There are three key aspects to focus on in helping your child develop healthy and effective sleep habits. When working with clients, here is what I focus on first:
1. A Regular Bedtime Routine
Little ones thrive on consistency. They look to us, the parents/caretakers, to guide them in what they should be doing and how/when/where they should be doing it. This is why it is so important to develop routines. Babies and toddlers need consistent routines to orient themselves to where they are in their day and be able to anticipate what is coming next. Creating a regular bedtime routine that begins at (relatively) the same time each night will cue your baby to the fact that it is almost time to sleep. A simple bath, pajamas, a story/song, then off to bed routine can do wonders as long as you repeat the same actions in the same order each night.. Develop your routine based on what works best for you and your child!
2. Boundaries Around Sleep
If you’ve been around a toddler for more than 5 minutes you’ll know that they love to push boundaries. This is a completely normal developmental milestone, and it’s important for toddlers because they are looking to you to communicate to them what is allowed and what is not. To avoid frustration and confusion, it is important to set clear boundaries for our children, and sleep habits are no exception. Beginning when Baby is young, you can communicate that the expectation at bedtime is for them to sleep in their own bed. Other boundaries you can enforce could be keeping the baby in their room/bed until a certain time each morning (who wants to get up at 5am??) or making sure your toddler is staying in their bed all night. Decide on some healthy boundaries that will serve everyone in your household.
3. Consistency and Holding Boundaries
With both of the above tips, consistency is key. As I mentioned before, babies and toddlers look to us to orient themselves within their day and the world at large. Keeping consistent routines and boundaries allows them to know what to expect as well as how to act. This is crucial for them to be able to develop a sense of security and understand the world around them. You’ll begin to notice your toddler taking initiative when you prompt them to begin their bedtime routine. Keep it consistent and everyone will be on the same page!
What does your bedtime routine look like? What healthy boundaries have allowed your child to develop good sleep habits?
Toddlers are fascinating creatures, aren’t they? Watching them develop into thinking, creative little people is such a fascinating time, and one that parents often wish would last a little longer. Of course, they usually wish that after baby’s grown out of the toddler stage, because along with that creativity and new found intelligence, we usually see a lot of boundary-testing, which can be a frustrating experience.
Creating a Safe Sleep Environment
When you’re considering where your baby should sleep, the obvious answer is ‘a crib’. What you put in that crib important…and I’m not just talking about the baby.
Baby stores, social media and online decorating boards show beautiful huge cribs with lots of bedding, stuffed animals and fluffy-ness all over. While it’s really cute, are those beautifully decorated cribs the safest place to put baby? When my husband and I were shopping for our daughter’s crib, there was a crib in the store decked out in all white with cushy bumpers, a sparkly mobile and soft sheets. My first thought was…what if she spits up? Who wants to try and clean spit up out of white sheets? Not only that, but the crib bumpers were nearly 6 inches thick!
Babies move, even the little ones just a few weeks old. They squirm and wiggle all over the crib so you want to create the safest place for them to sleep. Yes, they need to sleep in a crib or bassinette…not in your bed on the soft mattress, not on the couch or a comfy chair. Don’t use positioners either. If your crib height is adjustable, start it at the highest position, but as soon as baby starts to push him/herself up on her hands, lower the crib mattress height.
Bare is best when it comes to decorating cribs. Cribs should have a firm mattress, with a waterproof cover and a single sheet. Bumpers can become suffocation hazards. Also, don’t put mobiles, toys, stuffed animals, projectors or mirrors in their cribs. Not only can the toys become hazards, but we want baby’s crib to be a place for sleep…not playtime.
Dress baby in one piece pajamas to sleep and make sure nothing covers baby’s head. If you feel like they need to stay warmer, use a wearable blanket, such as a sleep sack. Do not use loose blankets.
Lastly, baby should be put to sleep on his/her back. It may not be the way that you were put to sleep or what you hear from your mom but since the Safe to Sleep campaign (formerly known as the Back to Sleep campaign) was implemented, SIDS deaths are down 50%. Once baby is old enough to roll, it’s ok to let them.
Making sure that your baby has a safe sleep environment is important, not only for parents, but also for all caregivers. Make sure you communicate to anyone who cares for baby about these safe sleeping practices.