By Carmen Botes – Good Night Consultant
At Good Night there are so many aspects we have to take into consideration when guiding parents to a better sleep journey for their children. Whether these children are newborns, toddlers or pre-schoolers.
Helping parents navigate life with toddlers who are having a meltdown or newborns who will not stop crying or who will not sleep for longer than 30 minutes. We are here to help you with all of this.
Building good foundations for sleep is very important at a young age for children. They are just that much more accepting of your boundaries as parents and the household in general can run that much smoother when everything “gels” well.
The ever on-going questions about “how are your kids sleeping?”, “are they sleeping through yet?”, “how do you manage?” always comes up in conversation.
Many times, the answers are “put them in bed with you, then you will get up less times”, “co-sleep with your baby or toddler”, “move into their room”, “build a bed next to your bed”. The recommendations are endless.
However, how do we know what the right decision is?
We look at what the studies and research tell us about safety of sleep. Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is very real and we, as consultants have the responsibility to educate our clients on how to make sure your baby is safe whilst learning to sleep. Many parents opt to share their room with their children. Often it is for safety reasons, multiple wake ups during the night, or when they are just not sure when to move their babies out.
South Africa does not have a controlling body to govern safe sleep, which is why we look to the American Academy of Paediatrics (AAP), who recommends that infants sleep in their parents’ room until they are 1 year old to prevent SIDS. However, they have since “backtracked” this statement to make way for further research, rather than it being based on expert opinion. So the choice is therefore entirely up to you.
Now the question: Room sharing or own room sleep for your baby?
As a mother, I had my first baby right next to me until he was 6 months old. We had just moved into a new house and there were so many changes. Six months went by so fast, then came the decision to move my son into his own room. It was amazing, he slept so well and adjusted just as well.
Thereafter, my daughter was born and slept next to my bed in her moses basket until she was just over 3 months old. She was a completely different baby and was so noisy. My husband made the call to move her out – we did it and it went just as well. The point to my story, is that for me, personally, it was the right move as we all slept better.
We see so many families that we are helping on their sleep journeys. Let’s make it easy, comfortable and effortless for you. When a mom tells me she would like to room share – then let’s do so! I suggest moving the cot furthest away from mom’s side of the bed, potentially even at the foot of the bed. Use white noise so that when mom and dad are coming to bed later during the night, you are not disturbing your baby. Make sure the bedroom is dark enough so that baby would not wake too early in the morning, but also not nap too short during the day. It remains important to respect the wishes of the parents.
When a mom says, let’s make the move – then let’s do it! I get very excited about this news. Babies thrive in their own environment. Mom has spent so much time and love on their brand-new room, let’s use it. You will notice that your baby sleeps longer stretches, is much less restless as there are far less disturbances than when room sharing. If a baby is still feeding during the night, then feed, change their nappy and back into their cot for the remainder of the night. You would be amazed at the amount of deep, good quality sleep you as a parent get when there are no noises waking you up at night.
Always make sure, that no matter where your baby is sleeping, they are in a safe space. This means that there should be no pillows or blankets in the cot. Preferably cot bumpers should be removed from the cot. Mobiles and overhanging items should also not be reachable. As your baby grows older, they will learn to stand up in their cots and could start to pull at these items. The ABC’s of sleep is very simple. A = Alone sleep, B = Back Sleep, C = Cot Sleep.
Toddlers are somewhat of a different scenario. Your toddler has very big emotions and will argue with you for not getting their way. Just breathe, keep your head high and know that your coffee is stronger than your toddler.
It is always fun to encourage your toddler to sleep in their own room. Independent sleep is also very important at their age. Make their room fun, reward them when they are good, however also remember that disciplining your toddler is as important, even when it comes down to sleep. They need to understand the rules of the house, and it is time to go to bed.
If your toddler was room sharing all this time, and it is now time to move them. Speak to your toddler. Help them to understand that this not because of something they have done, but rather that they are growing up, big, strong and independent kids who need their own space. Many times, it is even more convincing when they have a younger sibling and you encourage them to be the big brother or sister, therefore making the move. It will almost feel as if they are choosing to make the move, rather than being told to make the move.
At the end of the day, we all want what is best for our family and for our children.
It just makes life so much more simple when children are in a good routine, and sleep goes well. You as parents are even able to enjoy small victories like date nights and outings with friends as you know your kids are perfectly happy and content at home in their safe and cosy sleep environments.