So many parents talk about that pivotal time where your infant becomes a baby and then finally, and magically, sleeps through the night. This is the moment that parents wait for out of desperation for some sleep themselves. Unfortunately, for many parents it never really comes and long into toddler hood, parents are left wondering how in the world to get their child to sleep through the night. While there really isn’t a measurable science to accomplishing this task, there are many things that you can try.
The first important step in getting a child to sleep through the night is imitating a sleep routine. You don’t necessarily have to take them straight from the womb and into a sleep schedule. Even if you tried, their sleep needs and habits will change so drastically in the first year that it would really work anyways. But you do need to establish some rituals that send your child the message that bedtime is approaching. The good thing is that these rituals can be as personalized to you and your child, as you want them to be. Wrestling or having a chocolate tea party may not be good options, but many other things are.
Some parents like to kick off the nighttime festivities with a nice bath, some cuddling and a few books of choice. Children naturally gravitate towards water and it has a calming effect on both children and adults that cannot be denied. Make sure you allow your child to enjoy the bubbles and smells and don’t forget to add in a hint of lavender just in case it really does work. After the bath, spend time massaging your baby with lotion or oils and allowing them some free playtime. This will help to expel any leftover energy from the day and keep them in a relaxed mood. One of the problems with bedtime for many kids is that mom and dad are in such a tizzy about getting the kids to bed on time, they force those feelings onto their kids. Even an infant can pick up on this. After the playtime, take some time to cuddle and learn to set the mood. If you are trying to teach your child to sleep in their own room, make sure to take them there for some low lights, a book, and soft sounds.
Usually kids fall into different categories of sleep difficulties. Either they don’t stay asleep or they have a difficult time falling asleep. For those that have a difficult time falling asleep, this routine is critical. If they continuously get out of bed to use the bathroom, say good night one last time, or ask for water and you know this, you have to teach them that they will not be indulged. At the same time, don’t demand them to sleep which will make them feel too much pressure. Instead, just explain to them what the rules are and that they are to stay in their bed. For your toddler or preschooler, you may even want to give them a book light so they can continue quietly reading their books until they fall asleep. Even though it is frustrating, when you are learning how to get your child to sleep through the night, you have to realize that all kids have different personalities. Your child may be a thinker, prone to replaying the day’s events when they are alone in bed. It is hard to ignore their requests. However, you are making strides if you continuously keep sending them to their room alone and require that they stay there and remain hushed. Eventually, they will catch on and they will not have any negative feelings associated with bedtime.
If your child is the one that wakes up during the night because of dreams or to use the bathroom, or because they want something your problem is trickier to handle. Many parents so tired themselves, end up opening up the covers and having their child climb in. After all, it is better than getting up and down yourself all night. If you don’t want to co-sleep, then don’t start this. Instead, send your child back to bed each and every time. If this happens extremely often as they get older, you may want to think about pushing their bedtime back a bit. Some kids, despite their sleep requirements may simply not be tired. Other kids may have nightmares, nervous conditions or be stressed about school or family situations. If you suspect that your child is waking due to stress, see if you can talk to them about their feelings. If your child has full-fledged night terrors, then consult your pediatrician.
The most important thing about bedtime and actually getting kids to beds, is a routine. Your routine doesn’t have to be a textbook version from the newest parenting book. But is should be something that works for you. If it involves your child crawling into bed with you at some point, or lying down with you for a spell at night (and hat is okay with you) then go with it. The point is, establishing routines for children are important and the routines can be personalized. Some kids go to sleep watching television. Other kids like complete quiet. Another child may want mom or dad to lay with him or her for a while. Whatever works is what you should do. When you find something that works, as a parent it is your responsibility to stick with it.
Remaining calm and learning not to expect complete hysteria at night is another important rule in how to get your child to sleep through the night. What many parents seem to forget is that their child will and does sleep. Perhaps not as much or on the clock as their parents wish them to do, but they do sleep! Working around their schedule, personality and finding what suits your family will no doubt bring you a full night’s sleep as well as your child.
The other thing, as with all things that involve raising children this too shall pass. Soon, you will be complaining that they sleep too much! Try not to overly sweat the issues and be careful for wishing your child would ‘grow up’ faster than they already do.