Bedtime is probably the most frustrating part of your day if you’re a parent of a sleep-resistant toddler. We offer you eight tips to help you put an end to bedtime troubles.
It’s been a long day at work for you and the hubby. The both of you have barely started to unwind at home when you realise that your little one’s bedtime is fast approaching. You nervously steal a few glances at the clock. The battle that lies ahead is one you’re all too familiar with – putting your toddler to sleep. It’s about time both you, hubby and junior get some quality sleep that isn’t interrupted every two to three hours. But how?
We spoke to Robert Kwon, Regional Professional Marketing Director & Science Liaison at Johnson’s Baby, to bring you a list of eight strategies you can adopt to keep bedtime problems at bay. Night night!
1. Establish a Fixed Bedtime for Your Baby
Every night, your bub should be going to bed at about the same time. So what’s a typical baby bedtime? Anywhere between 7pm and 8.30pm. Having a fixed bedtime will help to set your baby’s internal clock. Since our little ones cannot tell time, they need their mummies and daddies to set their internal clocks through daily activities at specific times throughout the day. Due to the circadian rhythm developing from as early as six weeks after birth and almost always being established by six months, having baby sleep early at night generally ensures better overall quality of sleep. You wouldn’t say no to bub falling asleep easily and quickly, would you?
(See also: Co-sleeping – The Big Questions)
2. Create a Regular Pre-Bedtime Routine
The power of a routine is not to be underestimated! Daily routines in general lead to the creation of predictable and less stressful environments for young children. Routines should be mutually enjoyable (for you and baby) and calming, consistent everyday, and should take place in your baby’s nursery or child’s bedroom in a consistent environment. According to Robert, one bedtime routine that has been clinically proven to be effective is a warm bath, followed by a gentle massage and then some quiet time with mummy. “This final step is flexible. It can be, for example, reading a book, cuddling, or even singing a lullaby,” he explains.
The study by Johnson’s Baby revealed that babies (on average) slept up to an hour longer and spent 32% less time awake after one week of this routine! We suppose you’ll be wanting to try it out pretty soon as well.
3. Put Tot to Sleep Drowsy, Not Fully Asleep
Does this strategy sound a tad strange to you? Odd as it may sound, it’s not without reason! Putting your little one to sleep drowsy but not fully conked out will allow him to fall asleep and also self-soothe independently. Throughout the span of a normal sleep cycle, toddlers wake up at multiple times in the middle of the night. This is natural and to be expected. Tots who have learned how to self-soothe will typically find it much easier to fall back asleep on their own. On the other hand, those who haven’t learned how to do this tend to wake up fully, cry, and require a parent to comfort them back to sleep. That means you having to get up at 3am in the morning and being sleep-deprived the next day.
4. Recognise When Your Child Is Tired
Have you ever wondered why your child decides to act up just before his bedtime? You’ve probably thought that he just isn’t tired enough to retire for the night. Wrong. Contrary to popular belief, the more tired a child becomes, the more wired he will be. The more wired he is, the harder a time he will have trying to fall asleep. So don’t put off your tot’s bedtime! Oh, and the next time it’s ten o’ clock at night and your toddler is running around the living room wailing like a banshee, it’s a sign that he’s actually extremely tired. Time to hit the sack!
5. Gradually Transit to An Earlier Bedtime
So you’d like to bring forward your child’s bedtime. Great move! But shifting it an entire hour earlier from 9pm to 8pm at one go isn’t very realistic. Instead, you could space out the change more gradually over a period of several days. Do also ensure that the timings of the day’s other activities for your child are adjusted appropriately in accordance to the change in bedtime. Establishing an earlier bedtime for your tot is definitely no walk in the park. So how can you make the transition easier?
Notify your child. About five to ten minutes before bedtime, let him know that bedtime is fast approaching. That way, he can finish the jigsaw puzzle he’s been working on or stop watching his cartoons at an appropriate juncture. By the time your little one is 18 months old, this tactic will come in extremely handy. Bedtime routines are also a great way to deal with the bedtime resister, especially if the routine includes something that your child loves to do, such as reading a favourite storybook.
6. Make The Shift to a “Big Kid” Bed a Milestone
Transitioning to sleeping in a “big boy/girl” bed is indeed a milestone in a tot’s life. So why not celebrate it? No, we aren’t kidding. In her book, Sleeping Through The Night, Dr. Jodi A. Mindell writes:
“One of the most creative ideas that I have heard was from a parent who threw a big boy’s bed party for her three-year-old. She took him with her to the store to choose the bed, then talked it up for a week in advance. On the day of the big event, she had a party and invited friends and grandparents. There was a cake and balloons. He was so excited about getting a big boy’s bed that everything went smoothly.”
If you think a party might be a little over the top, how about just sticking to getting junior to pick out his own bed, perhaps? Remember to stick to old routines when your tot starts sleeping in his own bed. Read to him the same number of stories or sing the usual lullabies. If you didn’t stay with your child until he was asleep when she was in a crib, there’s no reason to start staying now!
(See also: Toddler Developmental Milestones: 12 – 48 Months)
7. Learn How to Deal with Calling Out After Lights Out
Are you the sort who succumbs to your tot screaming for you from his crib after lights out? It’s time to change that. If your child is old enough, talk to her just before bedtime about the steps you are about to take towards helping her sleep alone and through the night. Allow her to learn to get to sleep when you put her down in her crib. Don’t make the mistake of putting her to sleep in your arms – just help her quieten down but put her in her crib and sit by her to help her establish her own pattern at bedtime.
Greeted with protests? Just assure your child by saying something like, “You can do it yourself.” Initially, expect your tot to rouse and cry out every three to four hours – at around 10pm, 2am and 6am. Respond with as little simulating intervention as you can. If you have been taking him out of his crib to rock him, refrain from doing that. Soothe and stroke him with your hand but leave him in his crib. Your tot’s not going to like it, but he’ll eventually understand. Stand by the crib and tell your little one that he can and must learn to go back to sleep on his own.
8. Be Prepared to Cope with Those Nightmares
The best thing that you can do if your child has had a nightmare is to comfort her. For babies and toddlers, merely holding them and providing physical comfort is sufficient. Older children may require some verbal reassurance. If your child is less than two years old, there’s no need to trouble yourself with trying to explain the concept that it was just a dream. Little ones under this age won’t understand it as they will have a hard time distinguishing between a dream and a reality. Simply help your child understand that she’s no longer in danger.
If your tot insists on leaving a nightlight on, that’s alright. But try to ensure that it’s set to the dimmest level possible so that he can go back to sleep easily. Many children tend to find a dim nightlight that is left on throughout the night to be reassuring. Also, having your tot sleep with a security object such as a special blanket or a stuffed animal might be useful.
(See also: Should Your Kids Share a Bedroom?)