Helping Your Baby Sleep Throughout the Night
My daughter is a little over a year old, and even I still have a difficult time getting her to sleep throughout the night. She is currently not in a crib, but in a play area that I bought for her to sleep in. She has her own mattress, and it’s quite comfortable and most importantly, safe. The difficult part: she’s right near my bed so occasionally, she’ll stand up and look right at me while I’m in my bed and give me an extremely sad look. Sometimes, it’s enough to make me give in and I’ll let her sleep in my bed. It seems like she sleeps much better when she’s next to me and I truly believe that.
I’m not sure about you other parents, but if my living area allowed for it, I’d have my daughter sleep as close as possible to me. I can’t complain though, because as long as my daughter is happy then so am I.
Sometimes my daughter seems like she’s too wound up to sleep. In the past when that was the case, I let her stay up until she was tired and exhausted and willing to finally cooperate with me and go to sleep. However, what really happened was that over time, she became much harder to put to sleep when I wanted, and this became a reoccurring problem. Eventually, it led to her often falling asleep WAY past what I wanted. This caused me so much turmoil and lack of sleep. After some trial and error, I found out that this was not effective in any way. Well, good news for you! I’m here to tell you exactly what I did wrong (and right) and tips that eventually helped me out with this issue. If your child is having trouble sleeping through the night too, I truly hope that these tips will help both you and your daughter/son get some sleep. Here they are:
Keep Bedtime as Consistent as Possible
If you truly want you and your child to experience the best sleep possible, the fact is – your child needs to be on a consistent routine. This means doing things the same time every day. This includes meals too. This also includes giving your little one a bath at the same time every night. If you do this, your bedtime rituals/routines will let your child know what’s to be expected before bed and other times of the day.
Before any planning takes place regarding your baby’s sleep, you and your partner need to be on the same page, and communication is an absolute must. You both should be doing things in a similar manner and both of you should be following the same routines. Both of you should be discussing each other’s wants and needs to ensure you’re in agreement. Here’s an example: maybe Mom wants to co-sleep with the baby in their family bed. Maybe Dad prefers to keep the bedroom off-limits for now and have their baby sleep in their bassinet. In this example, both parents want two different things to happen. This miscommunication will eventually come back to bite both of you because it’s going to cause problems like this. Both of you should sit down and discuss matters such as how much crying each of you can handle, parenting aspects that you both agree or don’t agree with, and other things such as setting limits and being consistent.
Over time, you’ll learn about your little one’s temperament and their ability to handle themselves. What wakes them up most of the time? How do they soothe themselves? Are there things that you can do to improve any situation? The main goal is for both parents to be on the same page in their child’s involvement. If you can talk and work through any disagreements that you may have, then you can absolutely make things work. Not being on the same page, having disagreements, and not staying on a consistent routine will make everyone regret the wasted time, energy, and effort. Not only that, but your baby won’t see any improvements either.
Of course, things like deaths in the family can happen, or other unexpected events that you have no control over. These can disrupt your entire night routine for you and your baby. While these situations almost always occur at some point, they still are rare. A majority of the time, it is possible to keep your child on a set routine. Bedtime MUST be at the same time each night. A few minutes off here and there of course won’t do harm, but remember to try to keep it as consistent as you both possibly can. If you can pull it off, your child’s not going to fight you to stay awake during bedtime.
Your Own Nighttime Ritual
While I always stress the importance of having a consistent routine during the day, it’s just as important, maybe even more important, to have a consistent bedtime ritual. You should aim for one that is simple and easy to become familiar with and follow. This is their way of winding down for sleep, and having a routine is a great way to help them get ready to sleep.
Think of it from their perspective – you don’t come home from work and immediately go to sleep until the next day. First, you need to get ready for bed and prepare for tomorrow. Even before that, you need to ultimately relax a little bit, regardless of how stressful day was. If you don’t do what you normally do before bed a.k.a. your routine, you’re probably not going to sleep as well as you normally would. The same exact concept applies to your baby/toddler.
