Sometimes the hardest part of a good night’s sleep is putting your child to sleep. This includes putting a baby to bed as well as getting a child back to sleep after waking up (for any number of reasons). While no parent will handle the issues of sleep the same, here are two solid ways to help improve the process of getting your child to sleep and letting you count more sheep.
Setting Up a Sleep Routine for Your Child
Sometimes you will notice that your child just isn’t in the sleeping mood. They are fed, clean and aren’t showing signs of colic or teething and the STILL won’t sleep. Children sometimes just want to sleep on their own schedule, or are testing you, or any number of other reasons… but they don’t want to sleep ‘just because’.
This can sometimes be more frustrating than having an actual reason for not sleeping.
In these cases, it’s worth getting ahead of them to provide the best sleep environment for your child. We all know that your sleep as a new parent is completely connected to how well a child sleeps.
Get ahead of any sleeping issues you may see in newborns, toddles and older by setting the mood. Starting with feedings, it should be easy to keep the daytime feedings engaging and interactive with young children by keeping it bright, fun and participating with toddlers (which helps keep it clean too). Then, when it is time to start heading to bed or if there is an overnight feeding, keep it peaceful, dim and relaxing. You can use soothing sounds/music or even just sing to your child to help keep them on the brink of sleep.
Creating a routine that helps your child settle in for the night sets you up for long term sleeping success as well. Before their nighttime feeding, or after dinner for older children having trouble going to bed, start a bedtime routine.
While you may not bath your child every night, let’s start there. After a wild day, start the wind down with tubby time. It’s okay to let them play in the tub, you’re just starting the wind down process and they’ll associate that over time and this may be there last burst of energy for the day. Then, create a step by step that works for you. For example, it may be wrapping your child in a towel, putting lavender scented lotion on them, brushing their teeth, letting your child pick out their pajamas then grabbing their favorite (night time) book and sitting in the same chair to read and then sing a song or two. Then if you’re still feeding right before bed provide the bottle or breast in a dim environment and ease them into their bed for the night.
This scenario will not work for everyone, and there will of course be nights where you can’t stick to it. By having this in place under normal circumstances, if you are traveling or rushing for some reason or another, your child can recognize certain aspects of the routine as a trigger for bed. For instances if you are traveling for the holidays and spending a night at a hotel, you may still be able to trigger bedtime by reading their favorite book and singing their bedtime songs.
Another way to trigger ‘bedtime’ in your child’s head is to establish a security object that they can associate with a safe, satisfying sleep and will help remove the separation anxiety they may feel when you leave the room. Start this around 6 months but run it by your child’s doctor before leaving it anything in their crib. An effective way of helping your child ease itself is by holding it close to you so it gets your scent.
No matter how you can do it, getting your child to bed easily through a routine will greatly decrease your building frustration that comes with your own lack of sleep.
Sleep Training for Children
If you are at a point where you don’t think your child is ready for a routine or if you have tried one and it hasn’t worked, then you may want to try Sleep Training Methods.
The first thing you want to do before you try Sleep Training on your child is to contact their physician. Make sure your baby is healthy before doing anything, it’s the obvious, most important part.
The idea behind sleep training is to ease your baby out of their separation anxiety they feel when you are gone. While a security object or routine may ease this, it may be necessary to use a sleep training method. Here is one example of how to work through sleep training to achieve long-term sleepy bliss… or at least a bit more sleep for you at night.
HOW TO SLEEP TRAIN MY CHILD
- Start by putting your child to bed awake.
- For a few days (three), sit next to the crib and sooth your baby while they are crying with gentle touches and soothing reassurances.
- Then, begin to move the chair. Alternate the location each day but continue with soothing reassurances and gentle touches.
- After a few days, you may notice them needing less.
- There may be extreme scenarios where you feel like you need to lift and console your child early on, do this quickly and then place them back in the crib.
Stay consistent and within a few weeks, you should be able to place your baby in bed for the night, leave and be assure that they will drift themselves off to sleep.
This method of sleep training is the Ferber Sleep Training Method, and while it is certainly not the only way. It is sometimes referenced as allowing your child to cry it out. While it seems a bit harsh, it is for the greater good of avoiding the pitfalls of parents not getting enough sleep. For more info on sleep training, you can visit Wikipedia for an assortment of views and info.
Sleeping Baby = Happy Parent