Bedtime can be a challenge for many families. Variations in parenting philosophies may have parents wondering about independent sleeping, co-sleeping, and sharing bedrooms. The following bedtime tips should be helpful to support your child in moving into sweet dreams:
The safest place for young infants to sleep is near the parent in their own sleep space without pillows, loose blankets or toys. Swaddling and sucking on a pacifier are helpful in encouraging longer sleep times. Never put a child to bed with a bottle.
Young infants typically wake up multiple times in the night, so responding quickly helps your infant develop a sense that the world is a safe place and her needs will be met. It takes a few months to establish differences in daytime and nighttime routines. Parents can help by keeping the lights low during sleep times.
A clear, simple bedtime routine helps to transition from an active day to sleep time. Bedtime routines often include a bath, book, and/or song. It is helpful to make the routine simple enough, so that it can be replicated when away from home. In a two-parent household, both parents should have opportunities to participate in the bedtime routine.
Older babies, toddlers and preschoolers benefit from having a consistent nap, bedtime and wake up time. Around ages 4 to 6 months is a good time to set consistent naptimes and bedtimes. Try to set times that work with your family’s schedule. Turn off the electronics, television screens, iPads and phones have ambient light that can stimulate the brain. Lowering lights and turning off electronics one hour prior to bedtime can signal to your child's brain that bedtime is near. Avoid high-energy activities to ease the transition.
A transitional object is an item that can provide comfort and promote self-soothing skills in a child. It is a good idea to buy two identical objects, in case the first is “loved” to pieces.
A young infant will wake and need to feed regularly for the first months. Sleep duration and quality is affected by illness, teething, stress in the family or changes in the environment. Sleep regressions are common during the separation anxiety stage. Listen to your baby’s cues to determine whether they are able to soothe themselves to sleep or need a quick reassurance from you. Fears and nightmares may impact sleep as your child’s imagination develops.
Your child’s sleep is impacted by his temperament, activity level and the routines and expectations you have as a parent. There is not a one-size fits all prescription for sleep. However, if you practice consistency, believing in your child’s ability, and trusting yourself--these practices will eventually lead to everyone sleeping well.
Robyn Johnson is a parent educator with the Arizona Partnership for Children (AzPAC) program Parents As Teachers. AzPAC is a partnership between Catholic Charities Community Services and Devereux that provides family support through home visits, group connections, screenings and assessments along with needed resources.