Another form of discipline: Sleep
Slave labor is trying to get a three year-old to stay in bed because she simply won’t stay in bed. This is not an area to give in or get lazy. The negative consequences are immeasurable. Getting our children to sleep and sleep through the night is tiresome stuff but it can and must be done. After getting through homework and dinner we are exhausted and looking forward to our children resting so that we can finally get some rest ourself. We all need our sleep- so why do children fight it? They haven’t learned how enjoyable, safe and rejuvenating it is. Babies are insecure and children are curious, afraid they are going to miss something. Therefore, we need to nurture and implement a strategy that conveys an enjoyable, safe and happy experience- even if it doesn’t start out that way. Let’s begin at the beginning, where it’s easiest- babies.
As a door turns on its hinges,
So a sluggard turns on his bed.
The Toothless Kind (0-6 months)
Did you get that? The sluggard gets no rest! The sooner you begin developing good sleep habits in your children, the sooner the day will come when an 8 hour night is a given, not a prayer.
First of all, start out with the right frame of mind. Even though you may think there is nothing more painful than not giving into a child’s cries, know that this is the first step towards building confidence and trust- that mommy and daddy know what is best and it works out well in the end. It kills to hear a baby cry. Teaching our offspring how to sleep is like anything else- teaching them how to eat, walk, obey boundaries, etc. We have to remember the rewards.
Now, in the beginning, there is no rhyme or reason. Your baby probably slept all day because of the movement in the womb, (rocking back and forth) and was active at night, which anyone with an exhausted, pregnant body can attest to. ust when we’re about to call it a night, the cartwheels begin. Therefore, babies may have their days and nights mixed up and it will take awhile for this pattern to straighten itself out.
Word to the Wise:
At this stage, don’t tiptoe around a sleeping baby-
get them used to the hum and drum of a household.
Talk in your normal tone, run the vacuum, do the laundry, let your other children play. It wouldn’t be fair to them if they had to be quiet during baby’s nap time since babies nap all the time.
Word to the Wise:
If the baby wakes up from a loud noise
(like your dog barking at every blade of grass that blows in the wind),
don’t rush in to soothe him right away.
Give her a minute or two to try and get herself back to sleep. If she isn’t to that point yet, go in and touch her belly and soothe her with your voice. Use your normal tone of voice, but softer. In other words, don’t use “baby talk” to reassure a startled baby. She will relax if you use a calming, confident voice, and plainly state, “You’re fine, Daddy is right here.” Of course a baby won’t understand a word you’re saying, but she knows when you’re upset. So if you’re really mad (and you’re ready to drop the dogs off at the SPCA and ship your kids off with a one way ticket), calm yourself down before you go in to soothe the baby.
By 3-4 months you will see a sleep pattern begin. She is probably starting to sleep through the night (with a few bumps in the road)– 10:00pm to 5:00am is considered sleeping through the night, even if it doesn’t feel like it. Remember that preemies and smaller babies may take a little longer.
The plans of the diligent lead to profit
As surely as haste leads to poverty.
The Two or More Teeth Kind (5/6-12mo.)
By the time your baby is 6-7 months old, he is probably close to sitting up and eating cereal. Here is where the nap time, eating and pooping schedule starts to take form. At six months start giving your children their bottle with dinner (not at bed time- where they will conk out. I know, I know, “Why wouldn’t you want to put your baby down already checked out to slumber land?”- that would be the easiest). Yes, it is the easiest, but it sets you up for bigger struggles down the road- like the nighttime bottle/breast feeding battle. Here is where setting a great bedtime routine comes into play. Feed, bottle, bathe, say goodnight to the moon (or whatever you choose) read a book, say a little prayer and say, “Now it’s time for night- night”.
Trust me, I used this method three times and three times it took less than a week for my 6 month- old to easily settle into bed and fall off to sleep without a bottle. I’m not saying we didn’t hit a few slippery slopes on our mountain, children will test every once in a while, that is normal, but as long as you stay consistent and stick to the pattern, you will get there.
