Bedtime can be a long drawn out process for older children. In my opinion, there is no harm in having a longer bedtime routine as long as the end result is that your child is tucked into bed happy and drifting off to sleep. This is why I often call bedtime “a marathon and not a race”. When you are rushing your children up the stairs to get a bath, brush their teeth and put on pajamas it can be stressful. Stressed out children or parents are reactive and noncompliant. This results in upset people when it should be a relaxing fun time. Children will be able to rest a bit easier when they have had some fun and were able to have some good connection time with an adult prior to going to sleep.
You may be asking…
“How do you reduce the stress at bedtime?”
The following are some tips that may help:
- Take it one step at a time.
- Allow enough time to get all the steps done.
- Account for time for your child to complete tasks. As adults, this can sometimes be painful for us as we just want to get it done.
- Offer choices when possible. Examples: “Do you want to brush your teeth or do you want my help?”; “Which toothpaste do you want? Pink or blue?”
- Play and laugh as much as you can.
- Remember going late to bed by 5 to 10 minutes is not the end of the world.
We live this marathon every night. Our 5 (almost 6)-year-old is my real life example that this can work. Previously, I wrote a blog post about Bringing the Fun Back to Bedtime. I wrote this blog post shortly after I recovered from the lovely transition from crib to big boy bed. I really struggled with trying to keep the bedtime under the recommended 30 to 45 minutes. This all changed when I realized that it was all about the journey to sleep. If we got there stressed and frustrated, sleep took forever! When we got there over time and while having fun, sleep happened quickly for our son.
Here is a quick rundown of our evening routine:
- We head upstairs around 6:30 to 6:45 pm. He plays while the bath is filling up. He usually likes to play with one parent. This can be an interactive play (he likes to pretend that he is a Pokemon character and one parent is the Pokemon Master), a game (he likes to play fish or Tic Tac Toe) or independent play where his imagination goes wild.
- He uses the bathroom.
- He gets a bath and plays in the water for 15 to 20 minutes (sometimes less depending on the shape his skin is in).
- He gets dressed.
- He gets a snack picnic style on the floor in the master bedroom.
- He flosses and brushes his teeth with help from an adult.
- He then goes to his room and picks out 2 stories to read. He reads 3 books altogether (Home reading book from school and 2 more).
- While reading stories the other parent applies 2 washable tattoos on his feet or legs (Yes you are reading this correctly!)
- After stories, he snuggles with one adult (usually Daddy) for 3 minutes.
- When the timer goes off the adult leaves the room and he “reads” quietly in his bed.
- After 10 to 15 minutes (sometimes sooner) he will call out and ask that he gets his light turned off. He could do it himself but it is our last chance to tuck him in and give him a final piece of connection before he goes to sleep. He is asleep between 8 to 8:15 pm.
Keep in mind our routine may be a bit long for you or your family. As with all things parenting, do what works for you and your child!! Enjoy your child as much as possible!
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Have you been dreaming of sleeping until at least 7:00 AM? Would you like to teach your child to sleep in a bit later? I am hearing you yell, “YES!”
Using the Toddler Clock can Improve your sleep. I kid you not. A Toddler Clock can become your best friend. I never thought I would love a gadget as much as I love our son’s clock. There are times I would love to be able to give that clock a hug or a high five. A good example would be this morning: I woke up at 6:40 AM and just wanted a few extra minutes of sleep. I was drifting off when I heard our young man singing in his room. I was able to rest as our son will stay in his bed until the “sun comes up.” Bliss I tell you!
The bad news: It does not work for all children but it is worth a try. I suggest introducing the clock around the age of 2 to 2.5. Also, just because it was not successful at one time it does not mean it will not be successful now.
- Find a clock that will not be too bright. Too much light can interrupt your child’s ability to produce the melatonin needed to have a good sleep. Most clocks will have a setting where you can turn the brightness of the clock down. Our son’s clock has the brightness turned down to zero so he cannot see the clock at night; however, the “sun” is bright in the morning.
- Set the clock at their regular wake up time. This sounds a bit crazy but when you set the clock to their current natural wake up they will experience the success of waiting until the sun comes up.
- Increase the time in 5 to 15-minute increments. Once your child has had a few successful days then change the time by 5 to 15 minutes. Then follow this process until you get to your desired time.
