Sweet Dreams – Tips to Help Kids Sleep

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Rebecca Gehrmann, MD from Prevea Health shares tips for helping your children sleep.

As a new mom, I was overwhelmed with the advice I received regarding sleep for my baby.
Being sleep deprived throughout the first few months, I would try anything to get her to settle down for the night — swings, sleep training apps, you name it. It soon dawned on me, however, that with all my trial-and-error methods of putting her to bed, my daughter was lacking the one thing that could help her the most: a routine.

Consistency is key for babies and children in many areas of their lives. When it comes to sleep, infants and children benefit from an established bedtime and sleep ritual.

It is never too early to start a bedtime ritual. Newborn babies wake up every few hours for
feeding. Despite this, bedtime rituals can still be applied in a modified way. Most newborns
have their days and nights “mixed up” initially.

  • Dim the lights for nighttime feedings and open up the window blinds during the day.
    This will help newborns start to differentiate between the times of the day.
  • Newborn infants who feed at night should always be placed back in the same location
    for sleep, whether this is a bassinet or crib. I often tell parents that nighttime feedings
    should be brief and boring – meaning, with little stimulation. Midnight is not the time
    for a rousing verse of “Wheels on the Bus!” Newborns should be fed and placed back to
    bed.
  • A baby does not need to be completely asleep before being put to bed. Placing an infant
    their own.

After the first few months, a bedtime routine can become more complex. Though every infant develops differently, by 2 to 3 months old an infant may be on a more consistent feeding schedule, with longer times between feedings. A consistent bedtime schedule with a set time for bed can also be implemented at this time. With my baby, I made the mistake of changing bedtime every day, depending on when I wanted to sleep. Sometimes it would be 8:30 p.m., sometimes 10:15 p.m., and sometimes midnight! This ended up making both of us cranky. My baby wasn’t getting consistent sleep, and I wasn’t getting time to decompress or do chores that were impossible to do with the baby awake. Having a set bedtime helped with this.

  • About an hour before bedtime, we would start the process of giving the baby a bath, a
    bottle, and reading to her. All of these actions would help calm her so that she was
    ready to be put to bed by her bedtime.
  • Of course, no one is perfect, and the bedtime routine would not always get done.
    Infants, like us adults, do thrive with consistency, so making sure they get to sleep
    within 30-45 minutes of their set bedtime is ideal.

Toddlers and school-aged children still need a consistent bedtime routine. Just like with an infant, a bedtime routine for toddlers and young children can include bath time, story time, and then making sure the child falls asleep in their own bed. An infant should be

in a crib, by the time they can roll over, and a toddler should be in a bed by the time their chest is above the crib railing.

Screen time should be avoided at least an hour before bedtime. Studies have shown that screen time before bed can result in less quality sleep. Instead of screen time, use this part of your bedtime routine to read to your children.

  • The benefits of reading to children cannot be understated. Infants are visually stimulated by looking at pictures. They develop language skills by hearing your voice, and fine motor skills as they start to manipulate the book and pages.
  • Toddlers and young children can actively participate in the story. Though you may be tired of reading “Goodnight Moon” for the tenth night in a row, this repetition becomes a comfort to your child and an important part of the bedtime routine. Feel free to mix it up by asking your child questions about the book and making it interactive – such as,“What’s the bunny doing now?” or, “What will happen next?”

Many toddlers become escape artists. Even if your toddler falls asleep easily, there is no guarantee they will stay in bed. Parents commonly remark that they will put their toddler down in their own bed, but in the middle of the night will find they have snuck into bed with them. In situations like this, it’s important to make sure the child is put back into their own bed.

  • Sometimes children will cry for some time after being put to bed and wish to stay up or
    sleep with their parents. This is common when they are moved from a crib to a bed, or
    after a new sibling is born.
  • As difficult as it is to hear your child cry, consistency is again the key. Letting your child
    “cry it out” may be helpful. Both you and your child may have some difficult nights, but
    just like adults, children take several days to form a habit. They will get used to sleeping
    in their own bed if this is where they consistently sleep, night after night.

in bed when they are tired, but not yet fully asleep, can teach them to fall asleep on

Despite a perfect bedtime ritual, despite a consistent routine, there still may be nights when getting your child to bed is a battle. And that is okay. Every parent has been there with you! An “off” night here or there is bound to occur. Don’t get discouraged. As long as you are consistent with the above tips, you’re doing everything you can. Reflect on your routine and bedtime to ensure you are still following it and that your child is sleeping in their own crib or bed. Most importantly, don’t forget to get enough sleep yourself.
As parents, we often put our children first, but we need to take care of ourselves as well.
Prioritize what you need to get done after your little one goes to sleep for the night, so you get to bed at a decent time and you don’t feel so exhausted. What do you need for yourself and your family tonight? What can wait until tomorrow? Consider setting a bedtime for you as the parent or parents too!

 

Sweet Dreams - Tips to Help Kids Sleep Dr. Rebecca Gehrmann

Rebecca Gehrmann, MD, sees patients at Prevea’s East De Pere and East Mason health centers and is thrilled to be able to practice medicine in her home state of Wisconsin. As a pediatrician and mother, Dr. Gehrmann enjoys working closely with families – being a resource through all the ups and downs of parenthood and being there to answer all their questions.

Learn more about Dr. Gehrmann.

This post was sponsored by the experts at Prevea Health.

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