Our friends at Willows Pediatrics are helping us even more these days and we are all about blog posts about sleeping. Whether it is babies or toddlers we need all the help we can get! Dr. Lauren Allison is here to help the whole house get a full night sleep! Thanks you Dr. Allison and Willows Pediatrics!
Many parents find getting babies and children to sleep incredibly challenging.
Fortunately, with some easy routines implemented early, we can help you make it as
simple as possible.
The main principles for getting kids of any age to sleep are routine and
1. Routine is key – following a consistent routine signals to your child’s body to
get ready for sleep.
2. We want to let your baby or child fall asleep independently – teach them this
skill at bedtime and they will be able to do it at 3 AM!
A simple and consistent routine:
Separating the day and night with a clear bedtime routine will cue your child’s brain
to start getting drowsy. During the day we have bright lights and use regular voices.
Tone it down at night by dimming the lights and keeping it quiet. The total routine
should take about 30 minutes so start to do this half an hour before your child
usually falls asleep.
For newborns, a general routine can be a bath or washing up with a sponge bath,
story time, then last feed of the night followed by bedtime. For toddlers and young
children try: bath, brushing teeth, reading a book, and then bedtime. You can start
these routines when your child is only a few weeks old and continue throughout
childhood to provide consistency.
You may be getting sleepy:
Start with a bath! There’s nothing more soothing than a warm bath. Sure, babies and
kids don’t need to bathe every night, but it is a clear way of signaling bedtime and is
very relaxing. Brushing as soon as teeth emerge will prevent cavities down the road.
Initially, nursing or bottle-feeding may be the last thing your baby does before bed,
but once he or she has teeth then it is important to add in brushing afterwards.
Reading to your child each night is a great way to promote verbal development and
teach children this valuable habit. It’s also relaxing and promotes drowsiness. With
older kids it is important to set a limit on the number of books or pages to be read so
that, “One more!” doesn’t become a bedtime stall tactic.
Last but not least, lay your baby down (on her back!) or tuck your toddler in and
give a goodnight kiss. Then leave the room and let her fall asleep independently. We
recommend sharing a room with your baby for at least the first few months, but
even so leave the room at your baby’s bedtime to let her fall asleep on her own. This
may be a process of gradually providing less comfort and reassurance. Consistency
and repetition will help you get there!
Start teaching your baby to fall asleep on her own from a young age at both bedtime
and nap time so that sleep training will come more easily. If your baby has learned to
fall asleep without your presence and touch at the start of the night then it will be
much easier to put her down after overnight feeds and eventually for her to sleep
through the night.
Big Kids Benefit Too:
While this seems like pretty simple stuff, the same principles apply for a good
night’s sleep for all ages. When older kids and teens aren’t sleeping well, we have to
go back to the basics. Too often I find kids are going straight from video games or
homework or lacrosse practice to bed and then have trouble falling asleep. Big kids’
brains need routine and consistency too. Consider trying to have your older children
adopt a consistent bedtime and bedtime routine.
For bigger kids we have to add one other step: turn off the screens. Light has a major
effect on our body’s circadian rhythm – its internal clock. Sunlight suppresses
melatonin so we stay awake and alert during the day. However, studies have shown
that melatonin expression is also suppressed when we have nighttime light
exposure, such as that emitted by electronic screens. Set a bedtime for your child’s
electronics that is thirty minutes or one hour prior to your child’s bedtime to allow
their natural melatonin to help them get ready for sleep.
By following these simple tips, you can make bedtime easier for your child, and the
whole family can get more sleep!