During my practice as a sleep professional, I’ve gotten used to people asking me what the secret is to getting a baby to sleep through the night.
Of course, there is no ONE secret. Teaching a child healthy sleep habits is a combination of lots of different things.
But that doesn’t mean that there are not some shortcuts! Today I’d like to share with you 7 different shortcuts you can start trying over the next few nights to get your child sleeping better.
Here we go:
Sleep Shortcut #1: Watch the waking hours
One of the BIGGEST enemies of sleep is overtiredness. Many parents are surprised to learn just how soon their children get overtired. Here’s a quick guide to how long your child should be awake between naps during the day:
- Newborn to 3 months: 45 minutes to 1 hour 15 minutes of awake time
- 3-5 months: 1.5-2 hours of awake time
- 6-8 months: 2-3 hours of awake time
- 9-12 months: 3-4 hours of awake time13 months to 2.5 years: 5-6 hours of awake time
If you make sure that your child is put down for naps BEFORE they get overtired, you will find that they fall asleep more easily at naptime AND that they are more relaxed at bedtime, too.
Sleep Shortcut #2: Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark
We humans (babies and toddlers included) sleep better in the dark. Try making your child’s room as dark as possible. I recommend using blackout blinds, taping cardboard over the windows, or whatever it takes. In many cases, even the glow from a nightlight or a digital alarm clock can be enough to disrupt your child’s sleep cycle.
BONUS TIP: Try to keep your child’s room as dark as possible during daytime naps, too. This can often make a BIG difference in how long your child will nap during the day.
Sleep Shortcut #3: Be Predictable (And A Little Boring)
Babies and toddlers love predictable routines. And a predictable bedtime routine, lasting no longer than 45 minutes, is a great way to let your child know when the time for sleep is coming. Make sure that this routine is the same every single time. Remember, you want bedtime to be as predictable as possible for your child.
After your bedtime routine is complete, be boring. Lots of children will try to drag out bedtime by playing games, throwing toys out of the crib, standing up, etc. Don’t participate. If your child has thrown their blanket or favorite stuffed toy out of the crib, calmly return the item without saying a word.
Sleep Shortcut #4: Feed AFTER Naps, Not Before
The most common reason they infants and toddlers struggle to sleep has to do with a feeding-sleep association. They think that they need a bottle or nursing BEFORE they can fall asleep. By feeding right after nap-time instead of before you can help your child break this feeding-sleep association.
IMPORTANT NOTE: This strategy should only be used before naps, not before putting your child to bed for the night. A full tummy is needed to make sure your child does not wake up hungry during the night.
Sleep Shortcut #5: Same Place, Same Time
Remembering that our children love predictability, so it is a good idea to have your child sleep in the same place every day. For many parents, simply changing WHERE their child naps during the day causes a big improvement in the length and quality of nighttime sleep.
BONUS TIP: When you are putting your child to sleep for the night, it is a good idea to make sure that they fall asleep where you want them to stay asleep.
Sleep Shortcut #6: Try The 1, 2, 3 System
When your child wakes up during the night or during a nap and starts crying or fussing, try to wait a specific length of time before going in to check on them. The first day you try this, I recommend waiting exactly one minute before going in to check on your child. On the second day, wait two minutes. Three minutes on the third day, and so on. Why?
Why? Everyone, babies and toddlers included, will wake up briefly at the end of each 45-minute sleep cycle. Most adults wake so briefly that we do not even remember it in the morning. But children who have not learned to fall asleep independently need a little longer.
This 1, 2, 3 System gives your child the opportunity to get themselves back to sleep without your help.
Sleep Shortcut #7: Take Five
Before you put your child to bed, for naps or at nighttime, make sure the five-minute period before they are put to bed is very calm and relaxing.
The Next Step?
As I said, these are shortcuts and quick tricks that may help some parents get their children sleeping through the night. I do hope that you will be one of the lucky parents who are able to solve their children’s sleep problems using one of these tricks. If not I am also here for you if you need a little more guidance. Feel free to book a 15-minute free call to discuss your child’s sleep issues and how I can help.