9 fantastic tips on how to get your child sleeping through.
Whether you're going through it now, have just come out the other side or have distant memories of it... all parents know the perils of getting their babies to sleep through the night.
Some of us go in hard and let baby cry it out, others try the soft approach and let the child lead, and the rest of us desperately read through countless sleep programs, books and websites and follow regimes religiously (often with disastrous results and ending with us feeling like utter failures).
Getting our children to drift off into an uninterrupted, peaceful sleep is usually much easier said than done. Our little 'darlings' (said through gritted teeth!), sometimes are not ready to go to bed, want 'just one more story', are afraid of the monsters under the bed, need water, are hungry, want cuddles and the list goes on and on and on...
The older our children get, the harder it is. Once they know how to play on our emotions it only gets more difficult to persuade them to sleep in their own bed or to turn lights off at 8pm.
Although its hard when they're so tiny, it can be beneficial in the long run to get them into a sleep pattern when they're babies. Kim West, author of Good Night, Sleep Tight, says 'babies who drift off on their own are more likely to fall asleep quickly and learn how to soothe themselves to sleep more easily'. Teaching them how to get themselves to sleep will only result in happier more rested children. For instance, studies have shown that babies who are more adaptable, more approachable, less distractible, or who generally are in good moods—go to sleep earlier and sleep more overall than do babies with “difficult” temperaments (Weissbluth and Liu 1983; Van Tassel 1985; Scher et al 1992; Sadeh et al 1994; Scher et al 1998).
According to a National Sleep Foundation poll, up to 69 percent of kids age 10 and under have some type of sleep problem. So what about the rest - how do they get their children to sleep? Here's some tips that could help in getting that little one some much needed shut eye!
1. Get into a bedtime routine.
Start winding down an hour before bed. Massage can be a fantastic way to gently relax your baby, This massage oil from Naif is easily absorbed and is mild and gentle on babies skin £12.95. If you're breastfeeding, try not to feed baby to sleep but instead lay them in their cot just as they're getting drowsy, this will get them used to being in their own space when falling asleep and won't result in them relying on you as their comforter. For older kids, give them a relaxing bath, turn off all electronic gadgets and TV and start getting them used to the idea that bedtime is approaching. Try a soothing bubble bath like the Love Soap Organic Lavender and Meadowfoam £7.50.
2. Bedtime stories
Reading to your child is a fantastic time to bond and cuddle as well as winding them down ready for sleep. We are so busy with our other children, work, cooking dinner, social media etc- we often overlook this wonderful opportunity to spend some quality time with our kids. The bedtime routine can be so fraught with emotion and stress, that reading can become just another chore. I for one have been guilty of saying no to my children when they've asked for a story due to it being too late, or dinners cooking on the stove... However, it is one of the most effective ways to get your child relaxed and ready to sleep.
Jess Princeton, owner of fab boutique Rosita Lollipop, has the most amazing selection of books in her wonderful shop and she has taken some time out to talk us through a selection of her favourites.
These wonderful re-editions of the well loved American author illustrator Richard Scarry’s works from the 1950s and 1960s will delight parents and children alike.
Up to age 3
Take a journey through the anthropomorphic and wonderful world of Richard Scarry. “I am a Bunny” reads beautifully and simply, it leaves room to stop and enjoy the illustrations as well as encourage dialogue about Nicholas’ adventures through the seasons and his walk through nature. The book ends in the winter season, which prompts the reader to perhaps speak of the dormant stages of nature and the end to a lovely day.
Up to age 6
3 Books in 1! The Best Bunny Book Ever
A compilation of 3 stories, the third of which ends with baby bunny going to bed! Great to read to your littlest ones, but also a great book for those learning to read. Again, Scarry’s illustrations are delightful. Plenty of objects to count, colours to look at, and vocabulary to learn. Everything necessary to tire out your little ones and lull them into a sleep…
For children learning to Read “The Best Story Book Ever ”
Everything from the alphabet, to dictionary style games to poems, stories and interesting facts. The illustrations are beautiful and this book will appeal to both boys and girls equally. A lovely book that will tantalise tired eyes. And sleep!
And last but not least, Jess recommends...
THE INVENTION OF HUGO CABRET - great for reading to older children
If I had to choose one book only that I have enjoyed reading more than any other to my two children before bed, without hesitation I would say “The Invention of Hugo Cabret”. Perhaps having a film background has something to do with the emotion I felt as I turned each page, as it pays homage to one of the first French pioneers of film, Georges Meliès and references his silent film “A Trip to the Moon”. We connected all the more with this story and it’s characters as the illustrations accounted for more than half of the book. Hand drawn by the author himself, Selznik presents each picture in the style of a film still. We look at each one as if through the eye of the camera. I wouldn’t say it’s the type of book that would lull your young ones into a gentle sleep, it’s more the gripping kind that they won’t let you put down. So the strategy here is to bribe them with, “if you go to sleep now, I’ll read an extra page tomorrow night”. And when the book is finished and has you begging for more, you can see the amazing Scorsese film version. This book is a true gem and one of a kind!
