Wouldn’t it be great if there was one magic solution that helped all little ones be amazing sleepers?
That certainly would be a best seller!
Unfortunately, this is not the case as all babies are different and what works for one might not work for another. Also, it’s not usually ONE thing but a number of different things that need to be changed to optimise sleep.
Having said that, there are certain things that every parent can do to promote healthy sleep habits and better sleep for their little one. Here are five suggestions for you to try with your family….
SHORTCUT ONE: PREDICTABLE BEDTIME ROUTINE
Children love routine, it helps them to know what comes next in their day. A predictable bedtime routine of no more than 30-40 mins will help them learn that a warm bath followed by milk, story and cuddles means that it is time to settle down to sleep. Try to do the same things in the same order every single day. Consistency and repetition really are key here. Bedtime is also a time of connection and bonding with your little one especially if you have been apart for most of the day.
Once your bedtime is over and you have said goodnight, try to be really boring and not get involved in the ‘one more story’ discussions or ‘throwing teddy out of the cot’ games. Quietly tell them it’s sleepy time and encourage them to lie down.
SHORTCUT TWO: FAMILIAR SLEEP SPACE
A calming environment is vital in helping your little one sleep. Whether your baby sleeps in their own room or shares a room with you or their siblings, it is really important to put them down to sleep in the same place every night (including some naps will help even more). This will help to create a familiar place where they know sleep is expected of them and where they feel safe and secure. It’s also a good idea for your little one to fall asleep where they will spend the night. If your baby is falling asleep in your arms and being transferred to their crib or cot, when they wake up in the night, they will feel confused as things feel so different and will need your help to get back to sleep.
SHORTCUT THREE: KEEP IT DARK
Melatonin is released when it starts getting dark and is a natural hormone that helps your body know when it is time to sleep. Bright light stops melatonin release so try to avoid any screens (TV, phones, iPad, games) for 1-2 hours before bedtime (this applies to grown-ups too!!). Try to keep the bedroom completely dark with a black out blind and free of any artificial light such as mobiles or light shows. Keeping the bedroom totally dark may also help to prevent early waking in the morning. If you do need to use a nightlight, use one which emits red light as this won’t interfere with the release of melatonin.
SHORTCUT FOUR: PRIORITISE NAPS
If your little one is under 2.5 years, daytime naps will help to prevent overtiredness which will make bedtime less of a battle. Look out for early sleep cues such as yawning, going quiet or having a glazed expression and try to put your little one down for a nap before they come overtired. In general, babies under 8 months needs 3 naps, under 15 months 2 naps and up to 2.5 years 1 nap in the middle of the day. Prioritise naps even if they are on the move in the pushchair, in a sling or in the car seat. Ensure naps are spread evenly through the day and that there is sufficient time after the last nap of the day before bedtime.
SHORTCUT FIVE: KEEP IT CALM
Have 5-10 minutes calm down time before naps and before you start the bedtime routine. This change in pace will help your little one recognise that it is the end of the day and soon time to sleep. Dim the lights, put the toys away, turn off the TV and do some calm, relaxing activities together. Big body play and ‘silly-play’ such as tickle fights are a great idea to burn up some energy but just not right before bedtime!
Hopefully these five shortcuts will help you on your way to better sleep for your little one. If you would like personalised advice and support with your little one, please get in touch with me or head over to my Facebook or Instagram pages for regular sleep tips and advice.
Michelle Brown – Holistic Sleep Coach