Babies - much like adults - need their sleep at night. As any experienced parent can tell you, a baby who hasn’t got her rest is not a happy baby. And yet, despite the obvious importance of a good night’s rest, encouraging proper sleeping habits isn’t always easy. Getting your little one to drift off at night can be a serious challenge at times.
In some of our past articles, we’ve looked at the best techniques to help encourage your child to sleep at night. In this week’s article, we’ve decided to take a look at the behaviours and approaches you should avoid. We outline what we believe are the five most common mistakes that parents make when trying to improve their child’s sleeping patterns. Take a look.
1) Skipping the Regular Sleep Routine
Babies - much like adults - need a familiar nightly routine in order to prepare for sleep. A familiar routine before bed helps signal to babies that it’s time to sleep, and helps get them in the right frame of mind. This routine might involve closing the bedroom curtains, dimming the lights, playing some calming music and reading a bedtime story. Some parents find a warm bath before bedtime is helpful too.
Whatever the routine happens to be, it’s important to stick to it. One of the most common mistakes parents make - when trying to encourage their child to sleep - is failing to be consistent. Although it’s not always possible to follow your routine (if you happen to be staying in a friend or relative’s home, or on a holiday abroad), it’s important to follow a routine as much as possible. Without a set of familiar signals that it’s time to relax and go to sleep, your baby will find it difficult to fall asleep at a regular hour.
2) Overstimulation Before Sleep
When it comes to bedtime routines, it’s important to keep it quiet and low-key. Avoid anything that might be too stimulating for your little one. Certain types of games, forms of entertainment, or activities might get your baby over-excited and unable to sleep, so keep this in mind.
When you’re setting your baby down, too, try to create an environment of calm. Use a soft, calm-inducing voice and gentle movements. Dim the lights and try ensure the environment is quiet and calm.
3) Late Bedtimes
Newborns tend to sleep and feed at irregular hours. By around 4 months or so, however, you can start trying to establish a more consistent routine. One mistake many parents make, however, is thinking that it’s ok to let your baby stay awake past a regular bedtime, as this will tire them out. Waiting for your baby to get so tired she falls asleep can be counter-productive, however. Babies - just like adults - can get overtired, which can actually prevent them from being able to sleep. It’s much better - for this reason - to establish a regular bedtime. Aim to have your baby ready for sleep at 7 or 8pm every night. This will be surprisingly helpful
4) Inconsistent Nap-times
Naps are perfectly natural and even necessary for young babies. However, it’s important that your baby learns to differentiate between nap-time and awake-time. By allowing your baby to fall asleep at any point during the day, you run the risk of confusing her and encouraging poor sleep patterns. For this reason, you should stick to a roughly similar time every for her naps.
Not only that, but you should also be cautious about allowing naps while out and about. Many babies and young children drift off to sleep in their buggies, while you are out doing errands, or taking a stroll. If this becomes a common occurrence, however, they might find it difficult to fall asleep without the repetitive motion of the buggy.
5) Waiting until Baby is Asleep
Although this is bound to happen sometimes, try avoid getting into the habit of putting your baby to bed after she’s already fallen to sleep. Instead, when you notice your little one getting drowsy, aim to bring her to her crib or cot and get her ready that way. Essentially, you want to create an association in your child’s mind between ‘sleepiness’ and being in her bed.