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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Baby Girl Sleeping via Shutterstock.com
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babies and sleep, Health, Kids Health, Sleep clinic, sleep methods, sleep problems, toddlers and sleep | Categories:
Behavior, Health, Must Read, Parenting, Red-Hot Parenting
Wednesday, November 30th, 2011
If you have a baby younger than 1 year of age, I hope you have had a chance to review the new guidelines to promote safe sleeping offered by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) (click here to see the GoodyBlog post on this if you haven’t seen these yet). In addition to providing the latest thinking aimed at keeping your baby healthy and safe, I think these kinds of recommendations serve another important function: they remind us that there are principles to follow that override the often polarizing debates about sleep methods.
In particular, I’d like to emphasize how the AAP is using a platform that combines clinical observations along with research to generate their guidelines. So when they suggest that babies under 1 should NOT sleep in a bed with a parent, but SHOULD sleep in the same room as a parent, they have only 1 thing in mind – the safety of your baby. And notice that their suggestion sort of splits the difference between bed-sharing and cry-it-out: your baby should be close by but not by your side.
Now of course this recommendation applies to the infancy period. As your baby gets older you can start to morph your child’s sleep routine into whatever works for all of you. But I suggest that you remember to consult resources such as those offered by the AAP website to help you make sure that your decisions are executed safely throughout your child’s life.
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Thursday, June 30th, 2011
In my last two posts, I presented recent evidence that, on average, kids today are getting an hour less sleep per night than prior generations, and that shortened sleep in toddlerhood leads to metabolic changes that increase fat gain and signal risk for type 2 diabetes.
The accumulation of study after study documenting sleep loss in childhood and risk for serious physical disease suggests to me that we (experts and parents alike) have been debating the wrong issue when it comes to sleep. So much emphasis is given to debating the pros and cons of the various sleep methods, I think we are all missing the big point: what really matters is not the method, but rather the outcome of getting our children enough sleep.
The reality is that there is a wide spectrum of sleep training methods — cry-it-out, co-sleeping, and nearly infinite variations that combine some elements of each. Rather than debate the finer points of these approaches, I suggest that parents try whatever methods seem to suit them and their children best, and then determine if the chosen method is getting their child the required amount of sleep (graded by age group) on a consistent basis. If it is, then a parent has found the best method for them. If it isn’t, then the method should be revisited and revised. The only thing that matters in the end is the outcome, because we are in the midst of a sleep epidemic that can be observed in toddlers, children and adolescents. And the many potential consequences of sleep deprivation do not bode well for our children’s long term health.
I remember when we used to call sleep methods “bedtime routines.” I still like this phrase — it sounds soothing and purposeful. Rather than debate sleep methods, I’d love to know what parents are doing for their children’s bedtime routines, especially if they are finding that it is getting their children enough sleep. Remember, the issue is not to critique other parents’ routines - I want to know what works in your household. The fact is that if we can get as many parents as possible to find their own ways to ensure their children are well-rested, then we can start to combat the sleep epidemic that is putting more and more children’s health in jeopardy. And, by the way, if you evaluate your own situation, and determine that your child is not getting enough sleep, I suggest you do what I did when my then 2-year-old daughter rebelled and resisted sleep (night after night and then week after week) — I sought out the expertise of a sleep clinic, which worked wonders (and was covered by insurance)!
Image by Arvind Balaraman via FreeDigitalPhotos.net
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