"How is he/she sleeping?" The interrogation comes to new parents from family, friends and even complete strangers in the grocery store line. The question can be enough to make you blow your top, especially if the answer is keeping you up all night. Here are some ideas from Kim West, The Sleep Lady, on how to get your children sleeping through the night:
1. Don't Skip the Nap
Old wisdom says that the more tired a child becomes, the better they sleep at night. Kim says "Skipping naps will not help your child sleep better at night... it’s the exact opposite!" Make sure your baby or child gets the recommended amount of sleep during the day to prevent a battle at night.
2. Have a Bedtime Routine
Even the youngest of babies find comfort in bedtime rituals and routines. This can include bath, story, massage or any number of relaxing activities prior to lights out. Notice the key word "relaxing". Sorry dad, no WWE smack-downs at bedtime!
3. Be Consistent, Consistent, Consistent
No matter what sleep method you choose, consistency is truly the secret treasure. According to The Sleep Lady, parents who waver from "cry it out" one night, to co-sleeping and rocking the next night, to bouncing in the middle of the night, aren't doing their child (or themselves) any favors. Babies and small children can find comfort in knowing what to expect. If you can't say with absolute certainty that you react the same way to each midnight waking or early morning cry, you may be reinforcing the opposite behavior you desire.
4. Let Them Be Drowsy but Awake
According to Kim, putting a baby or child down drowsy but awake at nap time and bedtime is a key to a child who can sleep through the night. "You are your child's coach. Think of it like a soccer coach teaching children to play, but never doing it for them." Kim says, "You are there to support and encourage but not to put them to sleep, let them learn to do that."
5. Pay Attention to Your Child's Queues
Yawning, eye rubbing, ear tugging and moments of silence are all signs that your child is ready for rest. Passing up this opportunity will yield an overtired and cranky child who resists sleep even more, meaning a later night for you, and many times an earlier morning.
6. Start Early
New parents start with the best of intentions by rocking, bouncing and co-sleeping with their new babies. But when little junior is five-years-old and taking over the bed, or you have to rock him to sleep at all hours of the night, it becomes an issue. Starting at a young age with good habits can prevent problems later on.
7. Introduce a Friend
After the age of six-months, give your child a blanket or a stuffed lovey to attach to. It makes them feel safe and secure, especially when they are learning to go to sleep alone and when they awaken at night.