After a long day, parents all over the world breathe a little sigh of relief when bedtime rolls around. It’s a chance to sit down, eat a meal, get an early night and just have a bit of me time.
For so many of the parents that I work with, bedtime battles are a big issue. For children of all ages from newborns to toddlers bedtime is crucial for sleep. But when that calm and relaxing time instead becomes a source of stress, distress and tears what can be done?! Whether your child has always had an issue with bedtime or whether these recent bedtime battles are a new ( and unwelcome) development there are some simple changes that you can make:
- Routine, routine, routine. Babies and toddlers alike thrive on routine, by doing activities consecutively and consistently they will know what is coming next. This removes the anxiety and helps prepare them for sleep. So set up a routine that you can follow every night without fail, missing a step may not seem like a big deal to you but it could cause a great deal of confusion and anxiety for a child.
- Keep it simple. The best bedtime routine is simple and involves as few gadgets as possible. I know these white noise, light, sound, lullaby machines promise big but your babies and toddlers don’t need these gadgets to sleep. The more crutches that your child relies on to go to sleep, the more likely he will struggle to sleep without them. If you forget one or cannot transport it bedtime can quickly become a nightmare. Keep it simple, keep it portable and don’t rely on anything other than nature taking it’s course.
- Timing is everything. Both overtiredness and your child not being tired enough can cause issues settling to bed so it is essential that you choose the right time for your baby to go to sleep. For newborn babies, over tiredness is often the biggest barrier to settling to sleep at bedtime with parents often up and down resettling or ‘cluster’ feeding to get their baby to sleep. Conversely a baby that has had a long, late afternoon sleep just simply isn’t tired until later into the evening. For babies under 1 I recommend going early at 6.30pm, for older babies and children add 5-10 minutes per year.
- Set the boundaries. If you follow your baby’s lead they may not lead you to a sleep friendly bedtime. Through actions, words and rewards your baby will learn and understand what bedtime is, why it is important and what is expected of them. For older children explain what you expect from them, what the consequences will be and what will happen if they do as they are expected. For younger babies, actions speak louder than words! This is where having a routine can set up the sleep cues that show a young baby what they need to do.
- Cuddle time. It can be the best time of day; a bit of quiet, babies are calm and relaxed. It has been proved that physical contact before bedtime can help relax babies and help them drift off into sleep without issue. Whether that is a cuddle before bed, some snuggle time on the sofa or a baby massage this can help your baby calm and settle to bed. Tempting as it might be try to avoid cuddling to sleep; keep cuddles for wind down and give them the opportunity to go to sleep by themselves.
- Cut the screen time. It has been proved that the use of screens before bed can have a significant impact on a baby’s bedtime and sleep. Screens, particularly blue light from tablets and phones can stimulate a child before bedtime and cause the production of cortisol and adrenaline which will keep your baby awake and disrupt bedtime. So limit any screen time an hour before lights out.
- Overstimulation. What may seem calm and relaxing for us adults, may actually be stimulating for your child. Certain TV programmes, books and themes may be stimulating your child, sparking their imagination and fueling their fears. Think carefully about the books you read, the words you use and the TV programmes you watch.
- Just one more…We’ve all be there. You agree to a story but end up reading four, you are asked for drinks, extra cuddles, questions….anything that can prolong the goodnight before bedtime! Tempting as it may be and harmless as it may seem, set the rules beforehand and don’t give in to demands. Make sure that before bed your child has had a drink, visited the toilet and read the allotted number of stories. Giving in to one demand will most likely lead to another and another so be firm!
- The dark. It is a fact that darkness helps the production of melatonin and light produces adrenaline and cortisol. Melatonin aids sleep so it is really important that your baby goes to bed in the dark. Even the smallest chink of light can be enough to prevent your baby from settling to sleep. There are some toddlers and children which do develop a fear of the dark, nightlights are a good tool to help ease these fears.
- The right start. Make sure that where you baby falls asleep is where they will stay for the whole night. Transferring from your arms, on a breast, pram, your bed may feel like the easiest way to get your child to sleep but it can lead to further issues later in the night. Imagine if you fell asleep on the sofa and woke in your bed, completely unaware of how you got there. It can be confusing and create anxiety which ultimately leads to a disturbed bedtime and night!
Bedtime sets the tone for the rest of the night; a solid bedtime routine will help your baby drift into sleep which in turn will give you the best possible chance at a full night’s sleep.
Sweet dreams zzz
If you need help with your child’s bedtime or any other aspect of their sleep then get in touch with me now firstname.lastname@example.org
Gemma at Baby Tech Support
11th November 2017