Okay, now that baby is asleep, there is still the little bitty (ok, humongous) task of getting them to STAY asleep. I’m going to share with you how I did it. I consistently followed Dr. Richard Ferber’s book. Ferber recommends a very specific regimen for dealing with waking and crying babies. Parents must go in to baby’s room and soothe (but not pick up) at five-minute increments. These increments were too long for me, I couldn’t stand to hear them cry that long, so I shortened the time frame. I started off with two minutes. When they cry, go in and soothe with your voice and a back rub for about one minute and then walk out- even if they are still crying. From 2 minutes I’d go to 5, from 5, I went to 7 and from 7 to 10. I rarely got up in the 20-minute zone. Be strong, this works.
Let’s Break it Down
- a. Feed baby with bottle around 5-6 pm
- b.Bathe baby, brush the two teeth they have
- c.Start routine
We say goodnight to the moon
Read a book
Say a little prayer while you rock
Say, “It’s time for sleep” and put baby down- walk out door.
Return if baby cries, start 2, 5, 7,10 minute regimen
Once the bedtime routine is established, let other caregivers do it so that you can have a night off!
Laziness brings on deep sleep,
And the shiftless man goes hungry.
The Biting Kind (1-3 years old)
Woe to you if you are here and your child has yet to get to sleep without your fulfilling his thirteen demands and then still having to rub his precious little back until he nods off. The only deep sleep you’ll be getting is during the day, when you are supposed to be working or driving. Trust me, it can happen to anyone, when we are desperate for sleep and not looking for a bedtime battle, it is amazing what we start doing to keep the peace.
At this stage it will take a little longer, some perseverance, teamwork and consistency. Your older child will be willing to hold out longer to get that end result. It is important to have a good game plan in place.
Make plans by seeking advice;
If you wage war, obtain guidance.
And boy, do I have a plan for you!
After dinner is quiet time (no toys, they go to sleep at night too).
Give your toddler a “5 minute warning” before starting bedtime routine. If she argues, give her a choice of having her usual bedtime routine or going straight to bed. Any arguments about this “choice” and straight to bed. And follow-through! They won’t argue the next night, that’s for sure.
Once they are in bed and calmed down (because this will be a battle like you’ve never seen before, bedtime routine is important to children), tuck them in by saying, “Tomorrow is a new day, when daddy asks you to get ready for bed, it is time for bed without arguments.”
Establish a toddler routine (not to exceed 10-15 minutes) which will include going potty, a drink of water, getting teddy and book to help doze off, etc.
Kiss them and say goodnight.
Allow one call back, or one question. Give one more kiss and tell your child firmly it is bedtime.
Bed Hoppers And Bed Screamers
What do you do when your toddler climbs out of bed or cries? You’ll have to figure out something they really like and take it away. The same goes for screamers from the bed, “Mom, come here!” If you are the kind of parent who means what she says- he will heed your warning, most of the time.
The sluggard craves and gets nothing,
But the desires of the diligent are fully satisfied.
I believe so strongly in naps that I am devoting a whole section to them. And since I begin this section with more about that sluggard, you have probably guessed that this too takes a little work and perseverance. They are so important to your child’s wellbeing (and yours). If you have set nap times and bedtime, your child’s body will synchronize into a beautiful pattern. I’ve heard people say, “My child stopped napping at 2- they don’t need it anymore.” This is not true. Their little bodies and little brains need a certain amount of rest to develop. They may not get as cranky as some other children but it doesn’t mean they aren’t tired.
The other popular thing to do is take away the nap so that the kids crash at night—making things a little easier for the parent. If your child is completely crashing at night, he needs more sleep. Besides, what are you going to do when he truly doesn’t need the nap anymore? Then you’re stuck with trying to get your child to sleep when her eyes are actually still open. You’ll know when your 3 to 4 year old is ready to drop the nap when he’s having difficulty going to sleep at night and is not cranky at dinnertime without a nap.
Word to the Wise:
Never let them nap after 4:00!
If your child can’t sit still, gets frustrated easily or acts aggressive, it may be due to a lack of sleep. Sleep effects your child’s behavior, cognitive ability and motor skills.
How do you get your child to nap? Use the same techniques as bedtime. Even if they are at a place where they are not taking a consistent nap EVERYDAY, it is still important to enforce a “quiet, resting time” with books while they are laying down.
So, roll up your sleeves- this task is not easy but it is one of the most beneficial!