Do you often ask in a fit of fury or in an exasperated voice, “Why won’t my kids sleep???”
OMG, right!? Have you been struggling with trying to understand what the heck is going on with your kids sleep? Do you have a newborn, infant, tot, preschooler, schooler, or teenager? Have you not had sleep from the beginning until where you are now? Ok…enough with the questions. It is probably because your child has never learned to fall asleep on their own and have continued this cycle. You may have offered them a crutch to fall asleep and they can’t sleep without it. Their naps suck, their sleep sucks, they wake through the night, they wake early, they take forever to fall asleep, and the list goes on and on… I have heard it all. BUT, I can tell you the one thing that can alleviate this….you ready??
Kids thrive off it! Kids (secretly) love it! Kids succeed with it! Consistency! …it’s the word of the day (or maybe, just this blog).
Here is how I would like to see you be consistent!
Wake-times: Your child needs to be consistently waking at (or around) the same time every morning (or naps). This will set up success for the rest of your day and keep everything on track. This will be the beginning of your routine. However, you can vary your times and allow your (older) child to sleep in if they need it. Some examples where this is required include: transitioning out of naps, starting school, for those teenagers – a chance to catch up. What is awesome is if they vary their wake-ups once and a while, it is sooo much easier for them to jump back on to their “normal” routine.
Meal-times: A hungry kid will eat better, right. No brainer. If you child is snacking throughout the day (this includes nursing, bottle feeding), your child is never going to be hungry…until it is sleep time. “Ummm, mom, I eat throughout the day and I am hungry now at 1am….munch, gulp, drink, ummm, mom it is 2 am, I am hungry again…gulp, sip,….5am…” says a young baby waking in the night looking for food. Think of it this way; if your baby is having structured mealtimes, you will notice that they will snack less and sleep more! When you have a structured meal time for older kids, all it takes is some planning on your end and it is less of a shock to your child’s system when they go to daycare or to school. Meal times are also a great cue that sleep is coming soon (but be sure it is not immediately before sleep *see bed-time for more info*).
Nap-times: So obviously, this is only for age appropriate kidlets (5 years and younger). Children have natural sleep drives and they get better more restorative sleep during these times. So for 15 months and younger – 2 naps (am and after lunch) and for 15 months + 1 nap (after lunch). Nap times will keep everything on track and hopefully prevent the tantrums and over-tiredness/crankiness that is known for tired babes and tots. PLUS, they give us parents a break to nap ourselves (oh, ya, we can!), breathe without having a small human hanging off our leg, drink (sorta) warm coffee, or catch up on some awesome blogs. There is soo many things we can do with 2 hours…oh ya, their naps should range between 1.5-2hrs.
Bed-time: This is The BIG ONE!!!!!! A consistent bed-time routine is so important. This is cueing your little one that bedtime is coming. For your big person, this could mean that they turn off all electronics at least 1 hr before bedtime. For the smaller kiddies, a consistent bedtime routine is crucial with emotionally gearing them up for dream-land. I strongly encourage you to make this a positive rendition of your day. So for a baby, tot, schooler, etc, this could look like “snack (or big nurse/bottle), bath, massage/cream, story/song, hug and kiss goodnight” (the big kids can get a hug and kiss too). The routine should not last more than 30 mins. You might get some tears. They might protest. They might get out of bed. Consistent. Consistent. Consistent. You need to stay consistent with your approach and response, so like your routine, your approach will be what they expect. This will become much less confusing for a small person and once they get that you are not going to budge, they will cave. You may say to yourself…”I know my kid, they won’t budge”. I say “Yes. They. Will.”
Oh, and one more thing. Have an early bedtime…especially if there are some huge changes happening (Start daycare, school, removal of nap). Children sleep much better and with less night wakings when they are NOT overtired.
Just remind yourself that YOU need to stay consistent and routines do takes time to develop. It will all come together, just gather up your patience and some wine, chocolate, and/or ice cream, or whatever will help you through this transition. And besides, who doesn’t want their kid to go to bed early and give us some grown up time, with wine and chocolate?