A battle free bedtime is truly the Holy Grail of every single parent I’ve ever known. Imagine just laying junior down and walking away to silence. No tears, no tantrums, no broken heart as you stand just outside the door trying desperately not to go in to them as they whimper and wail. Yep, bedtimes are tough.
But it’s a battle that for your own health as a parent you’ve got to win. The better rested you are the better parent you can be to your little bundle of joy. No good can come of sleep deprivation. That way lies demons like an impaired immune system, raised anxiety and stress, weight gain, increased risks of high blood pressure, cardiovascular issues and even cancer. Eek!
Below are a number of possible solutions to your baby bedtime battles but there is a caveat, every child is different and any sleep advice we give here might work for one and fail dramatically for another. The key is to experiment and not give up hope.
Often the real bedtime battle when it comes to getting a baby to sleep, is not between parent and child but between a parent’s head and heart. Mom and dad often know exactly what has to be done but so many times fail when it comes to implementation. The consequences of this lack of willpower tend to be sleep deprivation for everyone.
It is hugely important that children learn to fall asleep on their own, without you being present. Not only will this make bedtime easier for everyone involved it will also make the rest of the night so much simpler when they wake up.
Nicholas Long, PhD, a child psychologist at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, explains the problem. “The reason children wake up is not the issue…The issue is learning to fall back to sleep on their own.”
You see children learn to associate certain environments with sleep, and if you as a parent are present when they nod off initially you are part of that familiar environment. When they wake in the night and you’re not there, they are going to struggle to fall asleep again.
Stick to routines
No matter the age of your child, three months to thirteen years, one piece of advice remains constant – stick to routines. The human brain adores consistency. That means try to give bubs a feed at the same times each day, naps at the same time each day, and bedtimes at the same time each day.
Now, obviously circumstances won’t always allow this level of consistency, neither will your baby, but it’s important for you to try, where possible.
The benefit of routines won’t just be felt by your little one, they will be felt by you too. If you can miraculously get junior to settle at the same time each night, that means you too can settle at the same time each night. The positive consequences of that on your health are absolutely huge.
The crack team of slumber experts at the sleepadvisor.org discuss things like pre-bed routines all the time. It’s something they consider to be one of the most important things you can do for quality sleep, no matter your age.
Create the right sleep environment
Children’s bedrooms should be sanctuaries of sleep, zen-like palaces of relaxation. It might seem like a great idea to paint that jungle mural on the wall but in fact you are just providing ammunition to an already overactive imagination. Ensure the colour scheme and decor of your child’s bedroom is tranquil, blues and mellow yellows are proven to promote sleep.
Make sure any and all toys are picked up and tidied away out for sight before nightfall. When junior’s eyes start to work, any shape or interesting object in their field of vision is going to provide a distraction. Now of course this can sometimes be used to your advantage, such as mobiles but you want this to be under your control.
Whilst you are at it, do a sound audit of your child’s room. That probably means spending a night in there yourself. You might not be aware of it but there could be house-based issues such as creaking pipes and groaning heating systems that are triggers for your baby to wake up. If they are at too young an age to explain exactly what the issue is you may not be aware of it yourself.
Well, there you have it – three potential solutions to overcoming your baby-based bedtime battles. Of course they are not cast-iron guaranteed to work. Nothing is in this world. But give them ago and don’t give up hope.
The key to getting junior to sleep is out there, somewhere. The most important thing is to be tough and do what is right for both of you and child not necessarily what you feel is right in your soppy heart. Otherwise you might end up sharing a bed with you child until they are 7 years old. Nobody wants that now do we?!