Christmas is fast-approaching; while many parents of young children are stressing about last-minute gift purchases, others simply want to get their wee ones and themselves some proper sleep in time for the Big Guy’s arrival.
Managing an overtired toddler as you host out-of-town guests, or navigating your 6-month old’s multiple night wakes while spending the week at Grandma’s, can take its toll on a family’s happy holidays.
To get sleep in time for Santa, here are five great tips to get you started and have your whole fam
ily getting the rest they need in time for Saint Nick!
Create a consistent bedtime routine: As much as we’d love it to be true that babies and toddlers could “go with the flow” at all times, adhere to their parents’ schedules and wishes, and still be superstar sleepers, that’s simply not how sleep works. The bottom line? Babies and toddlers love predictability and consistency, and don’t enj
y surprises in their scheduling. One fantastic way to help your child become familiar and comfortable with sleep routines is to create (and stick to!) a very consistent bedtime routine. Same steps, same order, every night. Start with a bath (the best cue you can give your little one that sleep time is coming up!), then into PJs, read a couple of stories, kisses and hugs, and lights out! The more consistently consistent you are (yes, you heard me: consistently consistent! Anyone sensing a theme here?), the more easily your child will go to sleep on his own.
Give white noise a try: Because it’s hard to fall asleep when there’s a party going on outside (or when mom is banging around pots and pans while Christmas baking … or when Dad is busy putting up the Christmas tree… or your big brother is running his ne
dinky cars up and down the hallway outside your room!) Studies show that white noise, played at a safe volume and at a safe distance from your child’s crib, can be very helpful in drowning out external sounds to help your baby fall asleep and stay asleep.
Feed your baby when she wakes (but not before naps!): Try to stick to a schedule of Wake, Eat, Play, Sleep, that sees your baby feeding when she wakes (for the day, and from naps), but not feeding to sleep for naps or for bedtime. Proper nutrition and healthy sleep go hand-in-hand; feeding at wake-time rather than naptime will encourage your baby to take bigger, proper, more efficient daytime feeds (rather than dozing off on the breast or bottle before she has filled her tummy), and will also avoid the sleep crutch of feeding to sleep, which many babies become reliant on, making it difficult for them to learn to fall asleep on their own and sleep through the night as well as take proper naps.
Alter your night feed strategy: If your baby is still needing nighttime feeds, try to change up your usual middle-of-the-night routine so that that feed becomes less interesting and is less likely to become a habit one your child no longer needs it. When you go to your child’s crib at night, change her diaper first so that she does not associate waking with instantly feeding. Then, keep your baby stimulated while she feeds so you can place her back in her crib awake and she can learn to fall asleep on her own, rather than using a “prop” (i.e. breastfeeding or bottle-feeding to sleep).
Avoid drowsiness at bedtime: But, wait! All the books are telling me to put my baby down “drowsy but awake!” Unfortunately, as most mamas who’ve tried this technique will tell you, “drowsy but awake” simply does not work! Why? Because by getting your little one drowsy before bedtime (you know what I mean: the droopy eyelids, the bobbing head!), you’ve done most of the work to get your child to sleep, and he will then call out during light stages of sleep, looking for the same “help” to get him lulled and sleepy again. Put your baby down awake, consistently, and you will find yourself amazed at his fantastic ability to put himself to sleep and get amazing, restful Zs all through the night!
My team and I provide loads of free sleep advice on our Facebook page. We welcome you to follow our tribe of sleep-passionate (or deprived) parents around the globe as we share tips, stories and the straight goods on sleep at WeeSleep and follow me on Instagram and Twitter so we can rock this #sleeprevolution together!