Many of you know that I have worked as a baby and toddler sleep consultant for over 2 years and I have interacted with hundreds of families in regards to their children’s sleep. In considering this blog post, I wanted to think of some of the commonalities among many of these families and what I “usually” recommend to them. The problem with that is that it is always different. Every family and every child has their own unique situation so sleep is something that is difficult to generalize. With that said, there are definitely a few things that you could start doing right away to help your little one sleep – regardless of their age and their current sleep environment:
- Put your child down in the bed awake. I’m sure you have all heard this a million times but it is certainly difficult to do. When your little one falls asleep while nursing or rocking and you have the option of gently waking her or putting her into the crib asleep, it seems absolutely ludicrous to wake her! Do it. I know it seems crazy but even if you wake her and then gently pat or rub her tummy to help her stay calm, you want her to know she is in her bed it is time to go to sleep. It is very important that a child learns to fall asleep without help or you will end up with a baby that wakes constantly (after just about every sleep cycle) and needs help to go back to sleep. If you want to give this a try, start with bedtime first. Once bedtime is going well, then move on to night wakings.
- Schedule can make or break you. I have so many families that write in with questions about why their little one was doing well but now is waking for long periods in the night or just a mess all around. Schedules are key for little ones and toddlers. Now, don’t get me wrong… I usually do not use a by the clock (BTC) schedule for most babies (with twins being an exception) but rather, look at the wake times or nap gaps. Depending on your child’s age, you don’t want them to be awake longer than a few hours before sleeping again. For example, a six month old baby shouldn’t be awake for more than 2.5-3 hours before sleeping again. Constant night wakings, long night wakings and early morning waking are all usually attributed to schedule issues. Never underestimate trying an earlier bedtime. Many issues will arise from bedtimes that are too late. Sometimes just a 15 or 30 minute shift forward can do wonders.
- Create the Best Sleep Environment. Speaking of underestimating, so many people do not consider the importance of the child’s sleep environment and their bedtime routine. These things will add considerably to the consistency in your child’s sleep and are worth some thought. In regards to your child’s sleep environment, it should be dark, safe (nothing loose or too fluffy in the bed) and white noise can be an excellent tool to help a child who wakes from noise. We also recommend blackout blinds (these really help with early morning wakers and naps!). Establish a very consistent bedtime routine and it usually helps to end it with the same song or phrase every night. Recreating this environment and bedtime routine will also really help if you travel a lot with your little ones. Regardless of where you are, they will expect sleep if things are consistent.
Let us know your thoughts on sleep! Speaking of… I’m off to catch some zzzzzz.