Currently we have a 4 year old who is very energetic at bed time and takes a while to wind down, coupled with a hungry 14 month old who is in the bottle-to-go-back-to-sleep phase (and who also sometimes wants to start his day at 5am). So I am definitely taking note of Bianca's suggestions.
Oh my Little Man when he was so tiny and he slept all the time, any time any where.
That is, until the cuddles are so constant that you can’t put your baby down. Or the sleepless nights are dragging on and on. And on. At some blurry point during those first six months, you come to the realisation that you are no longer cuddling a newborn, but a tiny dictator who doesn’t think you should shower or eat unless someone else is taking over the cuddles. And you also realise that you’re ready for your arms to be released from the hostage situation they’re currently in. But if you put your baby down they’ll cry, won’t they? Probably. However, humans are smart creatures, and given the chance, we work out our own way of doing something that we previously relied on others for. Here are a few things you can do to help your child find their sleep mojo:
Stop being their prop.This is extremely important in the quest for great sleep. As a “prop”, you are the thing they need to fall asleep. You might need to pat their little bum until they drift off, or they may need to be touching your face to fall asleep. It sounds cute and lovely and sweet all wrapped into one, but it’s not quite as cute or lovely or sweet when you need to head back in at 1a.m., 2a.m., 3a.m., and so on until morning. A lot of parents who fall into this category wind up co-sleeping, because it’s the only way for them to get any sleep. With co-sleeping, the simple fact is that after a while, it may no longer work for the parent because they’re trying to squeeze themselves onto a tenth of their mattress for fear of crushing their precious child. If this is you, you need to take yourself out of the sleep equation. Find something else for your child to cuddle through the night, like a soft toy or lovey blanket. That way, when they wake up during the night, all they have to do is grab their little toy or blanket and snuggle their way back to sleep.
Take feeds out of the picture.In the early parenting days, you may have heard your Child Health Nurse mention “feed, play, sleep” and just dismissed it because there were a gazillion other bits of information you were trying to take onboard at the same time. This was also very important information, because what they were trying to help you do was avoid getting into the habit of feeding your baby to sleep. Which would stop you having to feed your toddler to sleep. Or your pre-schooler. This advice not only goes for breastfed children either – it could be a bottle or sippy cup of milk that you have to give your little one right before bed so they can get to sleep. Or at 2a.m. so they can get back to sleep. This also has an affect on your child’s day time eating habits, because if they are taking in a heap of calories overnight, they won’t eat as much during the day. The easiest way to kick this habit is to do something between the feed and bed. So you might give your child a bottle, then read them a book, then put them into bed. Just a short break between the feed and sleep can make a world of difference. And if they are old enough and plump enough to do so, avoid that night time feed.
How things change in 4 years! Miss M sleeping peacefully at 1 month old.
Avoid sleeping on-the-move.Have you ever had a conversation with a parent who says their child sleeps in the pram, even inside the house, because it’s the only way they’ll fall asleep. You may think they’re headed for the loony bin, but it’s such an easy habit to fall into. Adults are prone to this too – just look at your fellow train passengers on the way to work and you’ll see lots heads slowly dropping down and snapping back up. Children very quickly become reliant on movement as their only means of falling asleep. But soon you’ll find yourself having to take them for a drive at 3a.m. because it’s the only way to get them back to sleep. If you’re finding that you’re falling into this trap, find a way to keep them awake while you’re on the go. You could head out for your walk or drive after their nap, so they’re not tired before you go. Or make up some ridiculous song about everything you’re looking at as you’re moving, and sing it loud and proud. Kids love that stuff!
With any change you are making in your child’s life, be it their T.V. addiction or their sleep habits, be consistent. It’s so important for your child to not only understand what the change is, but be able to achieve success in changing their ways. If someone tells you one thing, but then does something completely different, you’re left confused about what they expect from you. Imagine how confusing this is for children, who look to their parents for guidance and role-modelling in every aspect of their lives. Boundaries are something kids actually thrive with – they help your little one navigate their world. Yes, they will push the boundaries and test you to your limits, but if you stay firm and focused they will appreciate it.
Let’s make some noise.As parents, we seems to have a fear of our child’s cry. This generally stems from the fact that a newborn cry means that they need something, and you’re the only person that can help with that. Fast forward 6 months, and we’re still rushing in to every little peep our child makes, because it’s all we know. The only problem with this is that we’re not taking the time to listen to our babies.
The only way to learn your child’s different cries is by letting them cry. And this is not to say that you shouldn’t respond to them, but give them a chance to communicate what they want. Many children cry when they’re tired, but they’re not telling you that YOU have to put them to sleep, just that they want to go to sleep.
If you want to take some practical steps towards healthy sleep habits for your littlie, take part in the Hush-a-Bee Sleep Project, a free 5-day program to get your whole family to sleep success.
Bianca is the Founder and Chief Sleep Nerd of Hush-a-Bee sleep consulting. She is a Certified Sleep Sense™ Consultant, dedicated to making sure the whole family is getting the sleep they need. After her experience helping her own boisterous son start sleeping through the night, Bianca decided to help other families get the same results. You can find Bianca on the Hush-a-Bee website, Facebook and Instagram.
Thank you so much for sharing your advice Bianca! I'm sure many of my readers will appreciate it too. Lauren xx