05 Apr 5 Simple Sleep Solutions to Try NOW
The phrase that sleep-deprived new parents hear most frequently is ‘You can’t spoil a newborn.’ It is true, their needs are pretty basic. And if you don’t meet one of those needs, they cry. Full belly? Check. Dry nappy? Check. Too hot or too cold? Oh, there it is! Apparently, babies don’t need 10 extra layers, despite what Nanna thinks.
You may not feel prepared for looking after your tiny human, but you’re totally ready for the constant cuddles and sleepless nights ahead. That is, until the cuddles are so constant you can’t put your baby down and the sleepless nights are dragging on and on.
At some blurry point during those first six months, you realise you’re no longer cuddling a newborn but a tiny dictator who has taken you hostage leaving you unable to shower or eat unless someone else takes over.
Humans are smart creatures, and given the chance we quickly work out our own way of doing something for which we previously relied on others. Babies are no different. Sure, they’re probably going to cry when you finally put them down but there are a few things you can do to help your child find their sleep mojo:
Stop being their prop
This is extremely important in the quest for great sleep. As a ’prop‘, you become the thing they need to fall asleep. You might need to pat their little bum until they drift off or they may need to be touching your face to fall asleep. It sounds cute and sweet but it’s not quite so cute when you’re heading back in hourly until morning.
Lots of parents who fall into this category wind up co-sleeping because it’s the only way for them to get any sleep. However, co-sleeping may no longer work for the parent after a while, for any number of reasons, not least because they’re trying to squeeze themselves onto a tenth of their mattress for fear of crushing their precious offspring.
If this is you, you need to take yourself out of the sleep equation. Find something else for your child to cuddle through the night – a soft toy or blankie. That way, when they wake up all they have to do is grab their alternative and snuggle their way back to sleep.
Take feeds out of the picture.
You may have heard your Child Health Nurse mention ’feed, play, sleep‘ and dismissed or forgotten it because of the gazillion other bits of information you were trying to take onboard simultaneously.
This important information was given to help you avoid getting into the habit of feeding your baby to sleep. Which in turn, would mean not having to feed your toddler (or pre-schooler) to sleep.
This advice goes for both breastfed and bottle fed children. Feeding to sleep also has an effect on your child’s daytime eating habits. If they are consuming a heap of calories overnight, they won’t eat as much during the day.
The easiest way to kick this habit is to do something between the feed and bed. You might give your child a bottle or the boob, read them a book, and then put them to bed. Just a short break between the feed and sleep can make a world of difference. And if they’re old enough and plump enough, avoid the night feed altogether.
Avoid sleeping on-the-move.
Children can very quickly become reliant on movement as their only means of falling asleep. You’ve met the parent who says their child sleeps in the pram (even inside the house) because it’s the only way they’ll fall asleep. It’s such an easy habit to fall into. Keep this up and you’ll soon find yourself having to take them for a drive at 3am because it’s the only way to get them back to sleep.
If you’re falling into this trap with your child, find a way to keep them awake while you’re on the go. Head out for your walk or drive after their nap so they’re not tired before you go or make up some ridiculous song about everything you’re looking at as you’re moving. Sing it loud and proud. Kids love that stuff!
With any change you are making in your child’s life, whether it’s their TV addiction or their sleep habits, be consistent. It’s so important for your child to not only understand what the change is, but be able to achieve success in changing their ways.
If someone does something completely different to what they’ve told you to do, you’re left confused about what they expect from you. Imagine how confusing this is for children who look to their parents for guidance and role-modelling in every aspect of their lives.
Boundaries are something kids actually thrive on – they help your little one navigate their world. Yes, they will push the boundaries and test you to your limits, but if you stay firm and focused they will appreciate it.
Let’s make some noise.
As parents, we seem to fear our child’s cry. This generally stems from the fact a newborn cry means they need something and you’re the only person that can meet that need. Fast forward six months and we’re still rushing in for every little peep our child makes. The problem with this is we’re not taking the time to listen to our babies.
The only way to learn your child’s different cries, and what they mean, is by letting them cry. This is not to say you shouldn’t respond to them, but give them a chance to communicate what they want. Many children cry when they’re tired, but they’re not telling you that YOU have to put them to sleep, just that they want to go to sleep.
So, there you have it. You may not have realised it, and you certainly wouldn’t have meant it, but you could be playing a big role in your child’s inability to sleep through the night and nap like a champion. Take a step back and give them a chance to find their own way. They’ll probably surprise you.