I want to preface this blog post by saying, I am in no way a sleep expert. If you are concerned about your child’s sleeping habits, I suggest you consult with your child’s pediatrician. My experiences and opinions are just that – my own! My only goal is to offer support and possibly a new approach to any sleep issues you may be facing with your child, because sleep is IMPORTANT! We are better mothers, fathers, parents and spouses when we get enough of it.
My children are not perfect sleepy angels and we still have our off nights on occasion. But at ages 17 months and 3.5 years, we have a few tricks and routines that work pretty well for us night after night. I want to share what works for us, in hopes that this may help you! Or maybe this will help a friend or a sister? Hey, ya never know! I feel as a parent, I am all for supportive and knowledgeable advice when it comes to sleep.
Establish a routine- I can not emphasize the importance of starting a routine enough! Both of my kids have had solid bedtime/nap time routines from very early on. Our routine looks something like this: Bath, Pj’s, books, in bed & lights out. We keep it simple and try to avoid delay tactics as best as possible. Bath time is an every night thing in our house. Both kids like taking a bath and I think it is a relaxing experience for them. It also helps them to understand the process and routine of sleep time and they begin to understand very quickly that, “after this bath I am going to bed.”
Consistency- I know it is not always possible to be 100% consistent. Things happen, people travel or maybe the kids stay at grandma and grandpas one night. All I am saying is try to be as consistent as possible with the routine you establish, whatever that percentage may be (preferably as close to 100% as possible). Children CRAVE routine. I know this seems odd because they also love to delay and protest bath time and bed time, but trust me they do…they are testing you. It is part of our job as parents to keep that routine consistent.
Early Bed Times- It has long been a parenting myth that “Oh I will keep my child up later and they will sleep in late!” Now, I am not saying that this is not true of some children, but this has NEVER been true for mine. Trust me, I dealt with a chronic wake time of 5:00AM for almost a year with my son. I tried it ALL, early bed time, no naps, late bed time, late late bed time, you get the idea! The only thing I can say for certain is that an earlier bed time solved a lot of problems. I am not afraid to have my kids in the bath by 5:45PM some nights. If we have skipped naps or an earlier wake up time than normal, that sleep needs to be made up. I have read my fair share of sleep training articles and the number one tip that sleep experts give to tired parents is, your baby is cranky because you are putting them to bed TOO late. Anytime I am asked for sleeping advice for children this is my number one tip. Don’t be afraid of that early bed time! If nothing else, you can sip on some wine a little earlier.
Comfort Items- This is not a necessity and can almost be controversial at some points depending on the age at which you allow the child to have items in the crib with them. For me, we did not allow items in the crib until after a year. At that point the child is significantly less likely to suffer from SIDS. Comfort items are so key for my kids! My son has a stuffed kitty and two cuddly lovies that he has slept with for 2 years. We go everywhere with these items because they are key to his sleep and his sleeping is key to all of our happiness. The same goes for his younger sister who is 17 months, she has a blanket she calls “baby.” This blanket travels near and far with us and she cuddles right up to it when it’s bed time. These items can also play a role if you decide to do any form of sleep training. I don’t intend to discuss the different methods of sleep training here as each parent has their own preference on this. There are enough articles out there regarding all the different sleep training methods and why each one is “right” for your child. Use your knowledge and intuition on this. You can also work with your pediatrician to develop plans.
Support System- As with everything in life, having a strong support system is key. I relied heavily on my husband and family during any sleep issues we had. I also did my research, it helped knowing that so many others out there had gone through what I was going through. To specify the sleep problems we have gone through: early risers, frequent risers, bed sharing, nursing all night, waking up frequently asking for drinks, getting out of bed repeatedly, and on and on. There are even facebook support groups that you can join (they are private) that offer support across the world! If you are interested in learning more about joining a sleep training/support group, please email me.
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