Struggling to get your baby or toddler to sleep at night? You’re not alone. Every single parent faces this battle at one point or another. Luckily today I have a guest blogger, Karen, from Sunbeams and Heartstrings who shares her best tips for getting children of ALL ages to sleep restfully.
One of the biggest hurdles as a parent is getting a child to SLEEP. What works for one child may not work for another. I have found a few very successful sleep tips for my children (we are a blended family with 13 kids) that I would love to share with you!
Infants to Age 2
If you nurse or feed your baby a bottle before bed, snuggle with him during the feeding and for a few minutes after. Then lay him in his bassinet/crib. This gives a sense of security and love.
Turn on something soothing. I recommend birds and nature sounds. If your child does not like nature sounds, try a favorite type of music. You do not want something playful, as that does not promote sleep. Any type of white noise such as a fan will also work. This soothes and blocks out other noises you may be making in the house.
Turn on something that shines on the ceiling for your baby to gaze at to fall asleep. I use a turtle that shines stars on the ceiling. It has three color settings or alternates between the three colors (this is the setting I always choose). Other options may include a nightlight that shines a scene on the ceiling, glow stars, a mobile, etc.
If your baby cries a lot at bedtime and seems to not sleep well laying down, a GREAT alternative is sleeping in a swing or bouncer. You can also lay an infant on a Boppy pillow. They make covers that have a velcro harness for keeping your baby safe. I have two kids who suffered from reflux, and these options were absolutely wonderful! Gripe water in their bottles before bed were also a huge help and an all natural solution. It is sold at most stores in the pharmacy or baby section.
Ages 2 +
This is the age when many children are in their own beds (if yours is not, don’t worry, no judgement here! We have coslept, too!) I have found that TV in a bedroom is too much of a distraction. Some people recommend taking all toys out of the bedroom except books, but that is not practical for the size of our family and home. What I have found to REALLY work for us is a clean, organized room and a CD player. If the room is clean and organized, there are fewer distractions. For example, my youngest three girls share a bedroom.
By first glance, it looks like there is not much in their room. In actuality, there are a lot of toys in there, which are organized into bins and put away strategically.
My youngest daughter is 4 and refuses to sleep alone, which is why there are only two beds. We know as parents that sometimes we have to choose our battles, and having her feel secure when she is sleeping is fine with me.
My girls take turns picking a CD to listen to (or radio station). The most popular choice is a DISNEY CD – Cinderella, The Little Mermaid, Cars, The Lion King, toy Story, Beauty and the Beast, Brave, Etc. The CD contains 4 songs then a bedtime story. By the time the story is over, they are ALWAYS out! You can purchase them for $5 at Walmart and $6 at RiteAid. We also use a night light in the bedroom, hallway, and bathroom so they can always see if they need to use the bathroom in the middle of the night (and in case anyone is afraid of the dark).
If you allow a TV in your child’s bedroom, set a sleep timer. If I find the TV gets turned back on, the TV gets swapped out for a radio/CD player for a month. Sleep is very important, especially on school nights. I want my children to have privileges but be respectful and follow rules. I require all electronics to be turned in at 8:00 on a school night. They will stay up all night on them if they could get away with it. I am much more lenient on weekends, holidays, and vacations.
Our bedtime is 8:00 on school nights, 9:00 on weekends for 10 and under, and 10:00 for 11 and up. At 7, everyone gets a snack so they don’t get to bed hungry (we eat dinner at 4:30/5:00). They brush their teeth, use the bathroom, and get dressed for bed. This way there are no “excuses.” They aren’t hungry, thirsty, or have to go potty.
I rub lavender oil on our feet on restless nights to promote better sleep. I am even able to do this for my 1 year old, and he enjoys it. I rub it onto the bottom of his feet and massage it in. It works very well for us! There are other essential oils that may work for you as well.
Transitioning to own bed/room
Transitioning your child to their own bed and/or room can be very tricky! I have found that doing this gradually with the same routine every night is the best. It shows consistency and trust. Start by snuggling in their room, in their bed.
Use whatever bedtime routine you plan to do from here on out (obviously, I recommend one of the routines above). Do this for three days. Then lay in the bed with your child but do not snuggle. Just lay beside your child. Do this for three days also. For the next three days, sit in a chair next to the bed. Then in a chair by the door for three days. Then in a chair outside the bedroom for three days. Now your child is ready to sleep on her own. I go back to check after ten minutes to see how she is doing. It may still take a bit of whining, but usually the gradual transition works out well. And it definitely works much better than doing it cold turkey.
Karen is from Sunbeams and Heartstrings, where she co-blogs with her friend, Sarah. Karen and Sarah are stay at home moms (both due to medical reasons). Karen has a blended family of 13 kids (7 boys, 6 girls) ages 24 to 1. Sarah has 3 year old twin girls, a 1 year old son, and helps raise her 3 year old nephew. Both women enjoy cooking, baking, crafts, and helping others. You can follow them on their blog, Facebook, and Pinterest.