Getting your child to go to sleep and stay asleep is one of the biggest challenges of early parenthood. A far as major undertakings with lasting consequences, I’d say it ranks right up there with potty training. Probably even a little higher.
Setting up healthy sleep habits is important for so many reasons. First, if your child isn’t sleeping well, no one else in your family is either. The sleep deprivation just tends to spread, and that’s really tough.
Second, children need sufficient sleep. (Adults do too, but that’s beyond the subject of today’s post.) According to Johns Hopkins,
“Studies have shown that kids who regularly get an adequate amount of sleep have improved attention, behavior, learning, memory, and overall mental and physical health. Not getting enough sleep can lead to high blood pressure, obesity and even depression.”
But of course, knowing sleep is important and getting your child to sleep well aren’t the same. There are a few tips you can follow in order to get your child to go to bed and stay there.
First, use healthy sleep habits to get your child to sleep
A bedtime routine can be really important in setting the stage for good sleep. While it might be fun for dad to oversee a full-blown wrestling match five minutes before bedtime, that’s an activity better suited for daytime.
Instead, focus on activities that are relaxing. Minimize screen time. Give your child a bath. Read a bedtime story.
Following a consistent routine each night tells your child bedtime is coming. These cues can help their body settle in and prepare for sleep.
Second, try to avoid creating unhealthy sleep associations
To the extent possible, you don’t want your child associating sleep with unrelated things (like eating, for example). You can do this most easily when your child is still an infant.
Avoid rocking them all the way to sleep. You can rock them, of course, but then lay them down drowsy so they learn to fall asleep on their own.
Try not to give Baby a bottle or breastfeed Baby to put him or her to sleep.
(This is a case of do-as-I-say-and-not-as-I-did for me. I was terrible about this and we paid for it later. My babies got used to being fed to sleep, so whenever they’d wake up, they’d expect a bottle or breast to put them back to sleep again. I give that zero stars – do not recommend.)
Third, be consistent, even through sleep regressions
It’s relatively easy to be consistent about your child’s sleep habits when things are going well. When you’re only putting Baby to bed once and not seeing them again until 5-8 hours later? No problem!
Where it gets tricky is when your baby goes through one of the sleep regression ages and stages. That’s when exhaustion tests your resolve.
Following through on positive, healthy sleep habits can help ensure the sleep regression is only a stage. Failing to hold the line here can lead to permanent changes in your baby’s sleep patterns. Often, breaking negative sleep habits ends up more challenging than simply avoiding them in the first place.
Finally, make going to sleep a pleasant experience
This can be tough for parents sometimes. When you’re exhausted at the end of a long day, tackling the bedtime marathon can seem overwhelming. You may be tempted to skip steps in your bedtime routine or phone it in.
Just know that doing your best to make bedtime a positive experience will help your child. They’ll associate bedtime and sleep with feeling loved. A child who goes to bed feeling safe and happy is more likely to go to sleep successfully (and stay asleep).
I hope you find these tips for getting your child to sleep helpful. If you’re going through a tough sleeping phase in your house, sometimes the best thing you can do for yourself is remember that it’s temporary.
It may pass like a kidney stone, but it will pass!