As parents, we all know how important sleep is for both our children’s physical, cognitive and emotional development (and also our own mental health). Camille Verniolle, a sleep consulting specialist and the founder of Little Baby Go to Sleep, gives you some top tips on how to establish long-term healthy sleeping habits for babies and toddlers.
1. Ditch the clock and follow your child’s sleep signsWhen you are unsure about what time to put your children down for a nap or bedtime, it’s important to follow your child’s natural rhythm and “sleep signs”. Try to observe and tune in to your child’s sleep signs to determine when they’re ready for sleep.
Here are some common sleep signs to look out for:
Rubbing eyes or ears Yawning Fussiness or irritability Decreased activity or responsiveness Placing head down on floor or on your shoulder Clinginess or wanting to be held One common misconception is that it’s better to try to put your child to sleep at a specific time. This actually makes it less certain they are in the best condition to fall asleep. To avoid them becoming overtired, try to place your child in bed within 30 minutes of their sleep signs, as this helps create optimum conditions for a smoother nap and better bedtimes.
It’s important to be flexible with your child’s sleep schedule and adjust it as needed based on their individual needs. Remember that every child is different and what works for one child may not work for another.
2. A fixed routine for consistency and predictabilityEstablishing a fixed and consistent sleep routine is one of the most important things you can do to promote healthy habits for your child. A consistent bedtime routine helps signal to your child’s brain that it’s time to wind down and get ready for sleep. It also promotes predictability, which can help reduce anxiety and improve overall sleep quality for them.
Develop a relaxing pre-sleep routine that includes (but is not limited to) calming activities such as a warm bath, reading a story, or singing a lullaby. Find something that works for your family that you feel is realistic to do each evening. Further, you should avoid activities that are too stimulating, such as screens, during the hour before bedtime, as this can prevent their melatonin (the hormone that tells our brain it’s time for sleep) from kicking in when it should.
You can also create a predictable sleep environment by using the same sleepwear, bedding and comfort object each night. This can help promote feelings of security and comfort for your child.
You can also create a little naptime routine (different from your evening one) to help smooth the transition from playing to going to sleep, which can sometimes be a challenge for parents. With time and patience, your child will learn to associate these routines with sleep, making it easier for them to fall and stay asleep.
3. Create a healthy sleep environmentThe bedroom environment plays a crucial role in promoting healthy sleep habits for babies and toddlers. Creating a comfortable, calming and safe sleep environment can help your child hit the hay faster and stay asleep for longer. Don’t feel like you have to make a sterile room (very dark and very quiet), however. It is okay to adapt to your environment and what is available to you.
TemperatureThe temperature of your child’s room is essential. The ideal room temperature for a baby is between 19 and 21 degrees celsius. This temperature range promotes comfort and helps prevent overheating.
LightingLighting is another critical factor in creating a sleep-conducive environment. It’s important to keep the room darker during sleep time. Night lights are not necessary for small babies as fear of the dark comes a little later, but if you feel like you still need one, opt for a warm (red or orange) tint rather than a cold (blue or white) tint.
Bed mobileWhile these can be sweet and charming to have above a baby’s bed, it can actually be very stimulating for them and not allow them to fall asleep as easily. Try to move it above their playmat or changing table so that they can engage with it when they are fully awake.
Toys in bedIt can be tempting to place some toys in their bed to keep them entertained, but this can be a safety hazard and also confuse them that their bed is also an area for playing, rather than just one for sleeping.
Have your child enjoy good sleepIn summary, establishing healthy sleeping habits for babies and toddlers is crucial for their development and wellbeing. These tips are just the start of what you can do to help your child learn to recognise their own needs and develop a healthy routine that promotes good sleep.
It is possible to put your child to sleep for a full night of uninterrupted sleep without strict sleep schedules, interval crying or leaving them to cry, but rather through an approach that reinforces the safety bond between parent and child.
If you need any further guidance, information or support to help your child fall asleep, you can sign up for a free consultation on the Little Baby Go to Sleep website.