Getting your child to sleep like a baby is not rocket science. It can be as simple as looking at how you treat your own sleep as adults.
As a baby and child sleep consultant and a mother of four, I’ve discovered respectful parenting as the best approach to teach my clients, and also to parent my kids.
Respectful parenting places a great emphasis on respect for our children – we should perceive and acknowledge them to be unique, separate people.
Again, getting your child to sleep like a baby is not mission impossible. Nor does it have to involve the cruel cry-it-out method or traditional “sleep training”.
Sometimes improving your child’s sleep is as simple as tweaking your baby’s awake windows, making their room darker, or keeping the sleep environment consistent.
Here are five steps you can take to foster healthy sleep habits to allow your child to have a good sleep, just like you do.
1. Watch Your Baby’s Awake Time
If you want your child to sleep like a baby, be sure to put them down before he or she is overtired.
As adults, we can be awake for 16 hours before we start feeling sleepy and tired.
How long do you think your newborn can be awake before they start feeling sleepy and tired?
The answer is 45 minutes to 1 hour.
So if your newborn is awake for longer, then you can be sure to get an overtired and cranky baby who is fussing and crying continuously. As your child gets older, then you can stretch their awake time.
2. Keep the Sleep Environment Consistent
Just like you wouldn’t sleep on the sofa some nights, you shouldn’t change your child’s sleep environment all the time, either.
Your child needs to recognize that the cot is their sleeping and resting place.
If sometimes you lie your child down on your bed and sometimes on the mattress, your child will get confused and will not understand what you expect him or her to do.
However, if you always put your child to sleep in her cot, then she will instantly recognize that as her sleeping place.
3. Early Bedtime
When the sun goes down, our body produces melatonin to help us prepare to fall asleep.
However, in our modern-day society, the invention of artificial lights has started to inhibit the production of melatonin, causing us to be awake for longer than how we are wired biologically.
Therefore, to give our children the best start in life, do what our early ancestors did before the invention of electric light. Your child will certainly sleep like a baby if you allow them to go to sleep according to the natural light, which is between 7-8pm.
4. Nap Length and Timing
Just as you wouldn’t want to nap past 6pm as that might affect your nighttime sleep, the same goes for our babies.
We need to help them sleep like a baby by controlling the timing and length of their naps so that they can build enough sleep pressure for bedtime.
Some babies love to sleep a lot during the day and are up all night because they aren’t tired anymore from the night’s sleep.
Helping our babies adjust their nap schedule would set them up for a good night’s sleep as well to allow them to truly sleep like a baby.
Sleep begets sleep!
When you fall asleep, is there anyone or anything that you rely on to fall asleep?
I think most of us would say no.
No one is patting us to sleep. No one is there to sing us lullabies to sleep.
So the same way for your child. They need to learn the important skill of self-settling to drift off to sleep without your help and resettle back to sleep between sleep cycles during nap times and night sleep.
If your child relies on you to nurse, rock, or pat him to sleep, then he will need your assistance again every time he wakes up between his sleep cycles.
Whatever the reasons may be for you to teach your child healthy sleep habits, just know that sleep is a necessity and not a want. Sleep is so important for our basic survival that you really owe it to your child to learn this important topic.
Your job as a parent is to create a loving home with well-rested parents and a child who truly sleeps like a baby should.