What can I do?
Set up a bedtime routine.
- Routines help kids feel secure because they know what's happening next, making them calmer and more likely to cooperate at bedtime.
- Routines help your family understand what needs to happen when. For example - bath, teeth, story, kiss, lights out.
- Kids especially love a routine involving ‘uninterrupted’ time with mum or dad
- Have a set bedtime and stick to it most of the time. If you let them stay up later on weekends, they may expect to stay up all the time. And you might look forward to time to yourself!
- If you choose to be more flexible on week-ends remember kids need to be old enough to understand what is different about a week-end.
- Make a few simple bedtime rules- - and stick to them – e.g. sleep in agreed bed, down at 7pm, jobs all done before bedtime, etc
- Work on a bedtime routine that you're likely to stick with - 4 books, 3 songs and a massage might be too hard to keep up for long!
Make bedtime fun.
- Offer things that make kids WANT to go to bed. For example a new bedtime book (borrow new ones from your local library to keep it interesting).
- When it’s time to go to bed, offer some choices: Do you want to read a book or listen to me tell you a story? Do you want to sing some songs or have a massage? Do you want to be carried upside down, walk backwards or singing a silly bedtime song? By distracting them with humour, they may forget they didn’t want to go in the first place.
Set limits then stick to them.
- When the routine is over, it’s time for sleep. Leave the room and if they get upset, say you'll check back on them soon.
- Come back after five minutes, then stretch it out to 10, 20, 30.
- Give the clear message that sleep is the only thing left in the routine.
Make sleep the only choice.
- If you don’t like leaving them upset or they’re getting out of bed, stay in the room but be ‘boring’ don’t talk or engage with them.
- If a tantrum starts and they are hitting and kicking just watch that they aren’t going to hurt themselves, try and use calming words but don’t try pick them up.
- Show them that you mean what you say.
- Stay calm and put on your best ‘I’m not interested’ face. Do something they won’t find interesting like reading a book or folding the washing.
- Avoid using your phone - especially if you use it to entertain them at other times . They’ll want to see what you’re doing and it’s not a great example of ‘pre sleep’ activity.
- Close yourself in with them if they’re likely to try and escape!
Watch for sleepy signs to prevent overtiredness.
Spotting tired signs early can help stop a young baby getting overtired, which makes them harder to settle and likely to wake more often. Watch for: Yawning, Jerky movements, Clenched fists, Fussing and grizzling, Eye rubbing
Avoid keeping them up in the hope that they’ll sleep longer.
Young babies don’t sleep longer or settle more easily if they’re kept awake for longer. Sometimes they get overtired and won’t settle at all and they can be far more grizzly.
- A baby will get used to a separate sleeping space as long as they’re taken there while sleepy but still awake. This means when they wake in the night, they’re still in a familiar place and will learn to settle again by themselves.
- If you make a habit of rocking them or feeding them to sleep before you put them into their bed the next time they wake up, they will find themselves in a place that’s different from when they fell asleep. This may make them upset and be harder to settle again.
Start a sleep routine from an early age.
- A relaxed bedtime routine can make babies feel secure and more likely to settle.
- Routines create a pattern that children can understand - it makes them feel safer when they know what’s coming next.
- You can start introducing a routine early on and include calming things like feeding, a bath, a massage, a song or a story.
- Soothing techniques such as gentle stroking or a reassuring hand on their back can be effective. Soft background music might also help.
Share the load – you’ll be up several times in the night.
- New babies need their needs met at night. This includes feeding, burping and changing nappies.
- While it’s hard on you if you’re used to more sleep, it’s usual for babies to wake every few hours in the first month or two.
- Try and catch up on sleep when you can Ask whanau or friends to watch other kids.
- Just do the minimum you need to around the house if you’re really tired sleep when the baby does.
If baby sleeps in a separate space, try leaving them for a bit.
- Leaving the room can give them a chance to learn to sleep without you.
- Babies will often grizzle when you leave, but don’t rush straight back in - wait a few minutes to see if the noise is getting louder or quieter. If they’re getting more upset, go back in and check they are clean, warm, have wind or are hungry. Then try soothing techniques like patting, singing, rocking.
- Unless they need changing or wrapping try and avoid picking them up if you can use a calm, quiet voice to help soothe – it can be hard when they’re screaming but if you keep picking them up you are establishing a new pattern.
- Avoid eye contact and when you can see them calming down and getting sleepy, whisper goodnight and quietly leave.
- Be gentle yet firm when you know they need a sleep.
Try to take setbacks in your stride.
- Sleeping habits change as babies grow.
- Sleep routines can be upset by teething, growth spurts, sickness, travel or changes in their environment.
- Do what works for you and baby to get you both through the hard bits, and try to re-establish your routine as soon as life settles down again.
Keep a sleep diary so you can see what works.
- When you’re sleep deprived, sometimes it’s hard to remember when baby slept and how long for, and what worked to get them to settle the last time.
- If you’re not sure whether they’re having enough sleep, keep a diary over the week to get a picture of their sleeping/waking patterns.
- If you are really worried contact your Well Child/Tamariki Ora provider.
And what about you?
Over it? Use your phone timer to set a time limit for a play activity – your full attention for five minutes is better than half pai for longer.
Had enough? You may feel like you need alcohol or drugs to relax – but they often make the situation worse, especially when you have to deal with kids. Who could help you cut down or cut it out?