Before bed, you might watch some TV, read a book, listen to music, snuggle with your pet for a little, etc. The list goes on and is unique for everyone. Maybe you normally give your little one a bath for bed. Maybe you usually sing a few songs to them or read them a story. Maybe you just sit with them for a little bit until they get tired. What works is completely dependent on both parents and the child. As long as you can make them wind down through some activity or routine that you consistently do, they will very likely be willing to go to bed.
Safe and Secure
If you expect your child to sleep without a sense of security, then I’m sorry to tell you that that will most likely not ever happen. Think of it like this: would you be able to sleep at night if the front door to your house and all of your windows were left wide open? Probably not. Although your child probably can’t understand the concept of that at this point, they still can feel secure with something such as a stuffed animal or other security object. Something that they can feel familiar with and are accustomed to.
My daughter has a variety of stuffed animals that I bought for her many, many years ago. She really loves them a LOT. She basically sleeps with one every single night because it’s her sense of security. I don’t think there’s been one night where she doesn’t want to sleep with it. It makes her feel safe and gives her a sense of security and tells her that “Yes, it’s okay to fall sleep!”
Adjusting and Optimizing Naps
My daughter’s only a year old but she still needs naps throughout the day. If she doesn’t nap at all, she’ll be too wired and restless. Sometimes, I even have trouble getting her to sleep at her typical time. Then, when that happens, it sort of starts a chain reaction and thus the next day she is even more out of sync. Then, she might want to nap multiple times, much more than she should be or usually does. This is such a headache! She still needs to nap, but as she grows older, it’s advised that nap time is reduced. Currently, she takes about two naps throughout the day, but in the next few months I’m going to have to taper that off and I’ll be combining both naps into a longer one in the afternoon. I don’t expect this to be easy or simple but it needs to be done in order for her to continue sleeping well at night.
Excessive napping during the day will result in a child who is not tired enough to get to sleep when they should. The same applies for us adults. Excessive daytime naps will result in an altered sleep cycle. Remember that if you are ever unsure about when your child should sleep or how many naps they should take in a day, always, always, always…ask your pediatrician about how to manage their napping schedule! They are there to help!
Diet and Impact on Sleep
Believe it or not, diet is very important and can play a huge role on the amount and quality of sleep that your child gets. If you checked off the other boxes and still aren’t sure why they’re still not sleeping, then take a look at your child’s diet as it could be interfering with their ability to sleep. High sugars and too many carbs is a big no-no. This includes candy, bread, potatoes, pasta, etc. Food high in trans-fats are also bad, so avoid that as well.
If you’ve been feeding your baby these foods and they aren’t sleeping well, then now is the ideal time to make much needed changes. Definitely switch to foods high in vitamins and minerals such as eggs, fruit, vegetables, cheese and many more. These are way better options. Complex carbs are much better if you still give them carbs, and these can include whole grains, lentils, beans, and more.
Even if you have no idea or are completely lost about what you should feed your child, once again – ask your pediatrician. Even if they don’t know, they can most likely refer you to a pediatric nutritionist for help to find out what foods you should be feeding them. They should be able to provide you with a great list of foods that will be beneficial for your child in helping them sleep better throughout the night.
Still No Dice? A Trip to The Pediatrician Should Be in Order
If you’ve been following everything above, and they are still not sleeping throughout the night, then there could be some other issue that you’re not aware of that’s interrupting them in their sleep. Something as simple as an examination and bloodwork could help point your pediatrician in the right direction of figuring out what exactly is the problem. There’s only so much you can do, and if you think that you’ve done everything that should be done and still aren’t seeing any results, then it’s time to throw in the towel and get them to their pediatrician.
In short, you know how difficult it is to raise a child – to take care of them, to maintain them in their well-being, all while trying to deal with the daily struggles of life. I hope that these tips have helped at least one parent out, so that their child can finally get some sleep. Remember, a happy baby is a sleepy baby and a sleepy baby means a good night of sleep for yourself and your family too!
Hi everyone, I'm Elizabeth. My beautiful daughter Alice keeps me awake occasionally...but when I'm busy and can't sleep, I post parenting tips and different ways you can get your baby to sleep soundly through the night, and even naps!
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