If you’re like most parents, you probably can’t take more than a couple of steps in your house without tripping over a doll, a stuffed animal or a Tonka truck. You are most likely more than familiar with the sensation of getting those hard, tiny Lego pieces embedded in the bottom of your bare foot, or having to spend ten minutes scooping your child’s dripping army of rubber duckies and plastic fish out of the bathtub after he’s had his bath every night.
I often think toy companies must sit around brainstorming all the different places they should convince parents they need to stockpile toys in order to entertain their kids: the car, the living room, the bathtub and the crib, just to name a few.
Of course, toys are a fun and necessary part of any child’s life, but personally I don’t think there should be any toys in the crib at all. The crib is for sleeping. If it’s filled with brightly coloured plush toys or gadgets that strap onto the rails and make sounds or play songs when your child pushes buttons it is all far too distracting and stimulating for bedtime.
Even a mobile is off-limits if you want your child to learn to sleep properly. While the child may seem to be staring calmly and intently at the pretty floating butterflies above her head, the colours and movement are actually firing up her mind and keeping her awake.
If you put your child to bed in a crib-full of toys to amuse himself, he is far less likely to just close his eyes and go to sleep. Bedtime is obviously a time when you want to be helping your babies and toddlers wind down, but instead you may just be winding them up!
Any sleep specialist will tell an adult struggling with insomnia to limit all activities in the bed so that you send a clear message to your body and brain that when you are in this specific location you are meant to sleep. That means putting away phones, iPods, iPads and laptops and turning off the 10:00 news on your TV. The very same holds true for children. While the toys might not seem as stimulating as electronics, your child will play with them when she should be going to sleep, even if she’s tired. Kind of like you staying up later than you should just to check Facebook one more time…
Despite my general no-toys-in-the-bed philosophy, I do make an exception when it comes to that one special “security” toy, like your child’s favourite stuffed animal or plastic Spiderman or frog puppet… whatever it may be. I’m referring only to that one toy that they cart around all day, or stuff in their pocket, or can’t leave the house without. These beloved toys offer soothing comfort and help your child feel relaxed and safe.
Anything you can do to minimize distractions when it’s time for bed will really help as you are establishing good sleep habits and routines. The more simple and plain your child’s surroundings are, the easier it will be for him to drift into dreamland.
NOW TELL ME.....
Does your baby have a special lovey they sleep with?
I'd love to hear your comments!
I often hear from parents that they aren’t “into” sleep training their children. I’m a sleep consultant and to be perfectly honest, I’m not so much into sleep training either. It’s not the sleep training that I enjoy. It’s the end result which is a well rested, happier, healthier family!
We are a nation of chronically sleep deprived people that continue to miss our sleep cues daily. Our children are simply not getting the rest they need at night and it is an epidemic that needs to be seriously addressed. I know when I’m up multiple times a night for any reason, I feel terrible the next day. Why is it any different for a baby or child? Just because they can’t express themselves in the same way we can, trust me, they feel terrible!
Exhaustion in little ones often manifests itself as hyperactivity and is therefore, unfortunately, not attributed to sleep deprivation. Humans are designed to get consolidated sleep at night and need it in order to feel well rested during the day. Fragmented sleep doesn’t allow for proper brain development and has been linked to childhood obesity, hyperactivity, and an increased risk for diabetes in children.
Most people that question what I do assume that my method of sleep training is a “Cry it Out Method” which has gotten a lot of scrutiny due to the fact that you leave your baby unattended to cry until they go to sleep. My approach couldn’t be more different. My approach is much gentler and, I believe, more effective. It drives me crazy when parents tell me that their baby is a terrible sleeper. That’s because you haven’t taught them to be a good sleeper. EVERY baby can learn to be an amazing sleeper. Just by making some small changes to schedule and feeding times can make a huge difference in how well a baby sleeps.
For me there was absolutely no other way than to sleep train my children and here’s why:
I can always make it to 7pm:
Let’s face it, being a parent is hard work! It takes mental clarity, stamina and consistency that can often make a well rested person feel tired. Knowing every day that my children will be in bed at 7pm, go to sleep easily and not wake until 6:30am the next morning keeps me sane. If my children were up late every night, woke multiple times per night and were up early every day, I simply wouldn’t be as good a mother. And I guarantee I wouldn’t have happy, well adjusted children.
