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There are times in every parent’s life when sleep deprivation becomes a problem and it’s pretty much accepted that for the first six months or so, it’ll be a way of life.
But, babies and toddlers need sleep and you might be surprised how much! The most common problems are when they can’t settle themselves to sleep (perhaps it takes hours for them to drift off, or they can only sleep if you’re cuddling them, or if they’re in your bed), or when they can’t sleep through the night without waking.
But bear in mind that your behaviour influences your child’s actions and you hold the key to improving sleep behaviour you just need to learn how to use it. It might take a while; I’m often surprised how quickly problems can be turned around, but don’t worry if it doesn’t happen in a week. Be consistent and you will succeed.
Safe & successful sleep techniques
Young babies often wake themselves by flinging their arms and legs about, and swaddling them tightly enough so they are comfortable but can’t move their limbs too much can help prevent night waking.
Lay a square blanket so the corner points upwards. Fold the corner down and lay your baby so her head is resting on the top edge of the blanket. Bring one of the side corners over her body and tuck it under, then fold the bottom corner up over her feet and legs and then wrap the other side of the blanket over tightly, leaving her room to be comfortable.
The eau de mummy method
The scent of you can help your baby relax into sleep. Putting something like an old T-shirt near (but not actually in) the cot can help her drift off while you’re in another room.
This is a really effective technique for getting your older baby or child to settle herself to sleep. It’s especially useful for toddlers who aren’t used to sleeping in their own bed, or who need to be physically close to get to sleep.
Every night, tuck her up in her own bed or cot, say good night, but then stay in the room. This doesn’t mean you continue to talk, touch or play with her, you just provide a comforting presence. Don’t even make eye contact.
As the days continue, gradually move further away from your child, until you’re able to move away from the bed and right out of the room altogether.
This is a ‘tough love’ approach for toddlers but works well when there are chronic sleep problems, especially when these involve aggression or tantrums. It’s the night-time equivalent to ‘time out’, and you need to be really, really strong and clear about what’s going to happen. It’s hard to implement, but it’s worth it. You can start using the gradual withdrawal method if that’s easier.
The rapid return technique means you tuck your toddler into her bed, turn out the light, say good night and leave the room. If she gets out of bed, take them back gently and straight away, without speaking and without losing your temper (which is very difficult when it’s the 20th time that night). Repeat this process promptly and assertively as often as needed, until she eventually falls asleep.
It can be exhausting, so wherever possible, try to enrol the help of your partner and swap shifts, but make sure you’re in complete agreement about what to do, so as to avoid sending confused messages to your little one.
Incentives, praise and reward
However you decide to tackle your child’s sleep problem, some bargaining will probably be required in the early stages. It’s okay to negotiate a deal that promises a treat the next day, but don’t make a habit of it. If your child has met the goal you set, whether that’s sleeping through the night or staying in her own bed, lavish her with praise. Then set new goals and this should help her form a link between being good, and being in your good books.
Stickers rarely fail as a means of showing children how well they’re doing. If your child is old enough to grasp the concept of a night-time fairy, then tell her that the fairy will be waiting to see how well she goes to sleep, and then the fairy will add a sticker to her chart.Write by phanmemgoc