Sleep is so necessary for everyone in the family, but sometimes sleep and parenting seem to mix together like oil and water. There will be tough periods of time, and easier ones too (we promise).
For the tough times there are magical sleep wizards called pediatric sleep consultants to help solve your problems, like Amy Lage, founder of Well Rested Baby. Amy became certified pediatric sleep consultant four years ago, and has helped more than 500 families to date.
We talked to Amy and asked her to TELL US ALL HER SLEEP SECRETS.
Here are some of the most common sleep questions she gets from parents + her helpful answers.
How do I get my child to sleep through the night?
It sounds like a daunting task, but if the following five key components are applied consistently, any child can achieve sleeping success.
1. Offer a consistent place to sleep.
Sleeping at home, in their crib, bed, etc., will eliminate distractions; this is where and how they will get their best sleep. (Make sure their environment is ideal for sleeping.)
2. Respect your child’s biological sleep rhythms.
Make sure your child naps at the times that are biologically appropriate for their age. We all have internal clocks (called circadian rhythms) that make us feel drowsy at certain times; this is when we get our lengthiest and most restorative sleep.
3. Have an early bedtime that is flexible according to the quality of day sleep.
Bedtimes should not be set times. Instead, they should shift based on how naps went that particular day.
4. Implement a consistent, soothing routine.
This will help your child understand when to expect to be put down for bed. This routine does not need to be anything complicated—maybe a book, a soothing song, and bed (putting them down when sleepy, but awake).
5. Teach the ability to self-soothe.
This is one of the best skills you can teach your child, as it enables them to become well rested and independent.
How do I get my child to nap longer?
A nap needs to be 60 minutes to be restorative, and it is important to teach your baby this concept.
If you rush in to get your child right away when he wakes from a short nap, he will assume nap time is over and will not understand that he should try to go back to sleep.
Instead, leave your baby in his crib for an hour from the time he fell asleep. For example, if he falls asleep at 12:50 and wakes at 1:30, you would leave him until 1:50. This will give him the opportunity to fall back to sleep and help him practice his self-soothing skills.
How do I get my child to stay in bed?
When you know your child is ready for a “big kid bed,” make sure you set some rules: Create “sleep rules” together detailing bedtime routine and overnight behavior, only including rules that you will 100% enforce.
For example: “I will brush my teeth, read one book, have water, go potty, get into bed, and stay there until mom or dad (or My Tot Clock if you use one) tells me it is okay to be awake and out of bed. If I get out of my bed before it is time to be awake, mom or dad will quietly walk me back to my bed with no talking.”
Put your plan and rules into play: Read the “sleep rules” together every night to remind your child of expectations. If/when he comes of his bed take him by the hand with no talking or eye contact and walk him back, leaving the room right away.
This trip should be all business. Do this every time he comes out of bed; the first night you may have to bring him back 30 times, but if you are 100% consistent your child will stay in his bed after a few days.
What’s your best sleep advice for parents?
Over-tiredness wreaks havoc on children’s sleep.
So if you could only do one thing for their sleep, make sure their bedtime is early enough. An early bedtime saves a multitude of sleep issues. When we’re overtired, our bodies release the hormones cortisol, adrenaline and noradrenaline.
You and I think of it as a second wind (which we can usually handle), but for a child it’s a massive dose of a stimulant, so it’s hard for them to fall asleep on their own and stay asleep when this happens.
Children learn everything through our consistent example, so if your plan is something the family can’t stand behind, then it’s never going to work.
Changing a child’s pattern or routine can seem daunting, but if you’re ready and determined to make the change, it’ll work.