If you’re pacing floor with a wide-awake baby in your arms at 3am every morning, but can’t bear tears when you put him down, then maybe you need to start doing something differently – as they say “ if you keep doing what you’ve always done, you keeping getting what you’ve always got”.
So is there really a magic formula that will enable you to get your baby or toddler to sleep through night?
If you’re a parent with a young child then here’s a question that may make you yawn – what were you doing this morning at 1am, 3am or 5am. Were you sleeping like a baby or were you in fact cuddling and rocking your little cherub in an attempt to get them back to sleep? After all that’s what being a parent is all about – isn’t it?!
A lucky few will have been asleep in bed throughout night, but a large percentage of parenting population will have been up feeding or pacing floor with little bundles of joy.
Just as your newborn weaves magic through your heart, effects of sleep deprivation can cast a spell on your body and mind. One child in three has real sleep issues before they reach school age, but these can be overcome in many cases - and it doesn’t have to involve leaving your baby to cry for hours on end.
So, Why Don’t Young Children Sleep?
We all sleep in cycles consisting of blocks of light and deep sleep. If you rock your baby to sleep or let them fall asleep at breast before putting him down, you’re heading for problems. Your baby passes into a phase of light sleep and is more likely to wake as they realise they’re alone. They’ll cry, you’ll go back to them and because you don’t know any other way, you’ll pick them up, rock them back to sleep and put them back in their cot. And cycle continues!
Common Sense Way
Controlled comforting was devised by Australian mother-craft nurse Rhonda Abrahams. It’s kinder than controlled crying. ‘A baby under 6 months should never be left to cry,’ says Ronda ‘older babies shouldn’t be left for more than 10 minutes crying.’
Rhonda based her technique on common sense. ‘Babies need to learn to go to sleep by themselves so that if they wake in night they’re able to settle themselves back to sleep,’ she explains. To work, techniques need to be used for all types of sleep, or your baby will get mixed messages. And little ones learn by repetition. So you should adopt this routine for both daytime and nighttime sleeps.
Ready or Not?
Before starting programme… üEnsure your baby is well. If they become ill just as you start new routine, stop and start again when they are better. üMake sure that you’re well – it won’t do either of you any good to be starting a new routine while your body is under stress. üTry to keep a fairly free week to devote as much time and effort as possible to making routine work. A busy schedule will make it harder, and it’ll take longer to work. üIf anyone else cares for your baby, make sure they know what’s involved – nothing sabotages a new routine as fast as mixed messages. üGet a dim nightlight so that your baby can see their surroundings when they wake.
It’s Just Routine
A regular routine is surest way to get a baby or toddler to sleep independently. Little ones respond to a familiar pattern of events, and sleeping in same environment each night gives then a sense of security and comfort. Establishing a bedtime routine will benefit not only your child, but also `you and your partner as you can have a bit of adult quiet time’.
Encourage patterns in life of your newborn, as these will turn into routine – and babies learn from repetition. Keep in mind that a habit can be formed in just three days!
The best way to establish a routine is to use feed / play / sleep method. During day when your baby wakes, feed them and then let them play for a while. Watch out for tired signs (yawning, rubbing their eyes, grizzling, hiding their face). When you notice them, you’ll need to begin settling them. Have a cuddle before a daytime nap; in evenings, give them a relaxing bath. Baby massage can also calm your baby. Never over stimulate your child before bedtime or think that longer you keep them up, more tired they’ll become and easier it will be to get them off to sleep. An overtired baby is harder to settle, and if you wait until they’re tired to begin their last feed then they’ll drop off to sleep while you’re feeding them. The main challenge with this is that your baby will get a fright when they wake up in cot by themselves and they’ll wonder where you are; after all when they fell asleep they were in your arms!