Sleep… It is a beautiful thing! If you ask any new parent, I bet the number one thing that is missed the most in those early days; they will say it’s SLEEP!
Hearing this, I made sure that I took this component of early parenting very seriously. People say all the time that I am “lucky” to have two very good sleepers. I quickly quip back with, “Not lucky, my husband and I work very hard at this!” It is not a coincidence that both of my girls are put down at night around 8pm and we do not hear from them again until morning time.
I cannot tell you how many times I have had friends tell me that I should write a post about sleeping…… So, here it is!
Establish bedtime routine
A study was published by US National Library of Medicine and Dr. Jody Mindell identified that a “bedtime routine results in significant reductions in problematic sleep behaviors for infants and toddlers” (May 2009).
You hear this all the time but it can be a total game changer! From the time my oldest was a month old, we have had the same exact bed time routine. At 7:30pm we start a bath. After bath, we change into pajamas and brush teeth. After the babes are warm and cozy, we read a couple stories (however, since time has passed, the number of stories has somehow increased, ha!). After reading time, it is lights out!
No matter where we are, it seems that this routine has stuck! It helps to create a safe environment and a sense of familiarity for the kids. It also creates a “transition cue” for them. When we provide the prompt of “Time for bath!”, they know that 20 minutes later, it is time for lights out and bedtime!
Create a soothing sleeping environment
So, this is one that I try to be a stickler about. Have you ever walked into a child’s room and it looks like it could be a display at Toys R Us? Talk about overstimulating, right? Another tip- Try creating a space for your child where it can be a calming environment.
Books, writing space, coloring, e.g. These are activities that promote a calming environment. Now, I know what you’re thinking. Where on earth do we put all of these toys? Listen, I live in a tiny townhouse… My home is in Southern California where housing can be quite small! I downsized from a 2200 single family home in Indiana. If I can make it all fit, you probably can to! It makes a huge difference if you can create a calm environment come bedtime!
Routine, routine, routine!
I love a good routine. Maybe I am a little type A by nature? However, I am a spontaneous too (Is there a thing called type C, haha?). Anyway, keeping a schedule is another game changer. I read Baby Wise when I was pregnant with my first BUT only to find a workable schedule. I knew a ton about child development but to be honest, I felt like I had no idea how to keep the thing alive, LOL.
I liked the basics but I did not like how strict they were. So, I did my own variations. Starting out, I did the every three hour thing but guess what, if my baby was crying, I picked that child up and I cuddled the crap out of her (not Baby Wise, haha).
BUT, it is so important to keep with a schedule (that IS Baby Wise). I still have my kids on a schedule. Personally, I need a schedule just to keep sane! I feel more in control of the day if I know for certain that my youngest will go down for a nap at a certain time of day.
The crazy thing too, the more you have a child on a schedule, the more flexible they can be! Let’s say you have variations in your day and they have to go down for nap a little later… Guess what, home girls will still go down at night at 8pm…. Because you have them on such a routine.. BAM! My husband and I can ALWAYS count on having our “us time” EVERY NIGHT! It is a beautiful thing.
Cry It Out
Okay, this may not win me too many popularity points but, this is one way to train your child to sleep through the night. I will also talk you through the “science” behind WHY it works from a behavioral analysis view point.
My pediatrician suggests that you can start “crying it out” after your babe is 6 months old. From a behavior analysis view point, this is also when your child can start identifying early contingencies (i.e. I cry, you will come back to me when I want attention).
Whenever I put my child down, I go through the check list to ensuring that all of their needs are met in case they start to cry. Is her diaper dry (yes), are they hungry (no), are they loved (my goodness, we just read 100 books and cuddled for 20 minutes). So, if my child starts to cry, it is probably because they are engaging in escape maintained behavior… Translation- THEY DON’T WANT TO GO TO BED!
So, if I go back into the room, guess what… I am giving in to that behavior and making it worse for the next time. Meaning, the crying behavior WORKED! The crying behavior is turning into functional language.
I always tell parents that if you can make it through 1 to 2 rough nights of sleep (e.g. crying nights), it will turn in to MONTHS AND YEARS of amazing sleep. Your child will quickly learn that the crying behavior will not result in attention from the parents and they will eventually just consent to sleeping. Then… EVERYONE WINS! You sleep, the kids sleep. Literally, everyone is happier!
So, I hope these tips can help and your cutie catch some ZZZs in the upcoming weeks. Sweet dreams!