Solving Sleep Problems in Your Young Child
If the title of this article caught your eye, you may already be struggling with sleep deprivation and trying to convince your young child to stay in bed. Whether you are at this point or looking to create healthy bedtime habits from early on, it’s good to be aware of your family’s sleep patterns and learn strategies to help you all on the way to uninterrupted sleep.
The key to establishing healthy sleep patterns for your child is choosing an approach that suits your child and family, and then practicing the Three Cs of good sleep habits: consistency, consistency, consistency! Of course, once good patterns are established, you can be flexible on occasion. But keep in mind that every time you change the plan, your child must adjust. Your child’s sleep pattern will be altered by vacations and late-night visits with friends, and her behavior the next day will remind you how wonderful a good routine can be.
Even if you’ve done everything you can to promote healthy sleep habits in your child, he may at times sleep less than optimally. Take heart: you’re not alone. Poor sleep habits can arise any time in your child’s early years, but the sooner you put a solid plan in place, the sooner healthy sleep patterns will emerge.
Here are some common sleep issues parents must contend with and some strategies for setting things straight.
Mistaking Night for Day
In the first few months of life, your baby doesn’t yet understand the distinction between day and night. This can be frustrating for a tired mom and dad, but there is something you can do about it.
- Be patient. This behavior is normal in a newborn and will get better as her neurological system matures.
- Sleep when your baby sleeps. You need your energy to care for your baby. Make sleeping your priority, not household chores and visiting.
- Ask your friends and family to help you out with housework: they really do want to help. Some of them may have already volunteered their help–take them up on it!
- Put your baby to bed before she’s fully asleep. The earlier your baby begins to learn to soothe herself, the better.
- Remember “nighttime equals quiet time.” Your baby will eventually learn that daytime is playtime, and nighttime is for sleeping. Keep lights, sounds, and socializing to a minimum during middle of the night feedings.
Separation anxiety is a common reason why good bedtime routines fall apart. Setting firm yet loving limits is important in dealing with this situation. Try to see this time as an opportunity for you to help your child learn to calm 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 then leave the room, but don’t alter the routine. Next wait a longer period of time before you go in again. Don’t be afraid to set limits on behavior, and be patient. Separation anxiety will get better as your child becomes reassured and limits are set.
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