As a parent, nothing is more important than ensuring your child gets the rest they need. However, common sleeping errors that parents usually make can impede your little one’s ability to sleep soundly through the night or take much-needed naps. Discover these mistakes and how to avoid them for a well-rested family.
There is no surefire solution when it comes to getting babies and toddlers to sleep. In truth, most parents of young children learn by trial and error. Expert guidance on how to avoid the most challenging problems with your baby’s sleep can be invaluable.
1. Skipping Bedtime Rituals
Babies, like adults, require some wind-down time before bed. In addition to easing your baby into sleep before you put them in the crib, a nightly ritual can be a special moment for you and your child to connect.
According to Megan Faure, author of The BabySense Secret, “a bedtime routine is an uncomplicated method that makes a world of difference” in determining how soon and with how little assistance a baby settles to sleep. Even with how tedious or restrictive it may seem now, you will benefit from it in the long term.
Start your routine one hour before bedtime. Draw the blinds, turn down the lights, and get ready for a narrative and a feeding. Take your child for a warm bath, and then dress them in the dark with gentle music to help them relax.
Tell them a story while holding a bottle. After your infant is done, you should put them to bed while they are still drowsy but alert.
2. Misreading Baby’s Sleep Cues
Babies and toddlers give out cues that they are sleepy and ready for bed. Eye rubbing, yawning, decreased activity, whining and fussing, and disinterest in people and play are all signs of fatigue.
Missing a child’s “sleep window,” or their body’s natural time to sleep, can prevent the production of melatonin, which helps them relax. Instead, their adrenal glands will release cortisol, a stress-related hormone that can overstimulate your infant, make them “wired,” and give them a second wind.”
If you keep tabs on your child all day long, you’ll probably notice a pattern emerge regarding when they need to nap and when they should go to bed. If you’re having trouble recognizing the indicators that sleep time is near, West suggests doing something soothing in a darkly lit area when you think sleep time is approaching.
When dealing with a child who is both overtired and overstimulated, Faure recommends removing them from the stimulating environment and placing them in a quiet place where you can spend a bit more time than usual lulling them to sleep.
3. Making Sleeping Crutches
At three in the morning, when you’re fatigued beyond belief, you’d do just about anything to put your infant back to sleep. It’s common practice to do things like rock them, feed them, walk them, swing them, sing to them, touch their back, etc. West claims that if your infant is older than 3 or 4 months, these routines can no longer serve as reliable sleep aids.
She explains that these habits aren’t necessarily bad, but they might be an issue if the youngster relies on them to get to sleep.
This means that if your kid wakes up—and we all wake up numerous times in the night—you will have to either rock them, nurse them, swing them, or sing to them until they fall asleep again. While these are acceptable, you shouldn’t let your youngster fall asleep during them.
Putting your kid to bed exhausted but awake will teach them to calm down and go asleep on their own.
4. Too Rapid Transition from Crib to Large Child Bed
According to Faure, “this is a classic error parents make,” so wait until your toddler attempts to climb of their crib on their own and is at risk of hurting themselves before making the switch to a large kid bed. To bridge the gap until then, she says, “the crib’s sides constitute a very important barrier during a period when your infant cannot understand or observe verbal restrictions (such as ‘Stay in your bed’).
According to West, there are two key strategies you may use to help your toddler make the leap to big change:
- The “cold turkey” approach is to immediately substitute the new bed for the old one. Be sure to install safety rails on either side of the bed, or on the open side if the bed is against a wall.
- The gradual method is initially leaving the crib rail down, placing a stool next to it to help the child climb out, and placing pillows nearby in case they fall out.
The crib and the new bed are also part of one kind of the gradual transition. West explains that parents can ease their children’s transition from the crib to the big bed by having them read books on the bed or taking naps. This is possible only if the crib and big bed fit in the same room. Then choose a big night when they actually sleep in the bed. You can get rid of the crib as soon as your child sleeps through the night and naps in their big kid’s bed.
Regardless of your approach, it is crucial to make it clear to your child that they must not leave the bed without you. You shouldn’t need to be concerned about your child waking up in the middle of the night to investigate, but to be safe, you should childproof the room and install a gate in front of the door to the bedroom.
Make the change more enjoyable by having your child pick out their own quilt and sheets for the new bed, but try to avoid the temptation to cuddle up with them each night. It’s possible you’ll be there for a while, maybe even a year or more,” West warns.
5. Putting Them to Sleep No Matter Your Location
Naps in the stroller, car seat or high chair do not offer your baby the sleep they need, but no parent wants to be a slave to their child’s naptime routine. According to West, motion sleep prevents the brain from entering a deep, restorative slumber.
