Sleeping babies make happy babies but there will be the newborn stage when they’re waking up for feeds during the middle of the night, when they wake perhaps having had a nightmare or are teething. Likewise as toddlers, they will try to assert themselves and see how far they can push boundaries regarding bed-time. There will be times when they have coughs and colds and are not feeling well. And then, as young teenagers you will lie awake, waiting for them to come in from their first disco. There will be less late nights for you and very few “lie-in” opportunities at the weekends.
From the very beginning, my advice to parents is to establish a good routine during the day and even more so at night time. The evening time is very important that you have a good winding-down period. At the start, teach your newborn the difference between day and night. Use blackout curtains where possible and try not to introduce any nightlights. The brain develops better in darkness.
It is essential that both parents work together as a team and are consistent in their approach and attitude to bedtime, especially with toddlers. For me it’s the “4B’s” and this is for all age groups.
- Breast feed or Bottle
- Bedtime story
If there are any sleeping problems in your child’s routine my advice to parents is to keep a detailed diary for 3 to 4 days. This diary should include all activities in their day to day lives. By doing this it can help you establish notes on your child’s habits, for example take note of any nap times, how long your child is sleeping for during the day, looking at the amount of milk your child is drinking and how much solid food they are eating. What kind of activities are they involved in and how much interaction they have with other children and adults?
Again, consistency is vital. Some parents have found this process easier if a third party can help. Your child knows you very well and knows your boundaries and will test them.
Occasionally an older child, who may have had a very good night-time routine, may begin to wake during the night and come to get into “Mammy and Daddy’s bed”. It is essential to “nip this in the bud” immediately.
Over the years I have heard many humorous reasons of why children will not want to stay in their own bed once they wake up in the middle of the night, from monsters in closets to the need to phone granny to “tell her I love her”. Whatever the excuse, sleep training provides useful techniques that you can use for a lifetime.