One of the most elusive things about parenting is learning how to help your child to fall asleep easier – and stay asleep, which in turn will let you stay asleep! Some people have it easy from day one, with very considerate kids who knock a twelve hour sleep out of the park every night from the early days. Others are not so lucky, with newborns who will fight sleep at every step of the way, toddlers who prefer jumping around on their bed and kids that will end up nagging you for a drink in the middle of the night.
There are certain steps you can take at each stage of a child’s life to encourage them to get to bed on time, and create healthy sleeping habits from an early age. Here are our top tips for helping your child fall asleep – and stay asleep.
It’s a scary world that newborn babies are coming into, and it’s important to remember that when you are creating the environment they will sleep in. Temperature is key, and experts suggest that the room should be between 16-18 degrees celsius when your baby is sleeping. Low lighting before you put your baby to bed will help them to adjust between the light and dark, and ensure that the room is as quiet as possible. Good quality bedding, including a waterproof cover for the mattress and cellular blankets will ensure your baby is comfortable and safe. Routine is difficult at this age, but from about 6-8 weeks of age, you should start trying to put your baby down at a similar time each night. Bathe your baby, give them a warm bottle or feed and sing a soft lullaby before laying them down. They will probably fight you on it for the first few nights, but eventually you should see results!
Once your baby starts moving around, turning over and crawling, getting them to sleep each night can become more difficult. Each new stage of development can throw off even the best routines, so be prepared to adapt. Consider investing in a baby pillow that is safe and will help support their neck as they twist and turn to find the most comfortable sleeping position. Keep up any bedtime routines, and use a mobile with gentle lights and sounds which will soothe your baby. There are some which are noise activated, so if your baby wakes during the night, it will switch on automatically and help to get them back to dreamland.
From the age of one onwards, your little one is no longer very little and they are gaining in independence. The good thing about this is that they will be using up a lot of energy as they become more mobile and start walking, running and climbing. Plenty of activity and stimulation during the day will ensure they are physically and mentally tired at night. Now is the time to adapt your routine to include a bedtime story, which will help them develop their vocabulary and stimulate imagination. If your toddler is still in a cot, ensure it is at the correct level for their height to prevent them from climbing out. If they have been moved to a bed, place a protective barrier on the side of the bed, and ensure you teach them how to safely climb down if they do wake during the night. Maintain a good temperature in the room as they are likely to move around and kick their blankets off. Buy a good quality low-tog duvet and supportive pillows, and a soothing nightlight will help to keep them from getting scared if they do wake during the night.
At this stage of development, kids are likely to try everything they can to avoid their bed – five more minutes of cartoons, a snack before bedtime, one more story. Then there are the escape routines – hopping out of bed several times a night to go to the toilet, see what the adults are up to or even just to creep into their parents’ bed. Establish and maintain a routine so that your child knows that it’s approaching bedtime – dinner, followed by a favourite cartoon for a set amount of time, followed by brushing their teeth and a bedtime story is a good place to start. Try not to keep too many toys or stimulating decor in their room, as it can be distracting and encourage playtime during the night. If they do wake during the night, don’t make a big fuss – calmly take them by the hand, take them back to bed and keep repeating this so that your child understands that it’s still bedtime. During the summer, use a blackout blind or heavily lined curtains to keep bright sunlight out in the longer evenings.