By Phillippa Wallis, owner of Child Sleep Matters
For many, getting your child to sleep well can seem like the impossible dream. 😴 Bedtimes and naptimes can bring feelings of despair and dread. I've been there too; trawling the internet and social media for anything that I haven't tried to help my child fall asleep.
Look no further.
I've put together my Top Five Tips that I use when working with families on their child's sleep. Used properly, these can really help your child to prepare for sleep and fall peacefully asleep, whatever their age.
1. Create the perfect bedtime routine
We've all heard this a hundred times, but that's because it is so important. A good bedtime routine acts as a cue to the body and mind that it is time to settle down and get ready for sleep - to prepare for sleep to come. It's important because our bodies and brains need time to adjust to a different activity - think of it like a warm-up before exercise. Routines should last from 20 – 30 minutes and at least some of it should take place in your child’s room. Your routine might include a bath, pyjamas, feed and maybe a song or book. It's so easy too that you can even start this from Day 1 with a new baby.
2. Allow your child to fall asleep without props
A prop is anything that your child has become reliant on to fall asleep. They come in MANY forms; from feeding to patting, rocking, music, cuddles and many more.
If your baby is reliant on one or more of these props to fall asleep, then they will need it each and every time they wake in the night (which we all do at least several times a night briefly!) You can remove props to allow your child to find their own way to naturally fall asleep (we're all born with this ability to fall asleep). This may be by phasing them out or going cold turkey, depending on your child's age and what the prop is.
3. Provide the perfect sleeping environment
It sounds simple, but it's really important to children (and all of us) that our sleep environment is right. The first is light level. As our body clock (circadian rhythm) is set by daylight, if there is daylight coming in around the side of your blinds at 5am, your baby’s body will release hormones, adrenalin and cortisol, that signal it being morning. Similarly, if it’s nice and dark then melatonin, the sleepy hormone, will be released. This is why investing in black out blinds can help children to sleep better and longer. This is the same for noise - white noise played throughout the night can help block out any noise stimulation that keeps your child awake. We want everything to be constant through the night so that when children wake, everything is the same as when they fell asleep. Also ensure that your child isn't too hot or cold will help them sleep better too.
4. Pick an early bedtime
How many times have you heard that a tired-out child will 'sleep well tonight'? And then found out that this wasn't the case! Well, an early bedtime is a great trick to ensure that children do not become overtired. When children are overtired, it becomes more difficult to settle down and fall asleep (tantrum territory). Then, when sleep does come, children are a lot more restless with more tossing and turning and more night-time waking. If you child misses their nap, has a shorter nap or has had a disturbed sleep, an early night can be your saviour - it can also help them to sleep later in the morning too!
5. Keep baby awake whilst feeding
If you are feeding your infant in the night, try not to let him or her fall asleep at the breast or bottle. Keep feedings low key and quiet with the aim of getting baby back into the cot aware of their surroundings. I know this can be a hard one with younger children but there's reason behind it. If you feed your child when they're fully awake, they are more likely to take a fuller, more efficient feed which is great news for their growth and development. They are then less likely to think they need a feed to fall asleep (see props above), which leads to better sleeping (longer naps and less frequent night wakes), plus separating feeding from sleeping allows their little bodies to digest their food and remove any possible wind before laying down to sleep, reducing lots of reflux and colic symptoms. This one can be a real game changer!
Wherever you are in your child's sleeping journey, I am here to help you - whether that's by using my top tips or by working with me on a bespoke package. You can book a free Discovery Call with me TODAY to find out more and speak to me in person.
For more information on my sleep packages and support click here
For more information on training to become a Child Sleep Consultant click here