Baby's Weird Sleep Habits
Don't be surprised if your sleeping baby sometimes kicks and punches. It's not a nightmare: 'Babies have an immature nervous system, and it's hard for them to control their reflexes and responses to stimuli such as noise and temperature," says Kenneth Wible, M.D., a pediatrician with Children's Mercy Hospitals and Clinics, in Kansas City, Missouri. To make sure erratic movements are benign, lightly hold down the arm or leg that's twitching. If the movement stops, no problem. If it doesn't, or if it occurs while your baby is awake, or if she has whole-body spasms, seek further evaluation, including a screening for seizures. The good news: Twitching usually decreases between ages 2 and 4 months.
Your infant's head is his largest body part, so it's where he loses the most heat; this may make his forehead and hair damper than the rest of his body. Of course, babies can also get sweaty when they're too hot. In general, dress your baby in only one more layer than you're wearing. Call the pediatrician if he has a fever or seems lethargic. By 3 or 4 months, when their sleep cycles are longer, many babies won't perspire as much. Others, though, are simply sweaty sleepers and continue as hotties into their toddler years and beyond. So don't sweat it.
Wow--so much sound coming from one little creature! It often happens when Baby has a cold or because his nasal passage is clogged with milk, which is pushed into nasal passages when he spits up. Use a suction bulb or saline drops to clear his nose. Very loud snoring or snorting, gasping for breath, choking, and extremely restless sleep are signs of sleep apnea, a condition that causes momentary pauses in breathing, so immediately tell your doctor what's going on.
Babies frequently have a period of rapid breathing followed by a period of slow breathing, then a brief pause of up to ten seconds. These pauses happen because the part of your baby's brain that controls breathing is still developing. Unlike sleep apnea, periodic breathing doesn't cause snoring or struggles for breath. As long as your baby seems comfortable and isn't gasping for air, and her fingernails and lips don't change color, don't worry. Typically, by 4 to 6 months, the sleep-time breathing pattern becomes more regular.
As they get older, babies may bang their head while dozing off to distract from teething or an earache. Tell your doctor about what you see. Up to 20 percent of children are head bangers, and it's usually normal. Experts believe that it's a way for kids to soothe themselves. Boys are much more likely to do it than girls are, and it typically slows or stops by age 3. Go to americanbaby.com/sleep-style to learn more about infant sleep.
Originally published in American Baby magazine in April 2011. Updated in April 2014.
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