Settling A Baby To Sleep
Difficulties in settling a baby down to sleep and night waking are common in young children aged one to five years. These difficulties can be persistent, but what is a sleep problem for one family may not be for another. If you are happy for your baby to go to bed at the same time as you, that's fine. If however you or your child are suffering from lack of sleep because your child will not go to bed you're perfectly right to think about what you can do to help them settle off to sleep.
There are a number of 'usual suspects' that would make it harder to settle a baby to sleep. The main culprit is usually hunger, especially in the early months when you are still getting into a routine. Other reasons could include overstimulation if you are playing right up until bedtime, your little one could feel overhandled if you've had a lot of visitors who've enjoyed cuddles with her right up to sleep time or she just may be overtired.
Going to sleep too late at night can make a baby overtired, which in turn, can keep him or her from settling down well at all. Children who aren't getting adequate sleep are more likely to have trouble falling asleep and to wake up during the night. If your baby isn't going to sleep readily at night, be sure that he's napping sufficiently during the day to combat any overtiredness.
Next, establish a bedtime routine - or if you've already established one but have been adhering to it half-heartedly, now is the time to enforce it or change it so that you are more likely to keep to it. If you aren't certain what to include in a bedtime routine you can try some of or all of the following:
A bath - after a day of crawling on hands and knees, passing sticky fingers through hair, and the rigours of playing in the sandpit, a baby needs a bath! But the evening bath does more than get a baby clean - it relaxes him. Warm soothing waters wield magical sleep inducing powers.
A sleep inducing atmosphere - dim the lights, turn the TV off, keep voices calm and low and keep other distractions to a minimum.
A story, a song and a cuddle - after your baby's been bathed and changed, settle down together into a comfortable chair or sofa, or on baby bed if he's graduated to one. Read him a simple story, if he will sit still for one, in a soft monotone voice rather than a lively animated one. Or if he prefers let him look at some picture books himself, sing quiet songs and lullabies, hug a little but save the rough and tumble for daytime play, not bedtime.
A light - some babies are afraid of the dark. If yours is one of them give him a night light to keep him company.
A sleep assistant - if your baby favours a dummy or comforter, keep it handy for bedtime.
At the end of the day - include a winding down period and avoid too much excitement and over stimulation before bedtime.
Goodbyes - put a favourite toy or animal to bed. Encourage your baby to wave bye bye to it, as well as to mummy, daddy and any siblings. Share goodnight kisses all around, tuck your baby in and say night night.
Most experts agree that establishing a simple and soothing bedtime routine helps children to settle to sleep, but despite all your efforts you may find that your baby is still crying and difficult settle once you say goodnight. This might mean your baby finds it difficult to settle himself.
If your baby has been getting to sleep by nursing, rocking or cuddling in your arms, she may not have learned to fall asleep on her own. Putting your baby down to sleep awake will help her to learn how to fall asleep by herself and also to fall back to sleep if she wakes in the night.
Once you have said goodnight and left the room, if your baby cries; return for a moment to be sure he's okay, settle him with a kiss, stroking or gentle words and then leave again. If he continues crying, try and let him cry for a few more minutes before going back in and resettling your baby. Try not to pick him up or take him downstairs again, keep communications to a minimum, perhaps only saying 'it's night night time sweetheart' before leaving. Be prepared to repeat this routine over and over again and for several nights. The important thing is to be firm and not to give in.