As a parent, getting your child to sleep can be one of life's greatest mysteries. While some parents may have been blessed with a good sleeper, there's no doubt that most parents will experience some sort of difficulties around getting their little one to catch a few z's at least once in their lives.
With so many different strategies out there to help you and your bub nail their sleeping routine, it can be tricky to know where to start when you're struggling to get them to go down. So rather than leave you to do your own research while you're sleep deprived, we've consulted the experts to uncover their tips, tricks and special techniques for getting your little one to sleep.
Here's the inside scoop on sleep according to a childcare educator.
The importance of sleep for toddlers
Sleep is essential throughout all stages of life (especially for parents, right?!), but it's absolutely essential for babies and toddlers. A child's sleep should be sufficient since it's critical for normal growth and development. Sleep deprivation suppresses the immune system, has a negative impact on mood and behavior, and can impair a child's performance. A good night's sleep supports your little one's emotional well-being and important bodily functions, including immunity, memory and the healing process. While it's important for your bub to get adequate sleep, it's equally important that they're getting good quality sleep.
The amount of sleep your child should be getting depends on their age, but it also comes down to the individual child too. Here's a rough guide from Children's Health Queensland Hospital and Health Service to help you figure out whether or not your bub is getting enough shut-eye:
|Age||Recommended sleep per 24 hour period*|
|Infants: 4 to 12 months||12 to 16 hours|
|Toddlers: 1 to 2 years||11 to 14 hours|
|Pre-schoolers: 3 to 5 years||10 to 13 hours|
|Grade-schoolers: 6 to 12 years||9 to 11 hours|
|Teens: 13 to 18 years||8 to 10 hours|
*The recommended hours of sleep is inclusive of naps.
Five tips for getting your little one to fall asleep
Getting enough sleep isn't just important for your little one, but it's equally essential for you as a parent too. However, sleep is a skill that doesn't always come naturally to all babies. So to help your family master the art of sleep, we've pulled together a few top tips from a childcare educator to get your baby or toddler off to the land of nod.
Find what works for your child
First and foremost, it's important to remember that all children are unique, which means that different sleeping techniques and strategies will work for different children. If you're the parent of more than one child, you're probably already well aware of how different one is from the other, even when they've got the same set of DNA.
While some sleeping strategies may work for one child, others mightn't work at all, which is why it's essential to try and identify what works best for your little one. Chances are you won't figure it out straight away and it's more than likely that their individual needs will change over time too, so it helps to go with the flow as their sleep habits change. Just do your best to tune into your little one to figure out exactly what helps to comfort and settle them.
Establish a sleep routine
As the saying goes, ‘consistency is the key to success.' Most newborns and toddlers thrive off of routines and establishing a good sleep routine can help them to catch enough shut-eye throughout the day and night. Newborns aren't born with a circadian rhythm, so they spend the first few weeks of life developing a sleep pattern, which can help to set them up for a good sleeping routine over the long term.
Good sleep habits also involve introducing a wind-down routine before they hit the hay at night. Incorporate calming activities in the hour leading up to bedtime to help them unwind and relax so they have an easier time falling asleep. From taking a warm shower or bath to listening to relaxing music and reading a book, there are plenty of calming activities that you can introduce to help your child relax before bedtime.
Treating your bub to a baby massage can also be a great way to help them calm down before bed. Be sure to spend the last few minutes of this calming routine in the comfort of your child's bedroom so they can learn to fall asleep in their own bed.
Keep them active during the day
Keeping your little one active during the day can help them to differentiate between play time and sleep time. Get outside in the fresh air and sunlight, play games with your bub and make sure they have plenty to eat during the day.
While there's no avoiding overnight feeds for infants and younger babies, if your toddler hasn't had enough to eat during the day, they might be more inclined to wake up at night if they're hungry.
Create a calm sleeping environment
One of the best ways to get your little one to sleep is by creating a sleep-inducing environment. You'll want to minimise any potential distractions to give your child the best chance of falling asleep and staying asleep for as long as possible.
A dark, cool, quiet room is the ideal environment to help your child sleep. Surroundings like these will help them to differentiate between day and night, which makes it much easier to fall asleep. It can also help to set their cot or bed up with soft sheets and dress your little one appropriately for the climate. Breathable cotton pyjamas can help to keep them cool overnight if you live in a warmer climate. Some babies also prefer to be lulled to sleep by white noise. These machines can help some bubs to fall asleep quicker and they may even block out other distracting noises while you're trying to put your little one to sleep.
While a calm sleeping environment is important for encouraging sleep, it's also essential to make sure it's a safe sleeping environment for your baby by removing all potential dangers.
Keep wake-up times consistent
Just as you want to establish a consistent bedtime routine, you'll also want to make sure your little ones are sticking to regular wake-up times too. To figure out the best wake-up time, you'll need to work out how much sleep your child needs and when they go to bed. There's no need for your child to wake up at the exact same time to the minute every day, but if you're able to keep their wake-up time to within the same hour each day this will help them to create a consistent schedule, which can set them up for a good routine and healthy sleep habits later in life.
While we're on the topic of wake-up times, try to avoid letting your little one sleep in over the weekend. While this might seem like a good idea at the time, it could backfire over the long run.
In some instances, no matter how hard you try and how many tricks you use, there's just no getting your bub to have a good night's rest. If you think your child is experiencing sleep problems like having more trouble than normal falling asleep, they're snoring, breathing through their mouth or they're experiencing persistent nightmares and getting too little sleep, they could be suffering from sleep disorders. If you have any concerns, your first port of call should be your GP or pediatrician. They'll be able to further investigate the issue or they might even point you in the direction of a sleep consultant.
For the most up to date information on safe sleep practices, be sure to check the Red Nose Australia website.