If you're the parent of young children, you're probably all too aware of that ugly monster that is you (or your child) without enough sleep. That person who wants to shout and scream, who snaps at everyone, who can't finish a sentence, who forgets where she put her phone every five minutes. That person who can only hear the screams of their baby and can't see the smiles and laughs. Yep, that's all of us without enough sleep. And why? Because we have young children who keep up us awake all night.
The bad news? I'm afraid there is no magic cure for teaching children to sleep. There is no ONE answer. The good news? If you follow sensible sleep advice there's no reason why your baby shouldn't establish good sleeping habits. The even better news? Most of these tips are common sense and easy to do. You just have to keep at it and have realistic expectations.
1. Establish a soothing bedtime routine lasting half an hour.
Perhaps a warm bath and then a massage. We're all creatures of habit, and that's especially true of young children. A good routine prepares your baby for what's coming next: sleep.
2. Make bedtime between 7 p.m. and 8 p.m.
This is the best time for little ones to go to sleep, because then you can enjoy relaxing with a few hours of adult time.
3. Allow time for good daytime naps.
It's a strange fact that a well-rested baby sleeps better than a sleep-deprived one. Pay attention to your baby's signs of tiredness (the "9-mile gaze" is a good one for little babies). New babies need three or four naps a day; gradually they reduce in number.
4. Avoid being a "sleep prop."
A sleep prop is anything that your baby needs to help them fall asleep. If that something is you, you're in trouble. If it's a teddy, just don't loose it. Ever. Think to yourself, "Do I want to be doing this in two years?"
5. Put your baby in her crib awake.
The idea is that the baby learns to fall asleep by herself. Ideally she'll be sleepy, but not actually asleep.
6. Use a dark room.
Darkness increases the amount of melatonin (a sleep hormone) circulating in the body.
7. Avoid sudden noises.
Babies will learn to cut out background noise like cars and vacuum cleaners. Sudden loud noises like a strange booming voice, or the door bell will probably wake them.
8. Don't be scared of crying.
Babies often cry before going to sleep. It's normal to take up to 20 minutes to fall asleep.
9. Go to bed early yourself.
Sleep deprivation affects everyone. You'll be much better at dealing with your tired child if you're better rested yourself.