1. Develop a sleep routine. It seems obvious I know but a consistent nap and bedtime routine will help your child to know what to expect next, to transition from play time to bedtime and relax before nodding off for the night. Keep bedtime positive and remain calm. Never use bedtime as a punishment or a negative consequence. Going to bed should not be a dreaded activity but an enjoyable time to value and look forward to.
2. Be consistent. Consistency is key. Keep a consistent routine, a consistent approach to soothing, a consistent nap and bedtime schedule and consistency in your child’s sleep location.
3. Don’t underestimate the importance of an early bedtime. An early bedtime can often remedy many sleep issues. Babies become overtired quickly and easily. From about 3 – 4 months of age it is a good idea to start to bring bedtime forward. Most children benefit from a bedtime somewhere between 6:30 – 7:30pm depending on the time and length of their naps. Moving bedtime around often is kind of like giving your child a mini case of jet lag on a regular basis. Ensure the wake time from their last nap to bedtime isn’t too long. A late bedtime can make it difficult for a baby to stay asleep and can often be a common cause of early rising. Many parents think it’s a good idea to keep baby up later so they will sleep later. It is often the opposite that occurs. An early bedtime will help your baby sleep better in those early morning hours. It’s not logical I know but it is biological.
4. Let them nap. Many parents underestimate the importance of naps for babies and toddlers. We tend to view the nap with an adult like outlook, a luxury. Something to be enjoyed when we can fit it in. This is not the case for young children, the nap is essential. Despite your feelings of being trapped by the nap allowing your child to have adequate and age appropriate naps means you are setting the scene for good night time sleep. Not allowing your child to nap appropriately renders them in a jet lag like state. This in turn makes sleeping at night more difficult. Keep a close eye on the wake windows of your little one. Here is a general guide:
5. Avoid negative sleep associations. The way your child falls asleep is how they will expect to wake up. Babies have natural sleep cycles just like we do. At the end of a sleep cycle we all experience a partial awakening. If your child is falling asleep using a soothing aide provided by yourself or another caregiver they may wake at the end of their sleep cycle looking for that same soothing aide to fall back to sleep again. This is why it is important to put baby down awake and allow them to fall asleep of their own accord.
6. Ensure quality nutrition. To assist your child gain a good night sleep it is important to recognise the role of nutrition in promoting sleep. There are foods that will help support sleep by inducing neurotransmitters such as serotonin and melatonin and these are the foods we want to include in our child’s diet.
Foods that can help positively affect sleep include:
*Omega 3essential fatty acids: found in oily fish such as salmon, sardines, avocados, nuts, chia seeds, spinach, broccoli and flax seeds.
*Protein: at dinner time will help keep your child fuller for longer as it stabilizers blood sugar levels. Consider adding meat, eggs, quinoa, cheese and fish to your child’s dinner. Your body doesn’t store protein so a little is needed every day.
*Zinc: is found in foods such as pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, lamb and beef.
*Magnesium: a muscle relaxant. Magnesium can be found in foods such as green leafy vegetables or simply add some Epsom salts to your little ones bath.
Foods that can negatively affect sleep include:
*Sugary foods, for obvious reasons!
*Chocolate because of the caffeine content.
*Legumes as they can be difficult to digest and cause wind, bloating and discomfort.
*Fried foods because of the high fat content.
For more information or assistance getting improved sleep for your child and family contact Kate or Lisa at email@example.com
Kate is currently studying Maternity and Child Sleep through the International Maternity and Parenting Institute. She is a part time primary school teacher with an 18 month old and another on the way. After having her first child she became particularly interested in infant sleep and the science and behaviour behind it. Kate originally thought you either got a good sleeper or you didn’t, she now realises how much is involved in creating and establishing healthy sleep habits. Kate currently works with her mentor Lisa at Cherish your Sleep. They offer an investigative approach that is very holistic. The use of behavioural methods is often last on the list as they assess and address all of the necessary foundations first before implementing any behavioural techniques to correct a child’s sleep issues. For more information check out www.cherishyoursleep.com.au