Getting your child to sleep

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You know the drill. It’s 2:00am and all of a sudden you hear a shrill wail from the other room. Within less than a minute, you’re bleary-eyed and shuffling over to check on your child and make sure everything is okay.

And most of the time, it is.

Getting your child to sleep

In fact, there are probably plenty of nights when you can’t imagine what made your baby wake up and start crying in the first place. Fortunately (or unfortunately), this is totally normal. Your average infant often sleeps for only one to two hours at a time, and most don’t develop a normal sleep schedule for their first six months. And it doesn’t necessarily get easier after that. Toddlers actually need less sleep and can be just as difficult.

So where does that leave a pair of new parents? Exhausted and desperately short on patience. We’ve all been there and know it can get pretty ugly.

Nothing can guarantee that your child will sleep through the night, but there are a few things you can do to help. Try these tips help everyone in your family get some shut-eye.

  1. Wait a minute. This one is tough for most parents. When you hear your child crying, instinct tends to kick in and your first urge is to go sprinting to their rescue. We’re not suggesting you neglect your baby, but try waiting just a few minutes before you go investigate. The sooner they learn to fall asleep again on their own, the better. If your child keeps crying after a few minutes, go ahead and check on them.
  2. Don’t over-stimulate. If you have to go over to check on your baby, try to keep the interaction as short as possible. Keep the lights off or dimmed and try not to move your baby around too much. For toddlers, try to keep them away from electronic devices for half an hour or so before bed. Studies show that watching television or computer screens at night can interfere with sleeping patterns.
  3. Stick to a routine. Developing a regular pattern helps encourage regular sleeping habits. There’s no one right way to do this, but find one that works for your family and try to be consistent. Reading a book before bedtime carries extra benefits and is a good way to bond with your child. Try to start and finish reading at the same time each night.
  4. Really, stick to it. The older your kid gets, the more they’re going to rebel against a set bedtime. Do not give in and try not to resort to bribery.
  5. Wear them out. This one, unfortunately, is only effective for toddlers. It’s a fairly self-evident classic for one simple reason: it works. Try to pack some some significant physical activity into your child’s day and keep them awake for longer stretches of time. The only key to this is to remember to wind down as bedtime approaches. The last thing you want is a hyper young one hoping for more games when you want to go to sleep.
  6. Be patient. This is going to take a while. It’s something every new parent goes through and it’s also something that will eventually end. Hang in there.
sleep hygiene
noun \sleep hahy-jeen\
Definition of SLEEP HYGIENE

A variety of different practices that are necessary to have normal, quality nighttime sleep and full daytime alertness.

Basic principles of sleep hygiene for children
Amornrat Pooaramwatana, M.D.
Pediatric – Development and Behavioural Pediatrics, Samitivej Hospital

  1. Have a set bedtime and bedtime routine for your child
  2. Bedtime and wake-up time should be about the same time on school nights and non-school nights. There should not be more than about an hour difference from one day to another.
  3. Make the hour before bed shared quiet time. Avoid high-energy activity.
  4. Don’t send your child to bed hungry. A light snack before bed is good idea.
  5. Avoid products containing caffeine for at least several hours before bedtime. These include caffeinated sodas, coffee, tea and chocolate.
  6. Make sure your child spends time outside every day whenever possible and is involved in regular exercise.
  7. Keep your child’s bedroom quiet and dark.
  8. Keep your child’s bedroom at a comfortable temperature during at night.
  9. Don’t use your child’s bedroom for time-out or punishment.
  10. Keep the television set out of your child’s bedroom.

Photo Credit: db Photography | Demi-Brooke via Compfight cc

Expecting Expats is the online resource for parents in and around Thailand.

We provide lifestyle and medical content to our visitors, with new content posted daily. Our lifestyle contributors are themselves expat moms who share their experiences and lessons learned through blog articles. We also provide medical content from our partner doctors at Samitivej Hospital in Bangkok, Thailand. Articles of interest span from before pregnancy through the toddler years and cover medical, behavioral and cognitive issues.

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