First and foremost, let me just say that each child is different and has different needs. This means that works for one family might not work for another. And even within a family, children may differ in their needs and preferences. That said, I want to share some of my personal tips for good sleep habits for little ones. I am by no means an expert and only speak from my experience with my son.
Also Read: Bye Bye Binkie
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When I first had little M, sleep was an elusive and mysterious thing. Of course, I started searching google and Pinterest for tips and tricks and found a ton of useful information. When he was about 4 months old, his naps were never longer than 45 minutes, and he was waking up almost every hour at night. My husband and I were on the brink of insanity, so we decided to sleep train him.
A friend of mine recommended the sleep sense book which is a modified, more gentle version of the cry it out method, so we decided to go for it. Best. Decision. Ever. Within a week, our baby went from waking every hour to sleeping through the night (8-10 hour stretches). He learned to self-soothe and fall asleep on his own, whereas before we had to rock him to sleep, and he relied on nursing, bottle, or pacifier. Since then, he has been a pretty great sleeper, even though he has had some regression periods (growth spurts or teething). So to keep his sleep in check, there are a few tricks we use.
This is probably the most important and universal one for any child. A nap time/bedtime routine sets them up for rest. When you go through the steps, they know what to expect next, and don’t resist sleep. The routine can include a bath, clean diaper, fresh pajamas, story time, songs, cuddles, and nursing/bottle. Ours was bath/grooming, fresh diaper and pj’s, and the book and lullaby while he nursed or had a bottle. For naps, we skipped the bath and pj’s.
When we were sleep training our son, we discovered he sleeps much better in a dark environment. At the time I just covered his window with a blanket for darkness, but eventually, we got some blackout curtains. Darkness mimics night, so it’s easier to sleep. (Stating the obvious here, sorry.)
Designated sleep spot.
Because kids like routine, it’s best for them to have a specific place for sleep. Changing their sleeping arrangements often will likely lead to confusion and resistance. This does mean that you should try to be home for naps and nights whenever possible. Little M has been sleeping in his crib since he was sleep trained, and the only time that changes is when we travel, and then he sleeps in a pack n play. When we travel, I like for him to still feel that the pack n play is his sleep spot, so we keep it familiar with a blanket from home, a dark room, and his sound machine. A dockatot is quite useful for travel too, and we did use our deluxe dock when we traveled while little M was a baby.
We started using this at the hospital to drown out all the sounds of the maternity ward. We also liked it at home to drown out noisy neighbors, barking dogs or whatever other loud sounds were happening outside. I always found it weird when babies slept in complete silence and everyone in the house had to tiptoe around. The white noise machine allows baby to sleep soundly while the rest of the household functions as usual.
Little M never took to a lovey or blankie, but I know some kids have a special comfort item that they prefer to sleep with. Just make sure it’s safe, something small that won’t suffocate your child (check with your child’s pediatrician if you’re not sure). Little M did let us cover him with a light blankie for a bit when the weather was cooler, but that was it. He prefers his crib completely empty (if I leave a lovey or stuffed animal in there, he will throw it out).
Those are all my sleep tips for little ones! There is no one magic solution, you just have to figure out what’s best for your child and family, and sometimes the only way to do that is through trial and error. Remember that this too shall pass and that you might even miss those late nights rocking your teeny babe for the umpteenth time. I hope this helps you! Good luck!
Do you have any sleep tricks that you swear by?