Many parents with babies look forward to the time when they will have an uninterrupted night of sleep. While some babies learn to sleep all night by the end of their first year, one out of five two-year-olds still wake up and cry most nights. The baby’s temperament may be a factor. Some babies are restless, and they wake easily. Others sleep soundly and for a long time. Others need less sleep, and they wake up very early in the morning.
Choose an early bedtime. The best time to put your baby or toddler to bed is sometime between 6 and 8 o’clock in the evening. This ensures that your child will be able to get a solid 11-13 hours of sleep during the night (that is how much sleep children should be getting every night up until the age of about 10).
Put your child to sleep in the same place every night. Whether your child has a room of their own or shares a room with parents or siblings, it’simportant that you put your son or daughter to sleep in the same place every night (and for naps during the day as much as possible). Putting your child to bed in a familiar place lets them know they are safe and that they are in a place where sleep is expected of them.
Create a predictable bedtime routine. Consistency and predictability are really important to babies and toddlers. When they know what to expect at bedtime, it makes it MUCH easier for them to make the transition from waking to sleeping — and that’s why creating a bedtime routine is so important!
A good example of a bedtime routine might be something like this:
• 6:20 p.m. Bath time
• 6:35 p.m. Put on pyjamas
• 6:40 p.m. Nursing or bottle (NOTE: Do NOT let your child fall asleep while feeding!)
• 6:55 p.m. Story or songs
• 7:00 p.m. Into crib or bed.
Your bedtime routine shouldn’t take more than about 45 minutes, and it’s VERY important that the routine is the same time every single night. The repetition and predictability are what let your child know that he or she will soon be expected to fall asleep.
Put your baby to bed AWAKE! If you’ve been rocking, nursing, or otherwise soothing your baby to sleep, this is going to seem like tough one…. but it’s actually the most important step! It’s the only by letting your baby fall asleep WITHOUT your help at bedtime that he or she can learn the skills necessary to stay asleep through the night.
If your baby wakes up during the night, wait a few minutes before intervening. Everyone — babies and adults alike — will actually wake up several times every night. For most adults, these wakings are so brief that we don’t even remember them the next morning. However, many babies will immediately start to fuss or cry when they wake up. This is simply because they haven’t learned how to fall asleep on their own. If a baby has been nursed or rocked to sleep at bedtime since birth, it’s not suprising that they wouldn’t know how to fall asleep independtly. The good news is that many babies can ﬁgure out how to get back to sleep within just a few minutes of waking up in the night!
If your child continues to fuss or cry for more than a few minutes, you’ll want to go in an oﬀer some comfort, but it’s important to let your child let your child do the work of falling back to sleep. You can speak softly to your child and do some gentle rubbing or patting, but you should avoid picking your child up and rocking or nursing back to sleep.