During my 5 years as a sleep professional, I’ve gotten used to people asking me what the “secret” is to getting a baby to sleep through the night.
Of course, there is no ONE secret. Supporting a child to develop healthy sleep habits is a combination of lots of different things.
But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t some shortcuts, either!
With that in mind, today I’d like to share with you 7 different shortcuts you can start trying over the next few nights to get your child sleeping better
I use Story Massage as an approach to help toddlers get ready, relaxed and calm for bedtime, it is a practical and simple way of introducing positive touch into the bedtime routine, particularly for the wriggly child (you know if you have one) who would benefit from the release of the love hormone (oxytocin) but simply won’t sit still for full on massage techniques.
At the risk of generalising here, it’s been my experience that there’s usually one parent who handles the bulk of the nighttime responsibilities. And that parent, in a man/woman relationship, is almost always Mum. Now, before you go accusing me of sexism or stereotyping, I’d just like to point out that there’s a reason this happens
As a parent, experiencing what feels like endless unsettledness after your baby wakes up from their sleep in the night or takes short unpredictable naps in the day can be demoralising. I know all too well about those feelings of worry and not knowing how your baby’s sleep (and your own sleep) will improve. Once I got to grips with the different developmental stages and how they affect sleep, it was reassuring and helped me understand (and accept) the progress and changes my baby was going through.
We tend to work on a common belief that tantrums are bad, we try all manner of things to get our children to be ‘good’ which in its self is not wrong, but when we mistake normal childhood behaviour of exploring, learning and pushing boundaries as naughtiness or don’t appreciate that children are sometimes not in control of their off-track behaviour we miss the opportunities to help them build ways of coping with big emotions.
We also beat ourselves up thinking we must be falling in some way as parents.
As a Relax Kids Coach who works with School age children, showing them relaxation, stretching, breathing and self-esteem techniques, I get asked A LOT about Sleep! I’m not surprised as sleep problems are very common but not always identified. It is reported that about 25% to 40% of all children and young people have some kind of sleep problems during their childhood. The common scenarios are:
It's not always obvious when a child is getting tired... Here's how to recognize "sleep signs" so you can get your child to bed BEFORE they become overtired!
The following question is from Trish, who wrote:
"Help! Why can’t I recognize my three-month-old’s sleep signs? No yawing, no eye rubbing. She seems to go from quite happy to very upset in a split second and then it takes awhile to settle her down and get her to sleep."
Usually when someone refers to “sleep signs,” clear signals that the child is tired, they think of yawning and perhaps eye rubbing. Some signs you may not be aware of though are nose scrunching and ear pulling, anything that has to do with rubbing the face, back arching and turning head into mum's chest. Some of these signs can get mistaken for other needs such as hunger or illness.
Once when I was working with a family the son kept rubbing his nose and he looked tired. Mum replied “Oh really? I thought he just had allergies.” He did suffer from some allergies so I could totally understand this (his allergies were under control)
It’s easy to miss some of the signs of fatigue, but if your child is doing any type of rubbing or pulling, they’re definitely tired. Don’t wait for a yawn.
Trish’s baby seems to go from happy to upset at the drop of a pin. Her baby is probably very good at hiding her fatigue. Sometimes when they start to have feelings of being tired they’ll push through those feelings with perhaps more active play and maybe even get a little hyper. They’ll kick into “overdrive” and almost become a bit manic.
That squirmy baby, the one who doesn’t want to sit on your knee, doesn’t want to stand up, arches their back, crawls around very quickly, laughs one moment and cries the next is a tired baby and ready for sleep.
If your child is happy one second and crying the next, you might have to keep more of an eye on the clock that you do on your baby. A three-month-old like Trish’s baby can handle about an hour and a half of awake time. If she woke up at 8 a.m., then by 9:30, she’s most likely ready for a nap.
In this case, even if they’re calm and happy and not showing any “sleep signs,” I always suggest that it’s better to put them down too soon rather than too late. Sometimes the calmer the baby goes down, the faster sleep comes and it becomes an easier transition for them.
Keeping an eye on your child’s individual sleep signs, along with the clock for those who don’t show any clear signs, will definitely help your child sleep well.
A general rule of thumb which was so useful for me as a second time around parent was how much time our baby's can cope with being awake between naps, this is only a guide and if you want some tailored tips and suggestions for your child get in touch with me for a complimentary 15-Min Sleep Assessment.
A question I get a lot when working with families, I've been working through your suggestions for about a week now, but I'm having a really hard time keeping my baby awake through her feed at the bedtime routine. What can I do?"
It is time to “spring forward” the clocks in Scotland, Sunday 25th March 2018. It can be a dreaded time for parents of young children because with this, comes an adjustment that does not happen immediately. This is because children tend to be more structured in their bedtime and wake up around the same time each morning and that is why people usually can see a greater affect on children when the time changes.
This week I wanted to talk a bit about the bedtime routine, and the number one mistake parents make when they are creating a bedtime routine.