Investing in Your Childs Future
WIN FREE Behaviour Whee
Questions About Sleep
By Lynne Reeves
done everything you can to promote healthy sleep habits in your child and still
your child sleeps less than optimally. Take heart: You're not alone. Poor sleep
habits can arise any time in your child's first three years, and the sooner you
put a plan in place, the sooner healthy sleep patterns will emerge.
Here are some common sleep issues for young children ages’ birth to three
years old and some strategies for setting things straight.
Q: My three-week-old baby is asleep all day and awake all night. What can I do?
A: There are a few things you can do. First, be patient. This is normal in a
newborn and will get better as his neurological system matures. Second, get
sleep when your baby sleeps...you need your energy to care for your baby. Third,
make sleep the priority, not household chores and visiting. Fourth, ask your
friends and family to help you out with housework...they really do want to help.
Fifth, put your baby to bed before he's fully asleep. The earlier your baby
begins to learn to soothe himself, the better. Sixth, remember "night
time=quiet time." Your baby will eventually learn daytime is playtime, and
night time is for sleeping.
Q: My six-month-old baby sleeps in his crib at night, but only for two hours at
a time. Can I do anything to change that?
A: Begin by reviewing what you can expect from a six-month-old baby. Generally,
a six-month-old baby can sleep through the night with a nap during the day.
Next, start a journal of your baby's sleep patterns and the associations he
makes to fall asleep. Look at your baby's sleep associations. Is your baby only
falling asleep if you rock him to sleep or after an elaborate routine? Instead,
keep the routine simple -- one story or song and then bed. Also, limit daytime
sleep to no longer than one or two sleep cycles, approximately fifty minutes
each, and keep your baby awake 15 minutes longer each time before you put him
back to sleep. Your baby needs to sleep in longer periods less often. Finally,
reassure him if crying is prolonged or distressed, but continue with the routine
of placing him (on his back and awake) in bed, and leaving the room.
Q: I sing, rock, and read to my one year-old child. But no matter how pleasant I
make bedtime, she still cries when I leave. I started sitting in her room until
she fell asleep. Now I have my mattress in the room on the floor and still she
cries every time I put her down. Where do I go from here?
A: Your child has developed some complex sleep associations. The most
troublesome one is that your child can't fall asleep without you. Start by
simplifying the routine -- one story or song in the rocker, then the crib, then
you leave. Use the same routine each time your child goes to bed. Your child
needs predictability. If your child is crying and needs reassurance, you may go
in after two to three minutes, but don't talk -- just rub her back and leave.
Then extend the length of time you wait to go in again, because your child needs
time to learn to rely on herself. Also, make these changes to the routine when
you know you can follow through, not before a vacation or if you're going out
the next evening. This common sleep problem can be solved quickly as long as you
are consistent and stick with your plan. If you give up, the behaviour will
Q:My two and one half year-old used to sleep like a dream. Now he is afraid to
go to bed. He has also started waking in the middle of the night and is acting
frightened. Should I just let him sleep in our bed until he grows out of it?
A: It is fine to consider the "family bed," but not as a solution to a
sleep problem. You must either adopt it long-term, or not adopt it at all.
Separation anxiety is a common reason why good bedtime routines fall apart, and
setting firm yet loving limits is important. Try to see this time as an
opportunity for you to help your child learn to soothe himself. Start by always
reassuring him that you are near and he is safe, and never try to sneak out or
away from your child. This only reinforces what he is afraid of -- that you'll
disappear and leave him alone and helpless. Continue with a simple routine. You
may need to reassure him more often, but don't alter the routine, and wait a
longer period of time before you go in again. Don't be afraid to set limits on
behaviour, and be patient. Separation anxiety will get better as your child is
reassured and limits are set.
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