Healthy sleep habits seem hard to manage when you are sleep-deprived and in survival mode. Some tips and tricks can support you in this, and I find that you need to do all of them in conjunction to create healthy sleep habits for your child.
That is not to say you can’t deviate from the notes below eventually, but it is proven that children thrive when there is predictability and routine. It allows them to feel safe and eliminates anxieties that we can’t see as adults.
I always recommend that parents use these tips consistently. Once they have a great routine, it’s okay to make an exception to the rule here and there with no issues.
Here’s what you can do!!
A comfortable and safe place to sleep.
The typical rule of thumb is to dress your child in 1 extra layer than you would wear. Sleep Sack for bed is a wonderful and safe alternative to bedding. Children stay secure and warm without the worry of blankets around a child’s faces or mouths.
Dark means sleep.
Blackout blinds or curtains can help children understand that dark means sleep. This is especially important in the summer when the sun is still up at 9:30 pm, and the kids think that means party time!!
Routine for the night.
It is essential to set them up with a nighttime routine. Every night, your routine (bath, bottle, book) should start at the same time! This is known as the 3Bs! When children get older, the first and second B is no longer nightly, but the routine in infancy helps build that comfort! We always included bath time, even if it was a quick wash, to help with the routine and set the environment for bedtime – note: the bottle is before the book. The reason is that we don’t want a child to go to bed completely asleep, and that can happen while drinking from a bottle. The goal is for your child to go into bed drowsy but not asleep. I tell parents to think about what a child sees before they close their eyes. If they are in their bedroom, being held by a parent and having a bottle, and then they suddenly wake up to a quiet house, in the dark, in a crib – they will freak out! If they are given a kiss goodnight and put into bed while still awake, when they wake up at night in that same bed, they are more likely to cuddle up and go back to sleep on their own.
Use white noise.
White noise music on low is a wonderful way to keep them from waking due to outside noises (or siblings!)
Ensure children have a snack.
I encourage a small healthy snack 30 minutes before bed. (Our family enjoys yogurt or fruit with a muffin). This helps sustain their tummies till the morning!
Consistency is key.
This is an essential part of helping your child create healthy sleep habits! If your child is waking up too early, adjust their bedtime by 30 minutes and see how they adjust in the morning, but keep everything the same.
Sometimes older children wake up earlier than usual. The reason may have something to do with a dream, a quick bathroom break, or something that wakes them up. Be consistent. If it is close enough to wake-up time – always have a quiet wake-up time activity till it’s “actual” wake-up time. (we encourage reading or quiet play in their rooms). If it is the middle of the night, remind them that it’s still bedtime and tuck them back in.
Nothing will happen overnight, *pun intended*. It takes 30 days to make or break a habit, so don’t give up; follow through, and if you fall off the wagon, jump back into the routine. This is the time to make a plan with your partner or make a decision if you are on your own.
These basic guidelines help create healthy sleep habits with your little one. It is a bit more challenging if you are working on breaking old habits, but it can be done! We have wonderful sleep consultants to refer you to that can support more of the one on one requirements!
Individual families have a variety of customs that they follow for sleeping and their children. The most important thing to do is what you feel is best for your family. Some of these suggestions are not ideal based on your situation, and please do not be hard on yourself!