For the first time ever, I have a guest blogger! How exciting! She has some amazing suggestions for how to get your child to sleep well. This is so critical for parents and makes a huge difference in relationships and in the functioning of the household.
Jenn Kelner is a mother of 3 children (including twins!) and a Certified Child Sleep Consultant at BabyZzz. She helps tired families with infants, babies and toddlers become well rested families through customized sleep solutions and support. She offers various services including home, phone/Skype and overnight consultations. For more information visit www.babyzzz.ca
4 Tips to Get Your Child Sleeping Well
Are you struggling to find the energy to do the things you enjoy because your child isn’t a great sleeper? Do you find you get cranky and frustrated with the ones you love because you’re getting up with your child throughout the night? Is your relationship with your spouse taking a back seat because all you want to do is go to bed early and sleep? One out of four children have some type of sleep problem, and the lack of sleep not only affects their development, energy level, mood, and fine motor skills, but it can affect yours as well. Lack of sleep also puts mother’s at a greater risk of postpartum depression. There are so many reasons why healthy sleep is important for the entire family. Here are 4 tips to help your child sleep well, so that your whole family can sleep well and enjoy a happier, healthier home life.
1. Create the ideal sleeping environment
To help your child sleep better, you need to create the ideal sleeping environment for your child. Make sure the sleeping place is safe, including no loose bedding or toys. Try to keep the room as dark as possible by using room darkening blinds and minimal night lights. Also children sleep best when they are dressed warmly and the room is on the cooler side – around 68 to 72 degrees. Remove all aquariums, mobiles and toys with flashing lights from their sleeping environment, as these distractions often delay the onset of sleep. Finally, use continuous white noise if you think the house or street noise might be making it difficult for your child to sleep.
2. Maintain a consistent sleeping place
Your child’s sleeping place could be their crib or bed in their room, a bassinet in your room, or a playpen at naptime. Regardless of where they sleep, the key is to keep it consistent. If your child always sleeps in the same place, it will become a positive sleep cue for them and they will begin to associate that location with sleep. Falling asleep will become easier and require less assistance from you. By keeping their sleeping place consistent, you can also control the conditions in their sleep environment, like temperature, darkness and safety. It will also be easier for your child to go back to sleep if they wake up in their consistent sleeping place. When the child wakes briefly between sleep cycles (as we all do), they do a quick check to make sure everything is as it was when they fell asleep. If things have changed, like where they are sleeping, they will likely wake up fully and call for you. If they are in their consistent sleeping place, they will likely roll over and go back to sleep peacefully.
3. Create a consistent bedtime routine
A bedtime routine is a consistent calming ritual that takes place leading up to lights out. By following a consistent ritual, your child will feel more secure because they know what to expect and understand that bedtime is coming. It can include a few or many steps to help their body wind-down and get ready for sleep. Your routine could include activities like a warm bath, brushing teeth, bedtime stories, talking about their day or saying goodnight to their toys. Once you decide on a good bedtime routine, try to keep it consistent every day. Your child will begin to associate your bedtime routine with bedtime, and will naturally become sleepy.
4. Put your child to bed awake
If you have been rocking, nursing, bouncing or using other means to get your child to sleep, you may need to start putting your child down drowsy but awake. The bouncing and rocking isn’t a problem in itself, but it can become a problem when you find you can no longer handle it day in and day out, and your child needs you to do it multiple times a night to get back to sleep. These negative sleep associations are not only preventing your child from getting consolidated sleep at night, but it is also robbing you of your much needed sleep to function during the day. Practice helping your child get nice and drowsy, and then place them down awake so that they can learn the skill of falling asleep unassisted. Perfecting this skill will make it much easier for them to fall back to sleep in the middle of the night without needing your help.