“Sleep patterns and sleep routines matter because they have both long-term and short-term implications for health and cognitive development. […] If it sets a pattern in the way you treat sleep or bedtime, these patterns may last your whole life unknowingly.”
– Lauren Hale. MD, Preventive Medicine
Calming, Bonding and Safe Sleep Rituals
Sometimes, it is easy to forget your little people are actually a little person with thoughts, feelings, and expectations of their own. If you are consistent in your parenting, children very quickly begin to anticipate the natural flow of the day based on what you have done in the past.
Our children should not associate sleep with feelings of abandonment, fear, desperation, anxiety, punishment, excitement, or stimulation. Instead, sleep should be associated with feelings of tranquility, relaxation, love, trust, restfulness, empowerment, and peace.
Developing a soothing and calming routines that helps your child transition from awake to sleep is an essential part of your sleep training process. Setting sleep routines can improve sleep quality and quantity for infants, toddlers and older kids; and it’s a fantastic way to bond and cuddle with your child. A child’s sleep routines could affect her sleep pattern throughout a lifetime. Your goal is to teach your child the process to fall asleep and to help her feel safe, secure, and comforted. If the feeling around bedtime is a good feeling, your child will fall asleep easier.
Don’t change your child’s routine every day, but let it evolve as your baby grows. For example, your bedtime routine with your newborn might involve giving him a bath, massaging him, putting him in his pajamas, giving him a bottle (or nursing him), rocking him a little, and putting him in the crib. By the time your child is 9 months, it might evolve to giving him a bath, massaging him, putting him in his pajamas, giving him a bottle (or nursing him) while you sing to him, giving him his lovey and putting him in the crib. By the time your child is 2 years old, it might evolve to giving him a bath, putting him in his pajamas, brushing his teeth, reading him a book, giving him his lovey, and putting him in the crib.
Don’t start anything that you are not willing to continue down the road. If you know you don’t want to co-sleep, don’t bring your baby to your bed. If you won’t want to have to rock your baby to sleep when she is two years old, don’t do it when she is 2 months old. If you don’t want to have to nurse your baby to sleep in the middle of the night, do not nurse him to sleep at bedtime. Be aware of the associations that you create with sleep from day one, and make sure you only establish healthy and sustainable ones.
Keep Electronics Away
As I mentioned in my previous post, there is a major connection between time in front of the screen and sleep disorders. Avoid television watching, video game playing, and other exciting activities the hour before bedtime. Do not allow children to have a TV in their bedroom, and do not allow them to watch TV prior to bedtime.
Children who watch a lot of television, especially at bedtime, and those with a television in their bedroom are more likely to resist going to bed, have trouble sleeping, wake up more often, and have a poor quality sleep overall. Watching television tends to stimulate children, whereas for adults it can be relaxing.
Do not allow children to watch violent television programs. They can contribute to restless sleep and nightmares (among other things). Similarly, video games can impact a child’s quality and amount of sleep. Do not allow children to play video games anywhere near bedtime and always check the appropriateness of the rating.
Bedtime Routine Charts for Toddlers and Older Kids
Once you’ve decided on the best schedule for your child, get him involved in choosing the steps she wants to add to the bedtime routine. Do not offer her options you are not comfortable with; for example, watching TV before bedtime or mom lying on the bed with her shouldn’t be an option.
Once you both have come up with a routine, create a mural with pictures of the different steps of her bedtime routine and go with her over it, every day. Before you start implementing the new routine, practice every step and take a picture. Once you have all the pictures, stick them in order on a large piece of paper, with the help of your child. You can also add numbers to each part of the routine.
Get your child as involved as possible in the process of making the picture routine mural. For example, your child can help you stick the pictures on the paper. Make sure you put a time for each of the steps in the bedtime routine, and create a beginning and end time for the whole routine.
When the mural is done, hang it close to the bathroom or bedroom so that she can see it when she starts the bedtime routine. During the first days, walk her through the pictures during the day, and tell her what the steps are going to be at night. At night, let her lead the process of getting to bed. Ask her, “What do we have to do next?” She can then go to the mural and tell you what comes next. Every morning, praise her for following the routine the night before.
I hope this was helpful!
Much love, Diana-