Your baby will be more likely to fall asleep more easily and stay asleep longer if they have a designated sleep area where they go to sleep for naps and night at the same time every day. But, there are exceptions to this rule that you should make if you have an essential event or appointment coming up.
Aim to get errands done in the time between naps. And if you plan on going out late, have a trusted family member or babysitter watch the infant, so he or she doesn’t pass out from exhaustion in a strange place.
6. Skipping Bedtimes or Not Keeping a Regular Routine
When it comes to children and sleep, West emphasizes the importance of consistency. Kids require predictable naps and bedtimes to help their developing bodies and minds feel safe and in control of their internal circadian rhythms.
National Jewish Health pediatric sleep specialist Dr. Lisa Meltzer agrees: “Our biological clocks are greatly influenced by our nightly sleep routines. With the support of a regular bedtime routine, a kid will learn to feel sleepy and drift off to dreamland at roughly the same time each night. To the body, a fluctuating schedule is like frequently changing flight routes across time zones, making it impossible to establish a regular sleep routine.”
Dr Meltzer adds, “Most bedtime problems happen because parents put their kids to bed too early (when the child isn’t tired) or too late (when the child is overtired).”
Certainly, some wiggle room might be expected. Your youngster may snooze more or less frequently, depending on the day. West explains that after you’ve mastered “reading their sleep signs and recognizing their sleep windows,” you’ll find that modifying the schedule is a breeze.
If your baby seems happy, it’s likely because you’ve established a regular bedtime routine. A fussy, demanding child may benefit from longer naps, an earlier bedtime, a later wake-up time, or all three.
7. Having Them Stay Up Late With the Hope That They Would Sleep In
Sounds reasonable; after all, when teenagers stay up late, they probably want to sleep in till noon the next day. For obvious reasons, that won’t work with kids.
The internal clock is a powerful force that causes most young children to wake up at roughly the same time every morning, regardless of when they go to bed at night, as noted by Dr. Meltzer. So, parents who permit their children to stay up late are inviting fatigue the next day. Instead, make sure your kid goes to bed at the same time every night, so he or she gets the recommended 10-11 hours of sleep.
And if your kid is waking up really early (before 6 a.m.), it’s usually because they are getting to bed too late (about 10 p.m.). Try getting them to bed at least half an hour earlier.
8. Making Sleeping Choices in the Middle Little Hours
There’s no denying that sound judgment is more elusive in the wee hours of the morning. When their children wake up in the middle of the night, parents often make some of the worst sleeping decisions of their lives. Among the most significant, in West’s opinion, is reactive cosleeping. This is “a family co-sleeping because it is the only way to get their infant to sleep,” rather than a deliberate choice.
It’s also around now that people start using sleep aids. At a certain period of time, “parents unknowingly create more weeping” by giving up and returning to their previous sleep crutch. “For instance, ‘I let him cry for 30 minutes before removing him from his crib and rocking him to sleep because I couldn’t take it anymore.'”
Babies that get up several times during the night learn that crying gets them what they want and that this is a pattern that must be repeated.
When lack of sleep prevents you from making sound judgments about your child’s sleeping habits, it’s time to obtain some assistance. Making the best decisions when it’s your time to wake up will be easier if you’ve had the chance to get some sleep and someone else has occasionally gotten up in the middle of the night.
9. Inability To See Eye to Eye
When it comes to their child’s sleep, “parents must be a united front,” as West puts it. “In order to help your child learn to self-soothe and get a good night’s sleep, you and your partner need to agree on a strategy. It’s fine to have slightly different daily habits, but you should discuss and decide on the big stuff in advance.”
These choices include determining your baby’s bedtime and deciding whether or not to use sleep aids. If one parent doesn’t want to rock the baby to sleep at bedtime and during the night, then that decision can’t be made unilaterally.
Talk things through and come up with a solution that benefits both of you. Keep in mind that maintaining a regular bedtime routine is crucial for effective sleep.
10. Giving Up Too Quickly
Bad sleeping habits can be corrected at any age, but parents should be patient. West warns against “expecting immediate results” while attempting to break a habit that has been formed with a child over the course of months or even years. Significant improvements in nighttime sleeping and napping are possible once parents commit to sleep coaching for at least two weeks.
Some parents make the mistake of hoping that their child’s sleep pattern will improve on its own, or at least be long enough for them to catch up on their lost sleep. Despite what some may think, West claims that is not the case.
A little time and effort will pay off in the form of a peaceful night’s sleep for both you and your baby. We assure you that your efforts will be rewarded abundantly.
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