- Immediate reward. Toddlers/Preschool aged children do well with a reward they do not have to wait for. If you do not believe in reward systems, then stick with the verbal praise or gestures. The reward can simply be praise, high fives, “happy dance”, stickers, or a tv show they like to watch.
The previous steps are the ones we used when we introduced the clock to our little man. He was just about 2. It took a few weeks of patience. There have been times that we have not turned the clock on properly and he stayed in his bed for 30 minutes more than normal. I was amazed.
Here is hoping you have great luck with a toddler clock as well.
Happy sleeping, everyone!
The topic of Sleep Training gets lots of people pretty riled up. I am a firm believer in you do what works for you. If you want to help your child learn how to sleep better, then find the best method for you and your family. If you are fine with the way things are, then that is okay too.
I believe that lots of people are afraid to talk about the fact their child does not sleep and they are just plain exhausted. Who wants to admit they feel like a failure? Babies are supposed to sleep wonderfully. I can say from personal experience that I did not talk about the struggles we had with getting our young man the sleep he required. I did not want others to think I was incompetent.
I would have stood on my head if that would have worked. I tried many different sleep environments. I always thought I would not want to co-sleep, but I tried. I would have done it if it worked for us.
We had 2 bassinets and a crib. I tried the swing and many other gadgets. Eventually, with practice and our assistance, he was able to sleep. This was a long process for us. We were able to teach him the skills to sleep with very minimal crying. I could not and still do not do well with him crying. That said, I clearly understood that when he cried, it was his way of expressing himself. He was very clear that he was not happy with any change. Once we had a consistent routine in place his sleep improved immensely.
It was my own personal experience that gave me the desire to become a Child Sleep Consultant. I had over 20 years of experience working with children and a Bachelor of Child Studies. My own child had me stumped! There I was pulling out all the tips I had given to others or used in the past and they were not working. What worked for me was finding a method that I was comfortable with and our son did well with. The method we used was to stay in the room with our son. We worked our way out of the room slowly.
After we had worked out our sleep issues, I was introduced to the Sleep Sense Program. This program was very similar to the strategies we used to teach our how to sleep. I decided to become a consultant so I could teach other parents this method.
To this day, there are times that I hear other Mom’s talking about sleep and I want to scream it does not have to be that way! What really gets me fired up is when I hear or read things like this:
- You should just enjoy getting up to nurse/feed all night, someday he’ll be all grown up and you’ll miss it.
- You were the one who decided to have children.
- Well, you’d better learn to live with it!
Being overtired is not fun for anyone involved. When people state things like I previously mentioned, it makes the reality of being a parent that much harder to take. Then throw in the many myths about sleep training and sleep-deprived parents have nowhere to turn. Let’s debunk the myths:
Myth #1: Your baby will not love you in the morning.
Really? Do you think that after just one night of changing your baby’s sleep habits she won’t love you anymore? Is that all it would take?
Would all the cuddles you give her, all the food you provide, all the diapers and clean clothes she wears, all the playtimes and bath times, all the kisses and laughter be for nothing because of a few nights of protest?
The truth is that making changes to anyone’s sleep habits will always be met with some resistance. So yes, it is safe to assume that your baby is not going to happily accept the fact that you are no longer going to rock her on the exercise ball for an hour each and every night, but as long as you are a loving and attentive parent in the first place, the love will endure.
In fact, most people find that once their baby is sleeping well, she’s even happier and healthier than before.
Myth #2: Sleep training means leaving your baby to cry it out.
It does not have to be that way. I am not comfortable with babies crying. I do my best to teach families how to reduce the amount of crying. In fact, I usually recommend staying in the room. Sometimes your presence is enough to reduce your child’s resistance with sleep.
Children adapt SO quickly that she’ll soon figure out how to calmly get herself to sleep and then everyone is happier.
Myth #3: Sleep training is too stressful for babies.
Sleep training does not have to be stressful. There will be crying out of protest. It does get easier with consistency and persistence. The first few nights are usually the most difficult.
