We all await the day when our baby falls asleep without much fuss. But before you get there…are you making these bedtime mistakes?
WORDS TAN WEE KENG
Sleep. It is a necessity you can’t have enough of as a new parent and a luxury your baby doesn’t seem to want. You envy your friends who tell you their favourite baby bonding time is their pre-bedtime ritual while you get through each day hoping today will be the day your baby would just fall asleep when you need him to. There is no golden formula to solve your baby bedtime woes but there are a number of things you can avoid to help make sleeping time a more pleasant experience for you and your baby.
Mistake #1: Having Inconsistent Bedtime Routines
Children of all ages appreciate consistency and predictability. Establishing routines not only helps you plan out your day but also gives children a sense of security and control as they can anticipate what comes next.
Bedtime routines can start from as young as six to
eight weeks old with simple pre-bedtime cues such as changing into
pyjamas or putting on a swaddle, cuddling a bedtime lovey or a
soft toy and a kiss ‘goodnight’ to indicate it is now time to sleep.
Elaborate pre-bedtime rituals could include a story and a calming song to add to your bonding time. But always bear in mind not to overstimulate children in this process. Keeping the environment dimly lit, cosy, with minimal sounds and free from technology will decrease stimulation and increase support towards a peaceful sleep.
It is important to start with a simple routine that you can realistically keep to. The problem with starting one that is too elaborate or time-consuming is that you might find yourself having to cut short or skip through parts when there is a time crunch to rush your baby off to bed. Any inconsistencies in your routine will not only disrupt the rhythm but also confuse your baby who is learning to pick up on your communication signals.
Mistake #2: Going to Bed Too Late
Past the fourth month, babies typically start to differentiate between day and night and most babies eventually grow to be sleep ready between 6pm and 8pm. However, this can all go awry when parents put their babies to bed only at 10pm or 11pm either in the hope that the later they go bed the higher the chance of them sleeping through the night or wanting them to be awake to spend time with them when they come home late from work. Not only does this over tire the babies which makes them fussy and prone to tantrums, this can also result in insufficient sleep which causes them to wake up tired in the mornings.
Toddlers between the ages of one to three years should ideally get 14 hours of sleep a day . Assuming your three-year-old child takes a two-hour nap during the day, he really should be going to bed at 8pm in order to get the required additional 12-hour sleep to wake up refreshed at 8am.
Look out for sleep readiness cues such as glassy eyes, rubbing of eyes, yawning, and boredom with toys so that you can kick your pre-bedtime routine into action even before your baby starts acting up or getting fussy.
Mistake #3:High Reliance on Sleeping Props
While pacifiers and baby bottles can seem like essential tools to comfort babies, there is also the risk that they could develop such a reliance that their sleep gets interrupted when it falls out of their mouths in the middle of the night, causing great distress as they wake up looking for it.
Babies who fall asleep suckling their milk bottles are not only prone to tooth decay due to sugar residue from the remnant milk, but also the risk of ear infections as unswallowed milk can flow into the ear when the baby is in a sleeping position. It is therefore important that your baby finishes drinking his milk before being put to sleep.
Mistake #4: Using Sleep as a Punishment
If you regularly send your child off to bed as a consequence of misbehaviour or threaten to do so, you are sending him the message that sleep is a negative thing which can lead to resentment and a battle of wills.
Keep sleep positive by greeting your baby in the morning or
after a nap with positive reinforcing words of how good
it must feel to have had good sleep and how important
it is to make them grow big and strong.
Some older children may fight sleep because they fear losing out on the activities that are going on while they are asleep. Address that by telling them what goes on while they are sleeping, for example, “mummy needs to do the laundry while you are asleep”, or highlight what they can look forward to when they wake up.
Mistake #5: Having Unrealistic Bedtime Expectations
Having read up on the different philosophies and approaches to the best baby bedtime practices, you may have set expectations on how you hope bedtimes with your baby would be. Every child is different and everyone parents through different circumstances in life. Unrealistic expectations of what your child can do and what you can manage can be frustrating both to you and your child. So try to implement the approach you believe is right but remember to leave space for adjustment and make changes gradually over time.
The ultimate goal is to find a good bedtime arrangement that works well for your baby’s development in the long run – make it a special time of the day that you both share and look forward to and for you to get the quality shut-eye you deserve.
Tan Wee Keng is the CEO of Tollyjoy Baby Products
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