Good Night, Sleep Tight

My grandchildren aren't newborns anymore, and the parents are trying to establish sleeping routines. I remember those days! Those first few months are the most exhausting times of your life. It seems you never get enough sleep. The baby is asleep when you are busy during the day or need to go somewhere. Then he is awake when you want to go to bed. Something has to change eventually.

First of all, remember that a child needs at least 12 hours of sleep until they are five years old. ( Baby Sleep Patterns)
Each child is different. Some may need more, some need less, but it's usually more than you think. A regular routine will help your child to feel rested and happy and be healthier.

At first, a newborn needs to eat every two-three hours, day or night. He doesn't know the difference, but he has felt a routine of your movements for nine months. You walked and moved during the day and rested during the night. He has seen the brightness of daylight and the darkness of night. Don't keep his room darkened during the day. Let him sense the differences.

As the child grows and is able to eat more, he should be able to sleep for longer times. Between 4-6 months is a good time to begin establishing a consistent pattern. By now, your child may have learned that you will pick him up whenever he fusses. He may want to be rocked to sleep. These are fine (and expected) for a newborn, but after awhile he needs to put himself to sleep.

Establish a comforting bedtime routine. It doesn't really matter what you do or say, as long as it is the same each time. Read a book, sing a song, play a music box, say a poem, etc. Encourage him to snuggle with a blanket or teddy bear or something that can be easily washed-for it will definitely get dirty!(You may want to find duplicates, so one is always clean while the other is being washed.)Also, a little light in the room is also very comforting.

Choose a time when your own schedule is not busy to begin a sleep routine. (The first few days may be hard on everyone.) In the evening, feed your child and put them to bed. They will probably cry. Don't pick them up. Put them gently and firmly back down and walk out of the room. Every five minutes or so, check on them. Don't pick them up. Speaking softly and firmly, put them back down with their snuggle item. This may last 30 minutes or more. The key is to NOT give in. Consistency is important. Once you give in, it will be so much harder the next time. You will have taught them that crying will give them whatever they want. This is the hardest part. Don't give up. Eventually your baby will go to sleep.

You may need to feed them and change their diaper in the middle of the night, but don't make it a play time. Put them back to bed. You may need to repeat this a few times. Personally, I have no problem with bringing the child to bed with you in the morning, for a cuddly dozing time,but you will not sleep soundly if they spend most of the night with you, neither will they ever want to sleep in their own bed.

After only two or three nights, the crying will have mostly stopped. Your child will have learned to put himself back to sleep. Before long, the whole family will be getting a full night's sleep. Everyone will be happier and healthier.

Later, I will address the importance of an established bedtime for children.


vjc said...

Whew - I wish you'd been blogging when my kids were little. This is great advice and works very well too. Although some kids will keep hollering longer (much longer) than others. But stick with it and soon you'll all be sleeping easier.

Elizabeth said...

Amen! Something else I have done...if their diaper is merely wet and can be traded out real quick, I don't even take them out of the bed. I quietly switch it out, with the lights still off, then tuck them back in and walk out. They barely know I've been there. :)


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