Before anyone becomes a new parent , it is like they'll hear "sleep when the baby sleeps" quite a few times. While this well-meaning advice is meant to remind parents to try and rest as much when possible, it's also not necessarily easy to follow through with – especially if your little one isn't sleeping very well.
There are a number of reasons why babies don't sleep well but one of the main culprits is stomach issues.
David Naidu, General Manager, FrieslandCampina Singapore says "studies have shown that there is a positive link between sleep and digestive health. Parents may not be aware of this connection between good sleep and good digestion, and we want to help parents take charge of their child's wellbeing."
"One thing I learnt when my children were babies, is that a happy tummy equates to longer stretches of sleep at night," says Suhanna Ab, founder and creative director of local children's brand Maison Q who recently collaborated with FRISO on a limited edition, set of pyjamas emphasising the importance of good sleep (and good poop!).
"The amount and frequency of their milk had to balance with their intake of solids. Once I hit the right spot, they started sleeping for much longer. I was lucky this strategy worked out for all three kids. All of them, including the baby, sleep between nine to 10 hours each night."
"Another thing I want for them is good digestion. Tummy aches are mean disruptors of good sleep. As a busy parent this is something I really do not want in my home," adds Suhana.
"Prevention is key so as much as I can, I try to ensure that they eat proper meals on time and consume less of the junk food. From my experience, this influences the type and duration of sleep they have at night."
To find out how else sleep and digestion can be improved together, we spoke to paediatrician and sleep specialist Dr Petrina Wong for more tips.
1. What can you expect from baby sleep in the first 12 months?
Sleep patterns vary a lot when a baby grows from a newborn to a one year old.
Newborns spend most of their time sleeping, averaging between 16-20 hours in a day. At about two months, most babies stay awake for longer and will take about three to four short naps in the day, and may still wake for night feedings.
The number of naps will drop to two to three totalling about three to four hours when babies reach six to eight months old. Some may sleep through the night (a stretch of about six to eight hours-hooray!), though some may not do that until they’re much older.
Around nine months old, most babies would hopefully have a good daytime and nighttime sleep routine established, and most (but not all!) would be sleeping through the night.
2. When is a baby’s or child’s sleep pattern something to worry about?
If you find your baby or child having disrupted sleep – difficulty falling asleep, or night wakings, or if your child struggles to breathe at night or snores, or looks tired in the day – seek help as your child may have a sleep disorder.
Common sleep conditions in children include night terrors, nightmares, sleep apnea, sleep talking and sleepwalking.
3. Assuming developmental milestones are being met, when should a parent see someone like yourself about their child’s sleep issues?
Sleep in children is very important. A child who does not sleep well can have mood swings, be grumpy, hyperactive or have difficulty focusing.
Poor sleep has also been linked to allergies (like a frequent stuffy nose/ sneezing/night coughing), a poor immune system as well has longer term risks like obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure.
A parent can seek help for their child if they are worried about their child’s quality or quantity of sleep, or if they just need tips on how to improve their child’s bedtime habits or sleep in general.
4. Are there foods to avoid at certain times of the day to improve sleep or digestion?
It’s best to avoid large meals just before bedtime as this could disrupt your child’s sleep. Also limit their sugar intake before sleep as it makes them more alert and active.
Beverages/foods containing caffeine may also remain in your child’s system for hours, disturbing their night sleep. Examples of these include soda drinks, chocolate, energy drinks and teas.
Overall, a child’s diet should comprise a variety of natural foods from trusted and high-quality food sources that can aid in good sleep and good poop.
5. For parents who are worried about their young children’s sleep (aka all parents), what is your best advice?
My advice is to take it slow and look at combining natural dietary choices with good lifestyle habits to help improve your child’s sleep.
Good lifestyle habits include having a sleep schedule with regular naptimes and bedtimes and making sure that your child gets adequate physical activity every day to help them sleep better at night.
A balanced diet with a variety of fruits and vegetables is also a great way to promote the health of their digestive system, reducing the chances of gut issues so they can have better sleep as well.
This article was first published in The Singapore Women’s Weekly .
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