Sleepless nights and children
How to help baby sleep longer at night is a common question. Having been there with each of my three children I can both sympathise and offer my advice to parents on this problem.
Firstly, let’s not forget that demands are natural for very young babies who will be waking up during the night for feeds. Their stomachs are small, and it is normal for them to cry out for something to eat.
What seems to work in settling a baby at bedtime is a bedtime routine. A bath, feed and a story – before tucking them in with a goodnight kiss, will establish the cues that they can later associate with sleep.
Although, many people suggest a favourite toy as a comforter I used my mother’s tried and tested routine of swaddling my children as babies. And, it worked! We are sure that this technique is reminiscent of the womb.
As your baby grows, they will be able to sleep for longer. However, I can recall having problems well into the toddler years – particularly with early rising!
What did I do? I stuck it out! It is so easy to take the less responsible option but, I didn’t want this going on forever. I knew that as toddlers they didn’t need feeds during the night. So, if you are trying to soothe them with a feed, don’t. This will become their aid for sleep. Instead, offer them water instead of milk. You will probably find that the alternative isn’t worth waking up for.
Yet, like me, you may still have a battle on your hands. Cries of dissatisfaction will prevail. But, don’t choose the easy route, or offer yourself as the comfort blanket. Show them that you mean business. I had done my homework during the day – I was sure that naps in the day wouldn’t interfere with their sleep at night and I knew that they wouldn’t be hungry. I would check in, limit the chit-chat and give them a quick kiss. Also, I would say, “It is time for sleep, I love you and I will see you in the morning.”
In the beginning I would do this countless times. But, I would lengthen the intervals. Just as I was ready to give up – silence!
The aim is to teach them to get into the habit of going to sleep on their own.
Now, my children have at least ten hours of sleep each night. And, have been doing this since they were two and a half. I was conscious of the fact that during their school years they would need a good nights’ sleep so it is essential to break bad habits as early as you can.