If bedtime is a battle, there are a few general things you can look at:
- Are you being realistic with baby’s sleep requirements? Every baby has individual sleep needs and these change with time. So if your baby is happy running on 13 hours of sleep per day, it may not be realistic to expect her to wake at 7am, nap for 3 hours during the day, and then be ready for bed by 7pm.
- Speaking of bedtime at 7pm…You may need to consider whether you are putting your baby to bed too early. Not all babies are ready for bed by 7pm…even if that is ideal to mum and dad. For example, some babies aren’t ready to switch off until closer to 9pm. So, are you putting your baby to bed early for her sake? Or for your own? Be honest…
- Is your baby napping too much during the day? Or napping too late in the day? Consider adjusting day sleeps. Even cutting them short. Remember – the day is for FUN and learning about the world. Naps are just for baby to recharge so he can continue the fun and learning until his bedtime.
- Are you getting outside in the afternoon and evenings, getting lots of fresh air, stimulation, exercise (if baby is mobile) and soaking up the last of the natural light? Or is baby spending the hours before bedtime inside with the TV on? Our early ancestors didn’t wind down at the end of the day by staring at a flashing screen – our babies shouldn’t either (in fact, neither should their parents!).
- Is baby’s sleep environment conducive to relaxing and unwinding for sleep? Does baby feel safe in his environment? Is your baby in his own room, but prefers to sleep in close proximity to his parents? If so – consider why you might be trying to enforce separate sleeping environments and whether you might be able to adjust or adapt your space to accommodate baby.
- Do you have a predictable, calm, bedtime routine with plenty of sleepy cues (such as a lullaby, feeding, rocking etc.)?
All these things can help to make bedtime easier.
Once you have those sorted, you can focus your energy on keeping it positive. How you do this is actually simple… in theory.
You just have to control how YOU behave and approach this daily ritual.
Yep. You get to choose how you react, because YOU are the adult.
So if you find yourself fighting (and becoming frustrated and angry with) this losing battle – step back.
Reframe the situation – he’s not “being difficult”, he’s “finding it difficult to fall asleep”.
Empathise with your baby. See the world from her point of view. Understand why she doesn’t want you to leave her at the end of the day, why she wants you to keep feeding and rocking and cuddling her in the dark (hint: it’s because you are her world, her universe, her security blanket – isn’t that special!).
Empathise with your baby. See the world from her point of view. Understand why she doesn’t want you to leave her at the end of the day…
Appreciate that this is temporary. It is all temporary.
Above all, keep calm. Don’t let negative energy, anxiety, stress and especially anger, enter the picture. This can take some practice. So practice.
(To help calm yourself – practice block breathing: in for 4 counts, out for 4 counts. When you start to get angry, you will see your baby as the enemy and this is unhelpful. Deep, rhythmic breathing will help you to reset. It’s also important to recognise when your anger is being triggered. Try to stop and label your emotions. Say how you’re feeling out loud and accept these feelings so you can move beyond them. Finally, know when to give up on trying to get baby to sleep, and try again in an hour. My blog on naps HERE talks about these points in more detail).
We have all heard “experts” talk about the importance of teaching our children good habits around sleep. But what about good feelings around sleep? Rather than teaching them to self-soothe, I think it’s far more important to teach them that sleep is safe. Sleep is nice. Sleep is something to be welcomed when they are tired.
For some, this will still present challenges. The active, spirited child may find switching off more difficult. The timid, imaginative child may find being in the dark alone more distressing.
For these children, I would argue that positive feelings towards bedtime are even more important in the long run.
So look at the bigger picture and decide on your ultimate goal. Is it just for your child to learn to sleep alone for large blocks of time? Or is it to foster within them feelings of safety, security and positivity around sleep?
If it’s the latter (and I hope that it will be), remember it’s never too late to start. Because creating positivity around sleep for your baby starts and ends with you.
Originally published HERE.
Georgina is a mother, midwife and international board certified lactation consultant (IBCLC) from Australia. She is passionate about supporting and empowering parents to care for their babies instinctually and responsively, while also blogging and writing about her own journey of motherhood.