It’s always worrying when your child misses out on a full night’s sleep. Lucy Shrimpton, The Sleep Nanny® shares her top tips for helping both you and your little one get some much needed sleep during the peak cold and flu season.
I recommend getting a good bedtime routine in place as early as age 2-3 weeks. This should consist of the same steps occurring in the same order every evening. A routine acts as a trigger for sleep time, helping the child to prepare to settle down. Try to be as consistent as you can with bedtime to help aid a full night’s sleep.
A typical routine could involve:
- Bath or wash
- Dress for bed and into the room where baby will sleep
- Last milk feed of the day (if required)
- Teeth brushing
- Short story or song
- Into bed awake
- No further engagement. Just follow your plan whether that be sitting with them or leaving the room. My Fade Out approach or Regulated Responding will be suitable for different personalities
- Respond to night wakings with what you did/where you were when they settled to sleep at bedtime
Be consistent with how you respond to your little one and they will learn what they are supposed to do, helping them to become a great little sleeper! If you do not allow them in your bed most of the time, but then allow them to come in after 5am, this will cause confusion. If you say no to a toddler request 10 times and then cave in (otherwise known as intermittent reinforcement), you teach them to hold out longer and harder next time (and you could find yourself with a monster on your hands!).
The common misconception that wearing your child out will help them sleep better is often not the case. Occasionally you may see a big catch up sleep from exhaustion. However, often a child who is not getting adequate daytime sleep will be over tired and can have a harder time settling, resulting in disturbed nights and early rising around 4.30/5.00 am.
Teach your child to self settle
Putting oneself to sleep is a learned skill. It does not mean you need to leave your child to cry or get into a state. There are a number of gentle and responsive ways you can help your child develop this skill that are in line with their developmental readiness. Most parents put their babies to sleep in a way that ‘does it for the baby’ such as rocking or feeding to sleep. The baby relies on this to be done to them or for them in order to fall asleep. As a parent it helps to find ways that can soothe and reassure the baby, and help baby to sleep without doing it all for them. This allows you to help less and baby does more of the settling themselves until they fully master the skill and can settle without help. This is much kinder than leaving a baby to cry and figure it all out on their own when so far you’ve taught them that feeding or rocking is how they settle.
Ask for help
It’s important to remember that you don’t have to try and figure this out alone. There is no badge of honour for suffering through this precious time. Expert help is available and can help you get on with enjoying your little ones and feeling great while protecting the whole family’s health, well-being and happiness.
When sleep is disturbed by pain or fever
As we go into the winter months, pain or fever caused by cold or flu, can impact on your child’s sleep. If they are unwell, there are ways you can help them to feel more comfortable, including offering them plenty of fluids, providing fresh air during the day, putting them to bed in light clothing, and providing plenty of cuddles, quiet stories and comfort during the day, so they feel as content as possible when going to bed. If you are unsure about your child’s symptoms, seek doctor’s advice.
When your child is waking early: pre-6:00am
Don’t start the day before 6am, and respond to any waking before 6am as a night waking and respond appropriately. If that means going in and sitting close by ‘sshh-ing’ intermittently, so be it. This is often the worst time for parents to be disturbed from their sleep and many cave in at this time either letting little one’s into their beds or just getting up. Don’t offer milk, water or anything else as a means to get little one back to sleep (unless it’s genuine hunger). If there is no resettle by 6am, use ‘animated wake-up’ by stepping out of the room for one minute and then re-enter as though it’s morning time. Open the curtains, turn on lights and wake the room up. It’s important to distinctly start the day and differentiate daytime from night time. Ultimately, the resolution is going to be to help your little one be better rested all round because it’s over tiredness that causes these early wake ups.
Lucy Shrimpton (The Sleep Nanny®), author of The Sleep Nanny System
TOP TIP: Nurofen for Children 3 months to 9 years Strawberry Oral Suspension provides up to eight hours of pain and fever relief, to help get a full night’s sleep. Contains ibuprofen. Always read the label.