Of course, as parents, it is natural and normal to be tired. Young children do of course wake overnight, rise earlier than we would like and often struggle to nap or maintain their day-time sleep. As your baby gets older, there is plenty of scope and opportunity to provide a fertile ground for their sleep growth. The rate of improvement, of course, will vary from each individual child, but there are certain practises that may help you and your family reach realistic age-appropriate sleep goals this year.
View your child’s sleep as a process
The variability of children’s sleep ability is huge- each child is entirely unique, as is each family unit and the rate of improvement will vary greatly between children of the same age. So, avoid comparison. There are many factors that impact sleep, from their environment; both physical and emotional, diet, stimulation, and decisions that parents are making.
Do not expect every day or night to be the same, but actively work through the various stages- nurturing both your child and their sleep tendency; understanding that with your support, your baby can sleep their personal best, given their age and stage.
Observe a Regular Wake Time
Once your baby is 4 months plus- then start to anchor the day by starting the day no later than 730am- if your baby is awake earlier then beyond 6am, consider this to be a reasonable wake time and start the day.
Read the language of sleep
Find out what your child does when they are starting to get tired- look for brief eye rubs- moments of quiet rather than obvious sleep signals. If you can capture an early sleep cue, then you may find that your child achieves and maintains their sleep better than if you wait until the big cues.
Develop a Rhythm to the Day
Flexibility and regularity may be key elements when helping your child sleep better, deeper, longer, and more. Regular feeds and offers of sleep create a level of predictability that allows your child to know what happens next and what to expect. This way also, they are less inclined to panic when what they are signalling for is not provided and this way you can both be confident in the synchronicity that you can create between your relationship, feeds, naps, activity, and bedtime.
A warm, loving, and responsive family culture
Being responsive, attentive, and attuned to your baby’s need will further deepen the bond between you-it will allow your baby to feel confident within their needs and their communication with you, as you are responding with love and without delay. Building the loving trust bond begins from the point of conception and will grow between you through their lifespan. Be available, make eye contact, chat with your baby, and make eye contact with them at night too, so that they feel your presence and emotional availability always.
A Sleep Friendly Environment
Sleep loves darkness: it sends the right messages to the brain, underpinned at bedtime by the sleep hormone melatonin. Ensure that the room is adequately dark, warm and without unhelpful distractions. By 6 months, a conventional cot may now be the most appropriate space for sleep to allow your baby to get comfortable without restrictions.
The Bedtime Routine
Allocate at least 20 minutes to prepare your baby when it is sleep time. Develop a calm sequence of events that signal that sleep is imminent. Ideally provide this activity in the bedroom that your child will sleep in, rather than doing the bedtime process in another room or downstairs- in this time allow for lots of important connection and engagement as you help them make a transition from awake to sleep time.
More awake than Asleep
As your child gets older- especially when they are 6 months and beyond, they may benefit from being awake before they go into their cot. It is quite typical for parents to transfer their baby to their cot already asleep- but this may undermine their overnight sleep ability and lead to multiple night-time waking. It may be beneficial to help them make this transition with my stay-and support approach as you begin to grow their sleep tendency so that you accompany on their journey towards better sleep.
As you make your plan for sleep, it is always helpful to write down your intentions, the changes that you plan to make and how you will address the obstacles as they arise. This way you will have a source to refer to when the process varies, which it will. Keep a sleep log so that you can review and adjust as appropriately and continue to work towards your new years sleep goals. Good luck!
Lucy Wolfe is a Sleep consultant, Co-creational Parent and Relationship Mentor, Author of The Baby Sleep Solution and All About The Baby Sleep Solution, creator of “Sleep Through”, a natural bed and body sleep spray and relaxing rub, and Mum of four. She runs a private sleep consulting practice where she provides knowledge, expertise, and valuable support to families around the world. See www.sleepmatters.ie |+35387 2683584 or |firstname.lastname@example.org