The internet is a wonderful place filled with funny cat memes, superwomen bloggers and enough parenting advice to help you raise a small army. But here’s the rub: most of the parenting advice in cyber space is not curated with the Dubai parent in mind. How can you create the optimum baby sleep sanctuary (cool, dark, quiet) when the sun is beating down, the mercury is rising up and the city is showing no signs of sleeping?
We tracked down Dubai’s ‘baby whisperer’, aka Cecile de Scally, qualified midwife and lead parent educator at Malaak, Mama & Baby Care, and asked her to tackle your most pressing sleep-related problems.
What temperature should my AC be set to?
We recommend a room temperature of around 22-24 degrees Celsius, slightly higher than the international recommendation of 16-20 degrees. The temperatures recommended in international literature are not appropriate for the UAE weather. Here, we recommend between 22-24 degrees, as this is a good balance in the summer where the outside temperature is much higher and works well in the cooler months as well.
Tip: Always check where the AC blows when it is on and position your child’s bed away from the draft.
We’re used to cold temperatures in our home country, but I have been told to set my AC to 25/26 degrees – surely, it’s too much?
No, this is recommended for this region. The difference between your room temperature and the outside temperature will make the room feel cooler. Trying to have an AC system cool to temperatures below 22-24 is not necessary.
The sun comes up so early in the mornings here – is that why my baby won’t sleep in later?
In fact, all children wake with the sun in the morning and it is not the light alone that wakes them, more the change in temperature. Using black-out blinds prevents light entering the room, but it cannot prevent the temperature change. It’s a natural part of a child’s sleep habits to wake early, so it should be expected.
What tog should my child’s gro bag or blanket be?
It can be hard to know the tog quality (the heaA tog of between 0.5 and 1.5 is recommended for a child in Dubai, however it depends on your room temperature. If you keep the room cool, then a higher tog is needed. If you have your AC off during the cooler winter months, for example, you would still use 1-1.5 tog; if it was summer then 0.5 tog with a fan is adequate (do not allow the fan to blow directly on your baby).
How many layers should my child wear to bed when it’s 40-odd degrees outside?
The number of layers depends on the individual child, but most small children need one to two layers of clothing with a blanket to sleep snugly. This may seem like a lot, but because of the use of AC here in Dubai, the temperature in our homes is regulated throughout the year.
How can I tell if my child is too hot or too cold?
Babies cannot shiver and we tend to err on the side of making them too cold normally, as we are so concerned about overheating. If they overheat, they will cry or be very unsettled. Small children will also sweat if they are too hot, especially on the top lip, and shiver if cold. The problem is if they are just too cold, then it is hard to tell, – they may try to cuddle into a ball to get warmer.
I see a lot of people going out very late with their babies here – is this OK? How important is a sleep routine?
No, it is something I am concerned about as babies and small children become sleep-deprived very quickly and this affects development and behaviour. We are not asking parents to stay at home all the time, only to be aware that babies and small children need 11-12 hours sleep at night, with a consistent bedtime. Stimulation should be decreased from dinner time to allow them to settle properly and the brain to rest, which has two advantages: we are better parents as our nights are less disturbed, and our children form happier more natural behavi
1) PERSISTENCE IS KEY: What’s easier or more intuitive today may create a more difficult problem or habit to correct later. Put in the hard work and sleepless nights early so that you can lay the foundation for later.
2) SET REALISTIC GOALS: During the first six weeks, or when baby is sick or teething, we can’t expect our little ones to be very cooperative, so we need to be patient and remember there is always a light at the end of the tunnel.
3) DAYTIME ROUTINES ARE ALSO CRITICAL:. Very often, night-time sleep issues are related to daytime sleep and feeding schedules; correcting or adjusting these can have a profound effect on night-time sleep.
4) START TO ESTABLISH GOOD HABITS EARLY: Beginning from four weeks of age is the best way to ensure sleep works without resorting to any of the ‘cry it out’ methods. We encourage mums to start good habits as soon as possible – and not much later than six to eight weeks.