How Does Your Child Sleep? Tips for Raising an Independent Sleeper…
By Petro Thamm
Sleep. We all need it, and we don’t know how important it is until we can’t get enough of it? Are you a mother? Then you know EXACTLY what I’m talking about.
Do you find yourself dreaming of the days when getting a good night’s sleep was as simple as choosing to go to bed early? When being up at 2 a.m. meant that you were out having fun?
Sleep is vital for all humans to be healthy: it’s when we recharge so we’re at our personal best. Bad sleeping habits it linked to obesity, poor performance, ADHD, car accidents… you name it! If your child isn’t sleeping well, you’re likely not either, and you probably wonder when it will end. However, if addressed early on, sleep problems can be overcome. There are steps you can take today to form healthy sleep for you and your family.
Tip #1 ~ Eliminate “Sleep Props”
Children need to develop self-soothing strategies so they’re able to fall asleep independently and be able to put themselves back to sleep when they wake in the night. If they depend on a “sleep prop” (any device or activity they rely on to fall asleep) they will need someone – usually you! – to help them every time they wake in the night.
Some examples of sleep props are: nursing or a bottle, pacifier, rocking, bouncing, patting or riding in the car.
Tip #2 ~ An Early Bedtime
An early bedtime is best to ensure your child doesn’t become overtired, making it more difficult for them to settle down and fall asleep. Based on your baby’s age and the timing of their last nap, you should pick a bedtime somewhere between 6 and 8 p.m. (And they need 11-12 hours of consecutive, uninterrupted sleep!)
Tip #3 ~ Create a Predictable Bedtime/Naptime Routine
Routines are a great way to let your child know that sleep is coming and it’s time to transition from day to night. It also helps them wind down from the excitement of the day, so falling asleep is easier for them. Bedtime routines are most effective when they are about 20 to 30 minutes long, and the majority of it takes place in your child’s bedroom. Some activities that work well include a bath, massage, going potty, brushing teeth, reading, sharing thoughts or a favourite song and cuddling.
Tip #4 ~ Keep Your Child Awake While Feeding
If you’re feeding your baby in the night, do your best to keep them awake. Breastfeeding and bottle feeding babies to sleep is the number one sleep prop children begin to rely on. Keeping them awake during feedings will help break the association that sleeping and eating go hand and hand. They will be awake when they’re put back in their bed, encouraging their self-soothing skills.
Tip #5 ~ Consistency
Consistency is probably the most important part of teaching your child the skill of becoming an independent sleeper. Once you choose your method, you need to be consistent 100% of the time! If you give up or change rules every night, you will frustrate and confuse your child. Keeping all sleep situations the same sends a clear message about what’s expected of them.
By taking the necessary steps to achieve restful, consolidated sleep for your child you will be giving them a skill they will carry with them throughout their lives.
Petro Thamm is a mom, and founder of Good Night, a certified Sleep Sense Consultancy. For more help on sleep related matters for your baby and/or toddler, contact [email protected], www.goodnightbaby.co.za or like the Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/GoodNightbabyrsa