Nobody understands lack of sleep better than parents of a newborn. In one swift move, you go from nights of sound slumber to insanity-inducing insomnia. Though it can and does get better, getting your child on the right track to healthy sleeping patterns early is crucial. Here are some tips and tricks for parents who want to avoid future sleeping problems in their children. There are also some tips and tricks for those who have gotten a late start, or whose kids just don’t seem to cooperate.
Generally, newborns will take some time to get used to their schedules. Until they’re at least 6 weeks old, having patience with them is recommended – even if it means getting up 5 or more times to soothe a crying baby. Until they’re ready to give up the middle-of -the-night feeding, you’ll have to get up at least once.
There are many theories and philosophies regarding the right approach to teaching a newborn to sleep through the night. You can read about these at length in your spare time (ha!). Below are some real-life techniques that can be used from 6 weeks of age through 12 months:
Ã¢Â?Â¢Daytime naps in natural light
Ã¢Â?Â¢Shorten daytime naps
Ã¢Â?Â¢Extend the time between penultimate and last feeding
Ã¢Â?Â¢Bathe child before last feeding
Ã¢Â?Â¢Soothing and consistent bedtime routine
Ã¢Â?Â¢Try to feed more during last feeding (6 wks – 3 mo’s)
Ã¢Â?Â¢Last feeding in darkened room (6 wks – 3 mo’s)
Ã¢Â?Â¢Your shirt in baby’s crib
Shirt in Baby’s Crib?
Yes, that’s right. Put a (worn) t-shirt of either parent (or alternate t-shirts so nobody gets jealous) right into the baby’s crib. I have found this to be a tremendous help in helping small babies soothe themselves back to sleep if they wake up in the night.
Toddler Tossing and Turning?
If your toddler wakes up every night, calling out to you or coming into your bed, it can be enough to drive you crazy! Try these techniques for helping your toddler sleep through the night:
Ã¢Â?Â¢Develop daily routines and consistent sleep schedule
Ã¢Â?Â¢More activity during day (get ’em tired)
Ã¢Â?Â¢Establish an environment conducive to sleep: dark room, night light, quiet
Ã¢Â?Â¢Offer incentives to get through the night: “If you wake up and get yourself back to sleep without getting up, and if you stay in your room through the entire night, we can have a picnic in the park on Saturday to celebrate.”
Older children often resist bedtime for several reasons. Establishing healthy sleep patterns is very important for their development (and your sanity). For a child that fights going to bed with everything she’s got, try these tips:
Ã¢Â?Â¢Emphasize the importance of daily schedules and consistent sleep patterns
Ã¢Â?Â¢Ensure child is active during the day
Ã¢Â?Â¢Establish a fun and relaxing bedtime routine
Ã¢Â?Â¢Limit T.V. watching at night
Ã¢Â?Â¢Limit caffeine and sugar intake at night
Ã¢Â?Â¢Create a cozy sleeping environment
Ã¢Â?Â¢Set limits and communicate rules to your child
Ã¢Â?Â¢Be consistent! If child comes out of bedroom after you’ve put him down for the night, take him back to bed with as little physical or eye contact as possible
Ã¢Â?Â¢Provide night light if child is scared of the dark
Ã¢Â?Â¢Provide a glass of water on a night stand to combat the “I’m thirsty” excuse
Nobody knows as well as you do how important an adequate amount of sleep is. With a customized routine, consistent follow-through and a little patience, these tips and techniques can help turn your restless runts into dreaming darlings. Then maybe you’ll get a decent night’s rest!