitor if they are exposed to screen time or even books that may be stirring up fears.   

Pic courtesy: @kerrybajaj

 Please share some quick tips for the parents who are struggling to put their baby in bed on time.

Here are five quick tips:  

1. Get in sync with the timing of sunset.  Make the house darker as it gets darker outside. 

2 No evening screentime. 

3. Make the daytime activities – like an afternoon nap, dinner, and bath time – earlier. I know that sounds obvious but I see so many people who give their child a super late afternoon nap and then struggle at bedtime. If your toddler is on 1 nap a day, it can be from 1 to 3 pm, then bedtime by 8 pm.  

4. Write down the evening/ bedtime routine and tape it on the wall or fridge or in your child’s room for easy reference. That helps to keep everyone on track.  

5. Watch the clock! If your child’s bedtime is getting very late, you may want to read for 10 minutes instead of 30 minutes.  I can easily lose track of time so sometimes I set an alarm on my phone so it doesn’t get too late when I’m reading to the kids.  

Sleep is important for your baby’s healthy development. Not only does it help them to grow, but it also helps to reduce the risk of developing sleep problems.

Having a routine for your baby’s sleep not only helps you but your baby for a healthy lifestyle. A routine can help you achieve a better work-life balance, which in turn will improve your productivity at work!

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