Here’s a few more tips from The Baby Sleep Geek for helping your little one SLEEP BETTER.
Provide a sleep sanctuary. The place you expect your child to sleep, whether it is in bed with you, in your room but in his own bed, or independently in a separate room, should be conducive to sleep. Think of it like cave.
- Keep it cool. Although room temperature is a personal preference, most sleep experts would agree that a temperature between 65 and 72°F is most comfortable for sleeping. A bedroom that is cool will allow your child’s body temperature to fall slightly, which induces sleep.
- Keep it dark. As the summer approaches, the days are getting longer which means your child’s bedroom may see the sun long before you want her waking and long after you want her in bed at night. Napping in the afternoon is also difficult when the afternoon sun is streaming in. Using blackout shades will keep out bright light which can suppress melatonin, the sleepy hormone.
- Keep it quiet. Just as Spring brings more sunshine, it also brings more noise! Windows are open, birds are chirping bright and early and neighborhood kids are playing outside. Using a white noise machine can help block out those sounds that might wake your child early from an afternoon nap or entice him out of bed before 6:00am. They also work wonders at blocking out the noise of older siblings, keeping you from having to be the naptime noise police!
Use a consistent bedtime routine. Try the 5 B’s- Bath, Breastfeeding, Brush, Book and Bed. The routine can start anywhere in the house, but should end in the room your child sleeps in so that a positive association can be created. Repeat a shortened version before each nap. Giving fair warning of when the routine will end, by saying something like, “one more story” and then consistently sticking with it will avoid pleas for one more story that can turn a soothing ritual into a power struggle. For older children, be sure your bedtime routine includes all the items that may lead to “curtain calls” if missed: a drink of water, a trip to the potty, an extra hug and kiss from Dad, and a tuck in with a special stuffed animal. You can even check these items off on a big pictorial list!
Allow your child to learn self-soothing skills by experimenting with putting him to bed “drowsy but awake” after the first 2 months. By toddlerhood I recommend parents put their child down even earlier in the soothing process when their baby is “tired and ready but awake” so that if they wake in the middle of the night they are able to get themselves back to that drowsy state without the help of a parent.
But what if your child is still not sleeping well?
For some children the ability to sleep independently comes easily, just like some children learn to ride a bike in one day. But other children might need a little more help. If you’ve tried the steps above and your family is still not getting the sleep you need, you don’t need to “wait it out” or “cry it out”. Don’t be afraid of “sleep training”, if what you are currently doing is no longer working for your family. Research has shown that sleep problems can persist for up to five years and for some families, five years of inadequate sleep is just not an option. Eventually many families decide they’d like their children to sleep more independently. When this transition happens, whether it is at 4 months or 4 years, is a personal choice guided by your parenting philosophy and family norm–Don’t be influenced by others.
There are many gentle sleep training methods available such as Elizabeth Pantley’s No Cry Sleep Solution for Toddlers, Kim West’s Sleep Lady Shuffle, and Patty Wipfler’s of Hand in Hand Parenting “StayListening” approach. With a lot of patience and persistence most families are able to get their child sleeping better within a few weeks. If you need help, a Child Sleep Consultant can provide you with a customized approach specific for your family including a written plan that is easy to understand. We also provide the encouragement and support needed to implement it from start to finish. Remember, only you as the parent know what sleeping arrangement is best for your family. But if what you are doing is no longer getting you the sleep you need, help is available!
Jessica Begley is a certified lactation counselor, health educator, and infant & child sleep consultant with 10 years’ experience teaching new and expecting families. She is the only sleep consult certified through the Family Sleep Institute in Northern New England. She is passionate about helping wee ones and their families get the sleep they need to be happy, healthy, and well-rested. Her ultimate goal as a public health professional committed to prevention (although it may put her out of business) it to teach every family “sleep smarts from the start” so that no parent feels tied to choosing between “waiting it out” or “crying it out”.