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How to Get Your Baby or Toddler to Sleep in 2013!

How would you like to put your little one in the crib at bedtime…and know that shortly, he or she will be able to fall asleep WITHOUT your help!?  Or what about sleeping straight through the night without needing to get up for a comfort feed or pop the pacifier back in (for the umpteenth time!)?  Or perhaps having your child takes naps longer than 30-45 minutes and getting on a consistent schedule or NOT getting up at the crack of dawn, ready to start the day!

These are the top items on the sleep wish list for many parents!

So reflecting on 2012, I wanted to see what the top sleep issues really were.  Seeing as how I LOVE math (I’m actually not being facetious…I was a math tutor for 7+ years!), I wanted to see what I could gleam from analyzing the information from some of the parent questionnaires from this past year to help parents get a headstart in 2013.

I looked at a sampling of client questionnaires from the past several months for 45 babies and toddlers:

  • 0-3 months: 4
  • 3-6 months: 14
  • 6-12 months: 13
  • 1-3 years: 10
  • over 3 years: 4

This follows a general trend or bell curve showing that parents are more likely to hire a sleep consultant for their children’s sleep issues between 3 months and 3 years of age.  (In my experience, the best age–when the process goes most quickly–to teach your baby to sleep independently is 4-5 months.)

Some interesting findings from these questionnaires include that:

1. 91% of parents read at least one sleep training book before hiring a professional sleep consultant (62% read 2 or more)

Most parents will do a lot of research before calling me.  The problem that I found, which many pointed out, was that these books are often 300+ pages long…and these parents are already sleep deprived, so getting through it, and understanding what to do for their unique situation, often made them give up their independent efforts!

2. 76% of the babies and toddlers were fed, rocked or held to sleep

And nearly 100% of the 15 months and younger crowd needed mom or dad to feed/rock/hold them to sleep…meaning none of them were falling asleep by themselves!  Teaching babies and toddlers to fall asleep on their own is such an important skill to master.  Bedtime becomes an enjoyable time of day and since they are able to put themselves back to sleep when they wake from a sleep cycle, night wakings decrease or are eliminated.

3. 87% of the children relied on 2 or more sleep props to soothe themselves to sleep

Very rarely do I speak with a family who only has one sleep prop (bottle/breastfeeding to sleep, car or stroller rides, sleeping in the swing, rocking, and pacifiers are the most common).  Typically families will start feeding to sleep, for instance, but as the baby gets older, that doesn’t work as well, so they introduce more sleep props like stroller rides at nap time or strategically placing 15 pacifiers in the crib.  And then everything snowballs and by the time they call me, they have a very specific routine that has to be implemented like clockwork for there to be ANY chance of it working!  The best thing parents can do is to take away the need for these sleep props so the baby can learn how to get to sleep without needing something to get him or her to sleep.

4. 100% of the children showed signs of overtiredness during the day and before bed

Overtiredness is the enemy! I’ve talked to quite a few parents who think keeping a child up longer “to wear him out” will make sleep come quicker and get him sleeping through the night. But in fact, the opposite is true! When a child goes to sleep in the right “window” (tired enough for sleep but not overtired and wired), everything falls into place. Considering every single one of my clients had this issue, there’s a good probability that overtiredness may be a barrier for your child too.

5. 84% of the children had a bedtime routine that was too long (or in some instances, too short)

When a bedtime routine is too short, and you transition too quickly from dinner and playing, it’s unlikely your child will be ready to fall asleep because he won’t have had enough time to wind down. The ideal bedtime routine is about 20-30 minutes, depending on age, whether you have multiples and there is a bath included in the routine…so a 5 minute routine is too short and an hour is WAY too long!

6. 87% of the babies and toddlers took short naps (less than 45 minutes)

This is a pretty high number, but it makes sense.  Sleep cycles are about 40-45 minutes, so when a child has a short nap of this length, it shows that he or she doesn’t yet have the skills to fall asleep easily on his or her own. When a family is struggling with their child’s sleep, bedtime and nightwakings are usually an issue.  Once babies and toddlers are able to fall asleep easily at bedtime and get themselves back to sleep during the night, short naps can be fixed more quickly.

SO, what can you do to start getting your baby or toddler to sleep better in 2013?

Photo courtesy of FrameAngel/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

#1  Encourage your child to fall asleep independently, without relying on sleep props.  Anything you feel you need to do for your child to get him to fall asleep is a sleep prop. Once sleep props are removed, your child will be able to develop a strategy to get himself to sleep…on his own!

#2  Ensure that your child’s bedtime routine is the appropriate length.  Remember, the purpose of the bedtime routine is to cue the brain and body that it’s time to settle down and get ready for sleep but shouldn’t be so long that your child loses focus of where you’re headed!

#3 Parents should watch for signs of overtiredness in their children and put them to bed (or down for a nap) within the appropriate timeframe. Overtiredness in children can be exhibited by hyperactivity, so children who look “wide awake” at bedtime have become overtired.

‘Tis the season for resolutions, and in my opinion, getting better sleep is one of the best ones a person can make!  You don’t want to be in this same exact situation come January 2, 2014!  Remember that the most recent research (Pediatrics, January 2012) suggests that children will not necessarily outgrow sleep issues if they are not addressed and resolved.  (Previous research suggested that child sleep issues would persist 3-5 years…)  Teaching your child healthy sleep skills from an early age is so important for their health, behavior, learning and mood, and the sooner you start, the easier the process will be.

Today I spoke with 7 tired moms in Chicago, Indiana, Ohio, Washington state and Washington D.C. who all want to make sleep a priority in 2013.  If you would like to talk with me about your current situation and get some professional advice about resolving your baby or toddler’s sleep problems soon, send me an email and we’ll schedule a free 15-minute evaluation…I’d love to talk with you!

HAPPY NEW YEAR :)

 

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