Every parent in the world at one time or another will find themselves dealing with sleep related issues regarding their young children. It may be just the odd night here and there. It may be every night until the kid leaves for college, but chances are, if you’re a parent, you know exactly what I’m talking about.
You’ll understand the begging and bargaining that goes on in nurseries everywhere from Australia to Zimbabwe. You’ll understand and recognize the pleas being uttered behind those Sesame Street curtains, “please, oh please, just go to sleep!”
Why won’t your baby sleep? (Photo credit: Tatiana Vdb)
Although the above comments are being written in a manner that is somewhat “tongue-in-cheek”, having a baby that has difficulty getting to sleep can be quite stressful on a parent. Not to mention exhausting.
So, what can you as a parent do? What tips and tricks are out there to help us when our baby won’t sleep?
The strategies involved in getting a baby to sleep really depends on the age of the child and their individual demeanor and personality, so in this article, the tips and tricks presented for getting baby to sleep are divided up into the following age ranges, but keep in mind, not everything will be appropriate for every kid:
- Birth to 3 months old
- 4-12 months old
- 12-18 months old
- 18 months to 3 years old
Newborn to 3 months of ageThis newborn period can be a tricky and often frustrating time as it relates to your child’s sleeping habits, especially if they’re breastfeeding and waking every two hours to be fed.
Keep the feeding sessions that are occurring through the night hours as dark, quiet and low-key as you can. Try to avoid a lot of talking or singing or any other activities that might over-stimulate your newborn and prevent them from falling back to sleep. Through the waking hours of the day, feeding sessions can, of course, be livelier and the hope is that your baby will begin to learn more about the sleep-wake cycle of day and night.
For many babies (not all, but many) swaddling can be a useful technique for getting a newborn to settle and go off to sleep. Swaddling is the process of wrapping your little one up in a receiving blanket, with their arms all nicely tucked in like a burrito, and can simulate the familiar comfort and warmth of the womb (which they really only just left!). Rocking them back and forth in your arms, or in the bassinet, while they’re swaddled can often go a long way to getting them to sleepy-land.
If the baby falls asleep on the breast while feeding or in your arms while you’re holding him or her, place them into their bassinet or crib, rather than holding them the whole time while they sleep. This will begin to teach them about their designated area for sleeping.
4-12 months of ageIt’s not uncommon for young babies to make the transition from sleeping in a bassinet to sleeping in a crib, shortly after passing the 4-month-old mark and this transition can sometimes be an adjustment for them which can affect their sleep, especially if they’re moving from a bassinet at mom and dad’s bedside to a new room of their own.
If you’re choosing to introduce the use of a pacifier, it can be helpful in assisting some kids in this age group to fall asleep, but it could also lead to a soother-dependence will be a habit to break later.
Develop a bedtime routine (Photo credit: Riemer Palstra)
During these months, it’s a good time to start developing a routine for bedtime in order to give the child some consistency and help them learn that it’s time for bed. Every bedtime routine is unique of course, but it may include a bath, some book reading, a cuddle and some breast milk – then off to sleep.
If your baby wakes in the middle of the night, rather than jumping (or falling) out of bed to soothe him, give it a few minutes. An important part of his development of healthy sleep habits is to learn how to self-soothe and get himself back to sleep. Often times, the child will go back to sleep on their own if just given a few minutes to work things out. And that’s a great thing for parents!
12-18 months of ageAh yes, we enter the toddler years. Let the games begin!That bedtime routine you began working on in the previous section is, hopefully, working like a charm now, but if your young toddler is having trouble getting, or staying, asleep, there might be an issue with their routine.
If she’s waking up in the middle of the night and is unable to self-soothe herself back to sleep, you need to question yourself as to why this is. Is there something in the room that she’s finding distracting? The room should remain consistent from bedtime through to the morning with as little distractions as possible. Are there too many toys in the bed?
Also, sometimes a little white noise in the background can be quite helpful to prevent every little sound from disturbing your toddler’s beauty sleep. Perhaps a humidifier or a fan would be an option. There may even be a white noise app on that smart phone of yours!
18 months to 3 years of ageThe older toddler years can be the cause of a whole new level of bedtime frustration as your little bundle of joy may be more apt to refuse to go to bed without a fuss.
Does your little one need their security blanket and stuffed animal to sleep? (Photo credit: Sean Dreilinger)
Again, the routine can be a lifesaver for many families, but it can be also quite important to remain firm and consistent with your older toddler at all times of the day. You don’t want to be getting into endless bedtime battles with you child, so stay strong and try to avoid letting yourself give in to their every whim and request.
In the later part of this age perhaps a security blanket or toy can help with keeping your child comfortable and feeling safe. A little gentle music paying in the background, or again some of the white noise that was previously mentioned, can be helpful for many kids in this age range.
Your children are, like their fingerprints, unique and individual, so there’s no blueprint or checklist to follow for how to get a baby to sleep. The key is really to develop a routine and stick to it as consistently as possible. Also, maintaining consistency in how you respond to your child’s calling out or requests will help them to learn when it’s time to relax, give in, and just go to sleep.
What tricks do you use to get your baby to sleep? Was there a particular age that was more difficult to deal with from a sleeping perspective?