Get good sleep habits
As any parent will tell you, there is nothing more important than sleep!
Unfortunately, so many of our precious little darlings fail to get the message on this important subject but sleep coach Niamh O’Reilly is ready to help.
Her new book, No Fuss Baby and Toddler Sleep, aims to arm parents with the know-how to teach little babies and toddlers better sleep habits, without crying all night.
Niamh believes there are always underlying reasons that explain your child’s sleep pattern.
Here are ten of the most frequently occurring issues that may negatively impact on the development of healthy sleep patterns. Bear in mind, though, that they do not always create problems; if, for example, your baby is falling asleep on a bottle and still sleeps until morning without problems, then leave things as they are!
Are any of these familiar?
- Your child needs to be rocked or sung to sleep.
- Your child has become over-reliant on a soother.
- Your child has developed the habit of falling asleep on a bottle at naptime and at bedtime, or your breastfed baby has developed the habit of falling asleep at feed time.
- You have an older child and for fear of waking him or her, you react too quickly when your baby wakens.
- Your baby is still in your room after six months.
- Your little one is not getting enough sleep during the day. Strange as it may seem, overtiredness is often a real problem.
- You do not have a fairly well-established sleep routine during the day.
- You try anything and everything to get your little one to sleep, but give nothing a decent chance to work. We all learn by repetition, but babies learn nothing from a mix of events during the night.
- Your child is hungry. Remember, we are talking about babies older than six months when we are considering sleep train- ing, and at that stage they should be taking solid food as well as milk feeds.
- Your child simply doesn’t know what is expected of him or her at bedtime.
So what are the sleep facts?
Here are a few things to bear in mind when you embark on a new bedtime/naptime format, some of which I have touched on already when talking about helping with pre-sleep routines:
- Nobody sleeps through the night. We all – babies, children and adults alike – wake during the night, but we are usually able to go back to sleep without much bother. Perhaps just a flip of the pillow will do and we are asleep again. So it is not this fic- titious holy grail of sleeping through the night that we should be aiming for. Realistically, nobody sleeps for twelve hours straight through, without waking at some point or another. A really solid block of sleep would actually be around five hours! Most children, and many babies, actually have this, but what is at issue is their inability to go back to sleep without parental support when they wake between sleep cycles. This is what we want to work on and, ultimately, help them to achieve. We can confuse babies and small children when we are helping them to resettle – this is especially so when we combine too many strategies, including picking them up, rocking them, shushing, giving a soother, giving a bottle, etc., but rarely doing the same thing twice. The aim of the game is to deliver one consistent message: it’s time to sleep!
- The ideal bedtime from five or six months of age onwards (some babies will manage this at four months) is between 7 p.m. and 7.30 p.m.
- Bottle-fed babies on three good solid meals a day should not require any further bottles during the night. They may want them for comfort, but not because they are hungry.
- allowing your bottle-fed baby to drink bottles late at night, or throughout the night, you may end up establishing habits that are difficult to sustain. Find an alternative way of settling baby, even if the little one initially becomes cranky and a bit cross. Once you are delivering the same message, your baby will soon get used to the fact that there is no bottle forthcoming and, more often than not, they will forget about it within a couple of nights.
- The last thing your child does before going to sleep is often the first thing they remember when waking. Should your child fall asleep in your arms or with a feed or bottle at bedtime, the little one may want the same ‘treatment’ every time he or she wakes at night. It’s not the child’s fault, just a habit children become used to. But, as the saying goes, ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.’ Many of the issues associated with settling children, such as rocking or staying with their children, are not problematic for a lot of parents; it is often a question of how helpful versus how disruptive parents find any given settling method.
- Siblings can share rooms very successfully.This might surprise you, but quite often they are very happy having each other around at bedtime. They will see it simply as quite normal and even quite nice!
You can get more tips and advice on achieving an (almost) perfect nights sleep with little people in No Fuss Baby and Toddler Sleep by Niamh O’Reilly. Published by Mercier Press, it is available from all good bookshops, priced €14.99 .