Eight Ways to Help Your Child Sleep Better
Getting your baby or toddler to sleep through the night can be a struggle. And don’t even mention naps! Whether you’re a first-time or been-there-done-that parent, we all go through sleepless nights. Here are five ways to help your child sleep at night, and get some rest for yourself, too!
Go In With a Plan
This should always be the first step when starting any kind of sleep training program. Moms and dads need to sit down and create a plan that they both agree on. You will need the support of one another throughout the process and being on the same page will help in the success of the plan.
Children thrive on routine
Doing the same routine every night helps your child understand that bedtime is soon approaching. This can actually be practiced from day one. Establishing this consistent routine will help your child understand that it’s bedtime. You can also include a short naptime routine to help prepare them for some great daytime slumber.
Bump up that bedtime
Sometimes an earlier bedtime is all that’s required to get your child sleeping through the night. It also could help with bedtime battles and early risers. You’ll get your nights back and your baby will go down before he’s overtired. While it may seem counter-intuitive, when babies are put to bed too late they become overtired and have a hard time accepting sleep and staying asleep throughout the night.
Naps, biggest struggle, but so important
By four to six months, babies will start showing a more predictable pattern of daytime sleep, so it’s a great time to start developing a nap schedule. Daytime sleep is one of the most important fundamentals in creating healthy sleep at night, but they’re also one of the most common sleep issues out there. We want to aim for a consolidated nap of at least and hour or more. While short naps of 30-45 minutes are common, it’s not enough of a restorative sleep and they are capable of pushing into the next cycle with a lot of persistence and consistency.
Wake up to sleep associations
Sleep training doesn’t mean you can’t bond and cuddle your baby at bedtime. We want to make sure that we aren’t creating sleep associations, like rocking and nursing to sleep. Your child will remember how they fell asleep and when they wake up throughout the night they will need those associations recreated. Once your child learns to fall to sleep on their own they will be able to do it easily throughout the night. Put your child to bed drowsy, not asleep. Stop. Wait. Listen. You may surprise yourself when they fall back asleep on their own.
Stop Getting Up With the Birds
Early morning wakings can be very common. Make sure your baby’s room is conducive to sleep. We want to make sure that the early morning light is blacked out so you may want to invest in black out blinds. Also a white noise machine can come in handy to keep the early morning birds and traffic sounds at bay. The other issue could be your child isn’t getting the proper amount of consolidated sleep throughout the day and going to bed too late. Because of this your child could become overtired, which can result in more restless sleep throughout the night and an earlier wake time.
Consistency, consistency, consistency…Did I mention consistency?
No matter what method you choose or how you schedule your routine, please remain consistent. I can’t stress that enough. Consistency is key! Once you have carved out your schedule and implemented it, your best chance to success is to stick with it.
You also have a better chance of remaining consistent if you choose a method that you are comfortable with, and that follows your parenting philosophy. This makes it less likely that you’ll quit half way through. Be patient and with time and consistency, your kids will learn how to get the healthy sleep the need.
Don’t Give Up!
Think for a second how long it takes you to break a habit or learn a new one, definitely not a day or two. Yet we expect our children to get it just like that. We need to cut them some slack and give them time to break associations and learn new skills. It could take a few days, a week, or a month. Provided you are consistent in the follow through they will get it but we have to be patient.
Alanna McGinn is a Certified Infant and Toddler Sleep Consultant and Founder of Good Night Sleep Site. She is a mom of 3 (1 + twins!) and is committed to helping families with their baby and toddler sleep needs. www.goodnightsleepsite.com, @GNSleepSite, www.facebook.com/goodnightsleepsite, http://pinterest.com/gnsleepsite/