As for those who say that a few nights of crying are too stressful? You’ve really got two choices:
- Make some changes. This usually involves a few nights of your child crying for 10 to 40 minutes at bedtime. After a few nights, most children start to learn how to fall asleep independently and the crying stops completely shortly thereafter. In this scenario, the total amount of stress felt by your child amounts to a few minutes of crying for a few nights.
- Do nothing. In this scenario, the parent continues to nurse/rock/bounce their child to sleep every night. The child wakes up 1 to 10 times per night and needs to be nursed/rocked/bounced back to sleep each time. In this scenario, both parent and child are subjected to months (or even years) of systematic sleep deprivation where neither ever gets enough consolidated sleep to wake up and feel rested or refreshed.
So what sounds more harmful: A few night’s of crying or months/years of depriving your child of a good nights sleep?
If one or more of these three myths have been holding you back from taking the simple steps needed to create long-term, positive change for your child’s sleep, I really hope I’ve been able to change your mind.
And as always I’m here for you when you’re ready to get started. Feel free to email me, email@example.com.
But, as we know, sometimes children need to learn new habits, and it can be a bumpy road until they realize this is just the new, improved way of doing things. That is definitely the case with learning to sleep. For babies who have depended on bottles, breastfeeding and rocking to lull them back to dreamland every time they wake up, it can take a while to learn how to do it themselves.
One of the side effects of sleep training is that babies/children can temporarily protest the crib or their room. It’s no wonder. They associate these things with something they don’t like: Having to go to sleep on their own. This is a pretty common complaint, and many parents experience it when their babies or children start the process to go to sleep on their own. Some even tell me their babies start to cry the minute they walk them into the bedroom.
The good news is that it’s usually very short term. In fact, I often encourage parents to see it as a great thing. It means their child is very smart and has figured out that the bedtime routine now means they are getting close to going to bed. This is not necessarily a happy moment for your child because she doesn’t know how to do this yet and it is not what she’s used to. It’s only natural that she’s a little anxious.
With time and practice, though, your little one will get better and better at his own skills and will go to bed happily. In the meantime, just be patient and use soft, soothing tones when you put your baby to sleep. Remind him that it’s just bedtime and that everything will be okay. It often takes a very short time for babies/children to get over this fear and learn to put themselves to sleep.
Hang in there and soon enough your child will be going to bed without a fuss.
This is a question I often asked my son when he was an infant. I asked it in a sweet voice. I asked it in a pleading voice. I asked it in an angry voice. But no matter how many times I asked, he never gave me the answer.
When our babies do not sleep well, we tend to look for an explanation. We think it might be teething or gas. We worry that she is too small and she needs to eat in the night, or he is too big and he needs to eat more or he will not feel full. The list goes on and on.
Are any of these explanations the real truth? Sometimes. Aside from those times when your child has a burning fever or a new tooth coming in, the real reason most babies will not sleep or stay asleep is that they just have not learned how.
We all have strategies that help us make the journey to sleep each night. We have bedtime routines that we tend to do without really thinking about it, and we do these things because they help us transition from our day to a restful sleep.
Most of us have a favorite position on the bed that we turn to when we feel sleep about to come. Some of us need a glass of water beside the bed, some need white noise or music, and others can’t sleep without the window open. Some need a cup of herbal tea, and some have to read for ten minutes. Whatever the differences might be, these are all sleep strategies, and without them, we’d have trouble drifting off.
The same goes for babies. Many parents who haven’t developed a sleeping strategy for their babies will complain that their child can only fall asleep with the bottle, or while breastfeeding, or while being rocked or patted.
While this might be true, the trouble is, by offering these props, parents are creating a situation where their babies are dependent on something external to help them sleep. That’s why babies have a hard time sleeping well.
Night waking is very common in babies who have not learned to sleep properly and are relying on a prop. When they wake up and the prop isn’t there to put them back to sleep, they have to wake up fully and cry in order to be soothed back to sleep. It’s not personal, Mom and Dad; they haven’t made it their personal mission to wake you up ten times a night. They just have no idea how to go to sleep without your help.
Luckily there is hope. There are lots of ways to give your child the tools she needs to be able to sleep independently, even from a very young age. Babies are capable of sleeping through the night, and learning those skills young will help make bedtimes and night times relatively hassle-free.
A well-rested child is a happier, healthier child. And a well-rested parent is healthier and happier too!