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?