Parents ask me all the time what my secret is for getting kids to sleep. The truth is there are no secrets or magic tricks; like anything else, it comes down to a little bit of knowledge and a lot of hard work. For most babies and children sleep does not come naturally; it is our job as parents to teach them healthy sleep habits. Here are my top 5 tips for helping your child learn to sleep.
- Safety first. If you do nothing else, be sure your baby’s sleep space is safe. Visit https://safetosleep.nichd.nih.gov/ for more information.
- Make sleep a priority. Sounds simple but our busy lives have pushed sleep to the back burner and our health may suffer because of it. It is time to shift our perspective and prioritize our families’ well-being.
- Aim for an early bedtime. Yes, earlier than you think. No, it does not necessarily mean they will wake earlier, in fact, often the opposite is true. And no, it is not forever. Before you know it, they will be staying up later than you, but while they are little, they need their sleep. Plus, an overtired, cranky baby is no fun
- Allow your baby/child to fall asleep independently. This goes for babies over 5-6 months and older children. If we do the work of going to sleep for them, they will never learn to do if for themselves. Practice makes perfect here, do not expect little ones to master this overnight- keep trying.
- Be consistent. Sending a consistent message about healthy sleep can make all the difference. Be sure to set clear expectations around schedule and routine and then follow through for the best chance at success.
Finally, remember there is no perfect sleeper. There will always be bumps in the sleep road but a well-rested child recovers more quickly and is able to handle life’s curve balls more easily.