When it comes to our babies, humans are programmed in all sorts of ways to bring them up as best we can. Our own experiences of being parented are often the most influential in making decisions about how to care for and bring up our babies and children. An additional pressure of life for parents has been the need for both adults in families to be earning, and with that sometimes comes the need to train babies or toddlers to learn to sleep through the night as soon as they are able.
From this expectation there has developed a range of theories, methods and advice about how to achieve this goal. Positive Parenting is about using techniques that are based on a common sense approach and which meet the individual requirements and wishes of families. It is built on the principle that all humans need to develop confidence and independence within a loving, and close relationship if they are to become strong and resilient into the future.
Strategies for supporting your baby to fall asleep on their own:
- Babies need a consistent approach and therefore try to create a routine of feeding, playing and sleeping right from the start. This routine for the day enables your baby to develop an internal clock and to react proactively to the expectations that you set. Whether you breastfeed or bottle feed, try to remember to create a moment of rest from drinking so that your baby does not become used after the first few weeks to falling asleep in the middle of a feed.
- Ensure that you create opportunities from the start for your baby to relax and play on a flat mat on the floor and outdoors. It is important that the baby is used to lying flat, on their front and back while they are awake. Use these moments to communicate by talking and singing, examining toys and natural objects.
- Babies' need for sleep diminishes over the first year from being awake for up to 8 hours a day to being asleep for only 12 hours in 24 hours. Ensure that you make special, regular time for sleeping and set an expectation with yourselves as parents, that more often than not your baby is put in the cot to sleep during the day as well as in the evening.
- Give your baby a massage after the evening bath as part of the bedtime routine. This is an excellent way to help digestion and to calm your baby for the night sleep.
- When you place your baby in the cot put a cotton sheet over the sleep bag and tuck it into the sides of the cot mattress, so that they feel 'as snug as a bug in a rug'. Being tucked in will help them feel more secure and less likely to kick themselves awake during the night by moving around. It also keeps the temperature more level so make sure that they are not overheated. Check when you go to bed that the baby is still firmly tucked in again.
- Also offer your baby a sleeveless t-shirt that smells of you in the cot. They will be able to smell you and feel more reassured if they wake up.
- If your baby eats well during the day once they are weaned, this makes it less likely that they will need a bottle during the night. However, if they are feeling discomfort from teething it may be that they need the feeling of liquid to soothe their gums. Try to reduce the milk you give them if they seem to want milk in the night and replace it with water. This should soothe them.
- When you feel that they are likely to be able to get back to sleep without a drink, go into to their room if they cry out for you, but try not to pick them up. Just whisper calmly and try to soothe them and tuck them in again. Sit beside them and pat them gently until they look as if they are dropping off to sleep. Stay sitting by them without touching in case they whimper. If they seem unsettled then start patting again gently. They are just making sure that you are there. Leave them when they falls asleep.
- Each night they wake try to implement the same process and you will notice that you have to be with them for a shorter and shorter time as they will be reassured and then also able to follow your expectations that they should fall asleep on their own.
- You will also notice in the next few weeks that they manage more often to sleep through the night. Just ensure that you have consistent responses each time. Make sure you praise them each morning when they have slept through, but don't refer to it if they have woken up in the night. They already know through your communication with them that you are pleased with their achievements and commenting on them positively has a strong impact on them wanting to please you again.
These techniques can be used only when you feel your baby or toddler is ready or perhaps if you need to when you are preparing to return to work. They are not time limited, and they may be used for all ages of children up to 10 years old.
Parents of delicate children and those with complex backgrounds or special needs will also hopefully find these methods useful, although it may take a little longer for some children to respond.
Furthermore, when children have colds or an illness, it may be harder but remember how children need regular and predictable routines so return to them as soon as you feel you can in these circumstances.
By setting clear expectations and by supporting your babies and children, they will be secure in the knowledge that you are available to them when they need you. Feeling in harmony with your babies and children is crucial to embedding security and a sense of self-worth.
Speak to an Expert
For an individualised plan to help your child learn to sleep independently and develop the skill to fall asleep by themselves, why not book a call to Speak to an Expert through your Bright Horizons.