It saves my marriage:
Marriage is hard work and marriage combined with parenthood is extra hard work. Staying connected to your partner after the arrival of children can be challenging at times. My husband and I have gotten every night from 7pm on for the last 7 years (since we became parents) to ourselves. Even though we don’t sit down to a candle light dinner every night at 7pm, we know that time is just ours. 2 hours before we go to bed that is quiet, uninterrupted and blissful. We can actually have an adult conversation and really listen to each other. I am certain my marriage survives and thrives in large part due to our young children’s bedtime.
My children can sleep anywhere:
We have taken our children everywhere with us. We take their stuffed animals and maybe a familiar blanket and wherever we are in the world, they sleep and they sleep well. They can go to grandma’s house and grandma knows they will sleep ALL night long. They know when they are tired and very rarely protest at bedtime. People often say to me that they don’t look tired and can’t believe I am putting them to bed. To that, I say, you’re right, they don’t look tired because they are well rested and know to go to bed before they are overtired. My 5 & 7 year old will ask to go to bed if they have had a particularly long day. My children have gone to bed when we have had a party downstairs!.
I know we will get sleep at night:
My children go to sleep all night long and so do we. We have our own sacred sleep space and they have theirs. My children have never even asked to sleep in my bed and wouldn’t want to. They have their own sleep sanctuary that calls to them every night and it is completely separate from mine. There’s no musical beds or bed sharing in the middle of the night and because of this- we ALL sleep well. I don’t believe that as parents of young children we have to wear our fatigue as some sort of “badge of honor”. Being a rested parent is an amazing gift to give your child.
I thought I would do it differently:
Before our older son was born I definitely had preconceived ideas about how I would parent. He arrived in June of 2009, healthy and amazing! After 6 weeks of co-sleeping I found myself so exhausted that I wasn’t enjoying being a mother the way I imagined it to be. When I found someone to help me teach my baby how to sleep, it changed my life! By 8 weeks of age he was an amazing sleeper and I was able to get the rest I needed to be the best mom I could be.
Figure out a way that works to get your children sleeping:
I am certainly not here to tell you that you have to sleep train your children. 20% of babies become good sleepers on their own. So, if you have one of those babies then that is great! For the other 80% of babies they don’t “outgrow” being bad sleepers and statistics show that 3 years later they are often still struggling with sleep. I had a recent 4 year old client that had NEVER slept through the night in her entire life! The parents thought she would outgrow it. I am here to tell you there is help and I don’t believe it is ever too late to teach your young child to sleep well. I have worked with children up to 8 years old and had great success. Whether or not you agree with sleep training, your children should be getting adequate, consolidated sleep every night.
It’s not always convenient:
Let’s be honest- always being consistent and insisting on bedtimes and naptimes every day is far from glamorous. Life can seem like “Groundhog Day” and the routine can be boring. But, when I see how happy and healthy my children are the monotony of the schedule is TOTALLY worth it! We have missed many Birthday parties, dinners out with friends, and other social engagements that conflicted with our children’s bedtime and naptimes and I don’t care. My children’s health and well-being are more important than any social engagement. I don’t believe children have to fit into our busy schedules. I believe we should respect how much sleep our children need and rearrange our lives to make certain they get it.
How much sleep do babies and children need in a 24 hours?
If your child isn’t getting this much sleep, I would take a good look at your schedule and figure out how to make this a priority starting today. Good sleep hygiene is as important as good nutrition for your children. The priority of adequate sleep often takes a back seat to our busy lives.
If you are struggling with a baby or child that isn’t sleeping well don’t be afraid to ask for help. Whether you just need to make it a priority or be more consistent- do something about it. Don’t spend another day being exhausted because your children aren’t good sleepers. Parenthood is exhausting enough when we’re well rested!
Have questions? Contact me today, firstname.lastname@example.org
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NOW TELL ME......
Is sleep training for you? Why or why not?
I'd love to hear your comments!
Jo Anna Inks
I help tired, frustrated parents get their babies sleeping through the night and napping well so everyone in the family can get the rest they so desperately need!