Ann Richardson, Registered Nurse and Midwife, owner of the Sister Ann’s well baby clinics, lecturer and co-author of the baby best seller Baby Sense (Metz Press 2010, new edition), author of the best seller Toddler Sense (Metz Press 2011, new edition), and co-author of Sleep Sense (Metz Press 2007), discusses 5 top sleep tips to ensure your little angel gets a good nights sleep.
Limit your babies awake time in between naps
Believe it or not, it is the awake time not the sleep time that drives healthy sleep patterns. An over tired, over stimulated baby will struggle to fall asleep without extensive assistance such being rocked or fed to sleep. A baby who is calm and sleepy will fall asleep with ease, and with little intervention.
Understand your baby’s signals
A lot of the time, an over stimulated baby will show signs of tiredness and sensory overload. These signals, such as irritability, pulling up of their legs, fisting of their hands, yawning, sneezing and hiccupping are often incorrectly attributed to winds and cramps. The caregiver then spends much time “fiddling’ with the baby, trying to break wind, checking for a dirty nappy and so on – all of which continue to over stimulate baby, resulting in ongoing fussy behaviour.
Have a consistent sleep zone
Having a consistent and calming sleep zone will ensure that your baby is able to fall asleep without resistance. This is especially so for older babies, who need a consistent and un-stimulatory sleep space in order to regulate themselves sufficiently to become calm so that sleep can follow.
The importance of routine
Children, especially toddlers, thrive on routine. A flexible routine is important to ensure a healthy balance between sufficient play and stimulation time and quiet and calm time. Day time naps are still important until well into the toddler years.
Early to bed
Children should, ideally, be in bed and asleep by 7pm every night. Depending on your baby’s afternoon sleep pattern, bedtime could be as early as 6pm. Delayed bedtimes cause over tiredness, cranky behaviour and high levels of stress. Don’t be tempted to keep your baby awake just because dad is coming home late from work!
Teach your baby to sleep
Because babies pass through light sleep states every 45 minutes at night (up to an hour in toddlers), it is not possible to prevent your baby stirring at night (due to sleep cycles) but it is possible for you to teach your baby to go back to sleep without your assistance. This means that you will give him a chance to see if he can put himself to sleep (or back to sleep). you do not leave your baby on his own for long periods of time and by portraying a message of consistency and confidence your baby will feel secure not abandoned.
When controlled crying for sleep training is done in the correct manner to meet your child’s needs on all levels, especially his emotional needs, there should be no negative effects whatsoever – in fact a well-rested child with well-rested parents plays an important part of creating a loving and secure home. Have the courage to be firm, without guilt or fear that your baby will resent or love you less.