With thanks to Jess for her recommendations. All books are available in the Rosita Lollipop shop in Hitchin (not yet available online)
3. Security Object
A child needs to feel secure and safe and sometimes their bedrooms can be a lonely place, especially if there are no siblings upstairs with them. A favourite toy or blanket can be the ultimate comforter in those situations and can often be the trigger to a good night sleep. For babies YOU are the ultimate security object, so RoRo have developed an amazing soft toy called the Lulla Doll, £49, that actually has real breathing and heartbeat sounds. The doll can also take on the smells of the parent, so is a true comfort to baby. Soft blankets such as this striped Little Rowen & Little Wren lambswool one £132, cotton skull & crossbones one €44.90 from Elodie Details and the soft bamboo Little Jalo one £48, can be a fantastic aid to help babies relax. Soft toys are also a must for bedtimes. Surrounding your child with their teddies, soft dolls and favourite cuddly characters can create a safe haven for them and help them to drift off into a happy sleep. We love this Noodoll dapper chappy £17.50 and Sally Nencini birdie toy £35.
I don't know why, but our daughter has got into the habit of going to bed wrapped up in either her dressing gown, furry onesie or a load of blankets! The other night we went in to check on her and she was sleeping on a yoga mat! What's that all about? She ends up dripping with sweat and we have to wake her up to peel the layers off her, it worries the life out of me. Keeping your childs room cool is a must for a good nights sleep and being too hot can be a risk to their health. It's tempting to keep the room warmer to make it lovely and cosy, but according to Dr Green, M.D. the optimum temperature is between 65 and 70° F. Keeping your baby or child in a single layer of clothing too will keep them comfortable at night and won't allow them to overheat. Roomy sleeping bags are perfect for a baby and this one, €79 by Lab is divine.
5. Make some noise
When babies are in their mummy's tummy, the noise level can reach very loud levels. Instead of the womb being the quiet place scientists once assumed, it is actually awash in sounds, particularly the whooshing of your blood and digestive system, the thumping of your heart and your voice, which sounds louder than it would transmitted through the air since it reverberates through the bones and fluids in your body. Amazingly, the sounds they hear in the uterus are actually twice as loud as a typical vacuum cleaner, so babies love strong rhythmic noises. Soft music, white noise such as a washing machine and nature sound CD's can all help in soothing a baby to sleep. Nature Zoo have some wonderful musical mobiles like this Lion one €39.99. We also love this amazing Mozartkugel ball from Toyella £49.99. A few turns of the key and it makes the most gorgeous sound. The key can be taken out leaving an ultra smooth simple wooden ball that plays the delicate sound of Mozart.
6. Cut the coffee!
You know how a cuppa in the morning can fire you up and get you twitchy? well, this can also happen to your baby. If you're breastfeeding it is a good idea to cut your intake of caffeine as research shows that a strong cup of coffee can stay in the babies system for up to 96 hours (Alan Greene, M.D., author of From First Kicks to First Steps). Even tea and soda can affect a newborn, so cutting it out while breastfeeding can aid in getting your baby to sleep.
7. Create a nice space for your child
If your child is in their own room, you want to ensure their space is somewhere they want to go to. Ensuring there is enough storage, shelves to put their books and trinkets, a comfortable mattress and bedding is essential in creating a relaxing place that they love to be in. Lovely furniture like the Williamsburg cradle £499 from Hugs Factory and the Woodly tripod crib €690 are both stunning for little ones and would make any nursery look spectacular. Soft lighting like this amazing elephant light £159.99 by Lowres at Toyella creates a soft light and is so robust, your child can even sit on it!
8. Don't make eye contact!
Try not to look your baby in the eye when you're putting them to bed, it might seem very difficult to do, but when your baby locks eyes with you, her heart rate speeds up, her blood pressure rises, and she becomes more awake and wired! This is exactly what you want to do in the daytime to aid brain development and bonding, but at nighttime - you just want to get that little monster to sleep!
9. Stay flexible.
If you start a sleep program or routine and it doesn't work out for you, don't beat yourself up. We're all different and what works for some people might not necessarily work for all. Give it a few days or weeks and then try a different tact. The best thing to do is keep calm, work with other family members and try another method. Getting your child into a sleep routine isn't easy but there is help out there. Check around locally for sleep clinics and drop in centres where you will get lots of advice. There are also loads of mums forums full of like-minded parents with fantastic tips and advice and who will offer tons of support.
Good luck and here's to a restful night's sleep.
We would love to hear from you. Do you have any tips on how to get children sleeping through? Do you disagree with any of the points here? Do you feel it is more beneficial to co-sleep with your child? Get in touch!