Sunday, December 29th, 2013
There is no shortage of advice on getting babies and toddlers to sleep.
You’ve read the suggestions. You’ve digested the methods. You’ve probably tried one or more than one (and maybe a lot more than one).
So … why do so many parents struggle with getting babies and toddlers to sleep? Well, here’s a bit of perspective for you.
First, babies and toddlers are not adults. They don’t have our biorhythms. Ridiculously obvious, right? Sure … but it’s something that’s often forgotten when we talk about sleep in the early years. And of course the sleep requirements change, especially over the first few years. So … do yourself a favor and get to know (well) the sleep requirements by age. At least you will know what you are in for and have some benchmarks of what to shoot for.
A related point … as kids get older, not only do their requirements change – sometimes age-related changes in sleep patterns can be disruptive to them. Many toddlers experience shifting sleep patterns in part because they become aware of the different stages of sleep. Put another way, they realize that they are not in a deep sleep, and this can mess them up. Plus nightmares can come into play. Don’t be thrown if you are in a great period of easy sleeping and out of nowhere it changes. And be ready to change your methods when that happens.
Speaking of methods … so which one is the best method? Get ready to roll your eyes, because the best method is the one that you can deliver with consistency. Come up with your own blend (because I know that you’ve already saturated yourself with information on sleep methods) that you think you can do most nights. What undermines sleep the most is a lack of routine. Figure out one that works, and stick with it about the same time every night. Of course life will get in the way (sickness, travel, visitors). But other than that – pick what you are comfortable with, what your kid is comfortable with it, and then do it every night.
As you figure out what works for you, keep in mind that kids are different. You know this, but remember it whenever someone gives you advice about sleep. What works for one kid may not work so well with another kid. Get to know your child, test out some different approaches, and experience will tell you what feels right – even if someone else tells you that you are crazy or something works better.
Here’s one last bit of advice. Although you should be the expert on your child’s sleep, don’t be afraid to get some professional support if you feel like you need it. Sleep is a complex phenomenon, and sleep clinics offer much expertise that can help you set a routine that will work for your child. Don’t be shy about exploring that option.
Sweet dreams to all.
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