For some of you, getting your child to sleep is as simple as reading a book and kissing them goodnight, but others may experience an endless battle to get their little one to sleep through the night, says local paediatric sleep consultant Cheryl Fingleson.
As a mother of two Cheryl knows only too well the feelings of agony and desperation when you have a child that struggles to settle and sleep. She doesn’t believe in leaving babies or children to cry it out, or in the practices of controlled crying. Instead, her approach is to empower parents with the right tools and techniques to teach their babies and children to go to sleep calmly, happily and independently. Here are her helpful tips to get little ones to sleep.
1. Help them anticipate sleep time
Anticipating when it’s time to sleep is a good way to begin the night routine. Once your child knows that ‘sleepy time’ has begun, they can start to wind down knowing what’s to come. Perhaps you might start with a bath, then drawing the curtains, reading a story, then bed. What’s important here is not what you do, but the consistency. As your baby grows up, the routine usually stays the same, but the older the child, the wiser they’ll be and so it can take that little bit longer. Try to keep the routine simple.
2. Know when it’s time to sleep
Talking to your baby will serve as a great benefit. Although they may not understand exactly what you are saying, repeating the same phrase each and every night will become part of the sleep routine. Something like ‘Sleepy time Jonah, sweet dreams’ and a kiss or two before bedtime should be repeated each night.
3. Calm your baby
Once you have completed your nightly routine, your aim is to calm your baby until they reach a sleepy stage. All babies are soothed and relaxed in different ways – for example, rocking or patting. What works for your friend’s baby may not work for you. Each baby responds differently, so find out what works best for your baby and then use that method.
4. Recognise sleepy signs
We can easily identify a newborn’s sleepiness signs, such as yawning, rubbing eyes and crying. But when your baby is around four to six months, it’s a good idea to follow a sleep routine/schedule, then watch for your child’s particular sleepy signs. It is important not to miss the ‘sleep window’ – an overtired baby or child has a difficult time unwinding and falling asleep as a hormone called cortisol is released (which we recognise as a second wind).
5. Watch for drowsiness
The most crucial part of getting your baby to sleep, after calming, is to put your baby into the cot drowsy but awake. Doing it this way we avoid the possibility of sleep associations, such as a baby might only fall asleep in your arms in the lounge room while listening to the TV.
It is a fine line between drowsy but still awake. This can definitely take practise in getting it right, as young babies can fall asleep fairly quickly.
6. Position correctly in bed
Ensure you follow the SIDS and Kids ‘Safe Sleeping’ guidelines when laying your baby in their cot. The recommendation is that babies should sleep on their back, but you can read more about them here.
Good luck mums and dads! If your baby is not responding to any of the above tips, please don’t wait until you feel desperate, as help can be just a phone call away.
For more sleep tips and advice, please visit The Sleep Coach website and Facebook page. Cheryl can also tailor a sleep plan to suit your unique situation, walk you through each step of implementing a plan and support you the rest of the way.
Have you tried any of the above sleep tips on your child, or maybe some others? We’d like to hear what’s worked for you and what hasn’t in the comments section below.
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