Next Step Therapy Blog: Bedtime Tips

bedtimeAmy Kaltenbach, Administrator of Next Step Therapy, submitted the following “Bedtime Tips.”

Many parents find bedtime and naptime challenging. Honestly, there is nothing that can prepare a new mom for the sleep deprivation that she will face with a new baby.

I recall going through my maternity leave in a bit of a fog due to sleepless nights. When I returned to work, I was so tired that all of the caffeine in the world wouldn’t help me.

On my second week of returning to full-time work, I noticed some post-it notes had fallen under my desk, way far back. I crawled under my desk to retrieve them and recall thinking, “I will put my head down on the floor just for a second….”

About twenty minutes later, my office mate came and in and found me sleeping under my desk. I gave him quite a scare. I realized that my husband and I needed to revamp the bedtime routine for our son, so that I wouldn’t fall asleep in strange places ever again.

Establishing good sleep habits is key to bedtime success. The first step is to make sure that your child has a predictable place to sleep. Will little Johnny sleep in his own room or be sharing a room with a sibling? If you want Johnny to sleep in his own bed, put him down for sleep there.

Develop a regular time for putting your child to bed and taking naps. Some children (like my oldest) are early risers. Up by 6:30 a.m. but ready to go to bed by 7:30 p.m. or else! Keep in mind that you cannot make an early riser sleep in until 10:00 a.m. Yes, I had to adjust to this to waking up around 6:30 a.m. all week long. If I chose to go to bed at 1:00 am, I would be waking up at 6:30 a.m. with my son. Young children need around 10-12 hours of sleep per day, so make sure that you are being consistent.

Develop a bedtime and naptime routine with your child. Help your little one be ready for sleepy-time. Babies and young children thrive on routines and predictability. They need to know what is happening next.

A calming and relaxing routine helps your child unwind and relax. Start with a bath with time for play in the tub. For older toddlers, it is a good idea to use “first/then” statements to help them predict what will happen next.

“Naomi, it’s time to get ready for bed. First let’s pick up the toys. Then, we can pick out a book to read.”

Choosing a bedtime story and taking a favorite teddy bear/blanket/doll to bed also help. Many children enjoy taking a favorite object to bed to cuddle with as they drift off to sleep.

Avoid activities near bedtime that are loud, rough, or too active. This could excite your child and make it difficult for them to go to sleep. It is also a good idea to avoid electronics (IPad, computer games, etc.) at least one hour before bedtime. Be sure to reduce noise and distractions in and near the child’s bedroom.

Finally, put your child down to sleep while she is still awake. This helps your child learn to go to sleep on her own. I rocked my oldest son to sleep for a long time, and he had great difficulty going to sleep while awake. It took time to help him learn to go to sleep on his own.

This was a long process of my husband or me checking on him and encouraging him to sleep. It was not easy.

Follow each step of your routine and say “good night.” Make sure that your child knows that you will check on her. If she falls asleep frequently in your arms or in the rocking chair, it can be scary and disorienting to wake up in bed.

It will take time to change difficult sleep habits, but be consistent and follow a routine! The earlier that you address sleeping issues, the better it is for you and your child.

Happy Sleep!

Amy

Amy Kaltenbach
Administrator, Next Step Therapy


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