Parents who are tired of being tired due to their children’s poor sleep habits, take heart; Joleen Dilk Salyn, a certified child sleep consultant and founder of Baby Sleep 101, offers the following advice to start the New Year off right:
1. Implement and Maintain a Regular Routine
Often the holidays throw our children’s sleep off track, but once you’re home and settled, it’s important to have a consistent routine established. Babies, toddlers and children alike thrive on a consistency. They appreciate knowing what’s coming next and when they do, negative behavior such as bedtime resistance and tantrums are minimized.
2. Watch for Subtle Sleepy Cues
One of the best tools parents have is to recognize when their children are just starting to become tired. Often, parents mistakenly wait until their child is yawning profusely before they put them down to sleep, but by that time, they are already passing from being drowsy to overtired. When children are overtired, they don’t nap as well and are more likely to wake at night. Instead of waiting to see yawns, parents should watch for much subtler cues such as quieting down, staring into space, turning away from toys or people and becoming less vocal or active.
3. Keep Bedtime Early
Early bedtimes are a great way to help children stay well-rested. It doesn’t matter if you have an infant, toddler or school-aged child; early bedtimes benefit all. Children five and younger should be asleep between 6-8pm, but if they’re overtired, bedtime should be at least 30 minutes earlier for 4-5 days.
4. Get Rid of Sleep Props
If a baby needs a soother to be replaced or an older child needs a glass of water each night, then they are sleep prop dependent. Since falling asleep unassisted is a learnt skill, parents need to remove the prop so their child can learn to fall asleep without mom and dad’s help each time.
5. Be Consistent
When parents are ready to make changes to their child’s sleep habits, they should follow the above tips and do so consistently. Poor sleep habits aren’t created overnight; likewise parents shouldn’t expect to see improvements until after several days of a new routine.