How to solve your child’s sleep problems

How to solve your child's sleep problems

One of the first questions curious friends and family members ask new parents is, Does your baby sleep through the night? Those parents who can answer with a resounding yes are usually met with incredulous looks and questions.

Of course, newborns can’t be expected to sleep through the night. In fact, it is quite rare if your new baby does sleep all night long. Infants have small tummies, and they get hungry after two or three hours, so it is unrealistic to expect your baby to go all night without eating.

As your baby grows, however, he should begin to sleep for longer periods of time. Once he is several months old, you should be able to notice a definite sleep pattern both during the day and at night. Many new parents develop the habit of rocking their baby to sleep. Others nurse their baby or give him a bottle until he falls to sleep. While this will work for a while, eventually you may find that while your baby goes to sleep quite easily, he doesn’t stay asleep for very long periods of time.

Babies are not any different than adults. They are going to wake up several times during the night. This becomes a problem, however, because they haven’t learned how to soothe themselves back to sleep. When they wake up, they expect someone to come and help them go back to sleep. Of course, this leads to a restless night for your baby and you.

Obviously, you know your baby better than anyone else. If you want to train your baby to sleep better, you need to pick a convenient time to start. Maybe you have just moved into a new home, or maybe your child has been sick. If so, you may want to put off working with your baby’s sleep patterns for a few days.

Once you have decided it is time to help your baby sleep better, you need to be consistent. To encourage your baby to sleep all night, the first thing you need to do is put him in his crib while he is still awake. He needs to be drowsy, but he also needs to be aware that you are placing him in his bed.

Your child will probably howl in despair over the prospect of you leaving him alone, and you need to be prepared for this. It may take him an hour or longer the first several nights to settle down. You can try talking to him long enough to reassure him from just outside his room. Some parents find this only makes their child more upset, though. If you must go into his room to speak to him, try not to pick him up. Basically, you are showing him that you haven’t abandoned him, and you are still nearby.

Eventually, he will settle down to sleep. It may take you a week or longer to establish a routine. It is a good idea to signal to your child that it is almost bedtime by performing pre-bedtime rituals such as giving him a bath, reading him a book, singing him a song, etc.

You should find that as your child learns to settle himself down, he will sleep better through the night. He will learn to soothe himself back to sleep when he wakes up at night. If he does continue to awaken, however, don’t rush out of bed to go to him.

Of course, if he has been sick, you’ll want to check on him, but otherwise, you really need to let him try and put himself back to sleep. If he continues to wake up in the night and you go to him, you are establishing a pattern that he will come to expect. This will make it extremely difficult for either one of you to get a decent night’s rest. It may take several nights of letting him cry to train him to soothe himself back to sleep. Keep in mind, though, that in time he will learn to go back to sleep on his own.

If your child is older and no longer sleeps in a crib, you may have another problem. He may go to sleep easily enough, but when he wakes up in the night, he may crawl into your bed. If your child is old enough to sleep in his own bed, then he is old enough to understand any rules you have set for him.

Many parents buy a cute calendar and stickers. They tell their child that for each time he sleeps all night in his own bed, he will get a sticker. After he has earned so many stickers, he can choose a treat, toy, or special event to attend. If he doesn’t spend all night in his bed, he may lose a sticker or a privilege. Be sure and praise your child when he has spent all night in his bed.

You can train your child to sleep all night. It will take patience and consistency, but you and your child will feel better during the day once you have accomplished this.

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