I often get people asking me what the ‘secret’ is to getting a baby to sleep longer during the night. Of course, there is no ONE secret there is no secret. Teaching a child healthy sleep habits is a combination of lots of different things. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t some shortcuts, either!
With that in mind, I’d like to share with you 7 different sleep tips you can start trying over the next few nights to get your child sleeping better...
Let’s get right to it:
Sleep Tip 1: Watch the waking hours
One of the BIGGEST enemies of sleep and especially for babies and toddlers is over-tiredness and many parents are surprised to learn just how soon their children get overtired!
Here’s a quick guide to how long your child should be awake between naps during the day:
Newborns (0-12 weeks): 45 - 60 minutes of awake time
3-5 months: 1.5-2 hours of awake time
6-8 months: 2-3.5 hours of awake time
9-12 months: 2.5-4 hours of awake time
12 months to 18 months: 3-5 hours of awake time
18 months to 3.5 year olds - 5-6 hours of awake time
If you make sure that your child is put down for naps BEFORE they get overtired, you’ll find that they fall asleep more easily at nap-time AND that they are more relaxed at bedtime, too!
Sleep Tip 2: Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark
We humans (babies and toddlers included) sleep better in the dark. Try making your child’s room as dark as possible. (I recommend using blackout blinds, taping cardboard over the windows, or whatever it takes!) In many cases, even the glow from a nightlight or a digital alarm clock can be enough to disrupt your child’s sleep cycle!
BONUS TIP: Try to keep your child’s room as dark as possible during daytime naps, too. This can often make a BIG difference in how long your child will nap during the day!
Sleep Tip 3: Be Predictable
Babies and toddlers love predictable routines. And a predictable bedtime routine (lasting no longer than 30 minutes) is a great way to let your child know when the time for sleep is coming.
A typical bedtime routine might look something like this:
· bath (5 minutes)
· put on pyjamas (5 minutes)
· read a story or sing some songs (10 minutes)
· feeding or bottle (10 minutes)
Make sure that this routine is the same every single time. Remember, you want bedtime to be as predictable as possible for your child! After your bedtime routine is complete, be boring. Lots of children will try to ‘drag out’ bedtime by playing games, throwing toys out of the cot, standing up, etc. Don’t participate.
If your child has thrown their blanket or favourite stuffed toy out of the cot, calmly return the item without saying a word. Be boring, and the games shouldn’t last too long!
Sleep Tip 4: Feed AFTER Naps, Not Before
If feeding to sleep is not working for you and your baby no more then, it is a good idea to move the feed to after their nap time this will help break the feed to sleep association.
IMPORTANT NOTE: This strategy should only be used before naps, not before putting your child to bed for the night. (A full tummy is needed to make sure your child isn't hungry during the night!)
Sleep tip 5: Same Place, Same Time
Remembering that our children love predictability, it’s a good idea to have your child sleep in the same place every day. This means that nap-time should happen in the same place as night-time sleep and rather than in car seats, prams, on your lap. For many parents, simply changing WHERE their child naps during the day causes a big improvement in the length and quality of night-time sleep. Pram, car seats, laps, sling etc are ok for naps too if it is working for your child but I believe cot naps are where they get their best sleep.
BONUS TIP: When you are putting your child to sleep for the night, it’s a good idea to make sure that they fall asleep where you want them to stay asleep. In other words, if your child falls asleep in your arms on the couch and then wakes up during the night in a completely different place (like their cot), chances are they’ll be surprised and start crying to let you know about it!
Sleep Tip 6: Try waiting before going to you child
When your child wakes up during the night and or during a nap and starts crying or fussing, try to wait a specific length of time before going in to check on them. The first day you try this, I recommend waiting a few minutes before going in to check on your child it is important to listen to your little cries and respond to how you see fit.
Well, everyone (baby and toddler included) will wake up briefly during the night.
Giving your baby time to settle will help them fall back to sleep especially if they don't need you, if they don't go back to sleep you can go to them and support them in falling back to sleep.
Sleep Tip 7: Take Five
Before you put your child to bed (for naps or at night-time), make sure the five-minute period before they are put to bed is very calm and relaxing.
No throwing your toddler in the air or watching TV or tickle fights in the five minutes immediately before bed.
IMPORTANT NOTE: I totally encourage tickle fights and any other kinds of rowdy fun you can think of with your children. It’s fun for the whole family! Just NOT in the five minutes before bed. (Right after waking up is a great time to play!)
The Next Step?
Like I said, these are ‘tips’ and quick tricks that, for some parents, are the missing piece of the puzzle that gets their child sleeping longer during the night.
And while I hope that you’ll be one of the parents who’s able to solve their children’s sleep problems using one of these tips, I’m also here for you if you need a little more guidance, you can apply through my website and let's work together in solving your little one’s sleep.