One of the things that struck me when becoming a mother was that every parent became sleep obsessed. When I say sleep obsessed I mean we are talking about it, reading about it, ignoring everything about it but instead all we are doing is dreaming about it. As a twin mum I went through all of those phases because I was not getting much of it! The first question that was always asked at mother’s group was “how did you sleep last night” and every single person had a different story. This is exactly it…every baby is incredibly different. But there is always a solution and when it comes to sleep there are a few main steps to consider in the sleep process
Step 1 - Choose an early bedtime
Early bedtime is great for everyone in the family. It is great for our children to ensure that they are not overtired and grumpy. Over tiredness actually causes more night wakings and prolongs the bedtime process sometimes going on for hours. An early bedtime means time at night for parents to spend together or even just some you time to unwind from your day! The best time to put your baby or toddler to bed is sometime between 6pm and 8pm. This ensures that your child will be able to get a solid 11-13 hours of sleep during the night. And yes that is how much sleep children should be getting every night up until the age of about 10.
Step 2 – Create a predictable bedtime routine
Consistency and predictability are really important to babies, toddlers and older children. When they know what to expect at bedtime, it makes it much easier for them to make the transition from waking to sleeping - and that's why creating a bedtime routine is so important!
A good example of a bedtime routine might be something like this:
6:20pm Bath time
6:35pm Get dressed
6:40pm Nursing or bottle
6:55pm Story or songs
7:00pm Into cot or bed
Your bedtime routine shouldn't take more than about 45 minutes, and it's VERY important that the routine is the same every single night. The repetition and predictability are what let your child know that he or she will soon be expected to fall asleep.
Step 3 – Put your child to sleep in the same place every night
Whether your child has a room of their own or shares a room with parents or siblings it is important that you put your son or daughter to sleep in the same place every night. This also includes naps through the day as much as possible. Putting your child to bed in a familiar place lets them know they are safe and they are in a place where sleep is expected of them. This is where they will get their BEST sleep.
Step 4 – Put your baby to bed awake
If you've been rocking, nursing, or otherwise soothing your baby to sleep, this is going to seem like a tough one but it's actually the most important step! It's only by letting your baby fall asleep WITHOUT your help at bedtime that he or she can learn the skills necessary to stay asleep through the night.
Step 5 – If your baby wakes during the night, wait a few minutes before intervening
Everyone - babies and adults alike - will actually wake up several times every night. For most adults, these wakings are so brief that we don't even remember them the next morning. However, many babies will immediately start to fuss or cry when they wake up.
This is simply because they haven't learned how to fall asleep on their own. If a baby has been nursed or rocked to sleep at bedtime since birth, it's not surprising that they wouldn't know how to fall asleep independently. The good news is that many babies can figure out how to get back to sleep within just a few minutes of waking up in the night!
I am not saying the steps above are easy to do but if you really want the best sleep possible for your child then I can guarantee you that if you do all of these you will find success and have the best sleeping baby, toddler or child you could ask for.
Linda Hamilton is Director of Through the Night Sleep Consulting. As a twin mum and a qualified baby, toddler and child sleep consultant she is passionate about helping every family see sleep success through life changing results. If you would like to discuss the best sleep solution for your baby get in touch with Linda at www.throughthenight.com.au