Help! Why Won’t My Child Sleep?

If you are reading this, you probably don’t even remember your last night of good sleep. At this point, you’d probably be satisfied with some just okay sleep if it was for more than two - three hours at a time.

We wish we had a magic formula that would turn all babies and children who have trouble getting to sleep on their own, or staying asleep, into perfectly lovely little sleepers. Sadly though, we don’t. We do have suggestions that can help.

Create conditions that encourage sleep:

  • Create a bedtime ritual that includes some quiet time such as a warm bath, massage, or cuddling while singing or reading.

  • When creating your nighttime ritual, try to do most of it in the room where your child is sleeping.

  • Keep the same daily routine as much as possible: wake up at the same time, keep meals and snacks at the same time, and make bedtime the same time so your child knows what to expect.

  • As it nears naptime or evening bedtime, keep lights dim to signal your child’s brain that it is time to sleep. Make sure that their room is not too bright. If using a night light, find one that gives off a dim light.

  • Try to keep a consistent nap and bedtime. Infants who do this seem to have less trouble falling and staying asleep, and older children appreciate a consistent routine too.

  • Try nursing or bottle feeding your baby right before naps and bedtime. If they begin to drift off, then place them in bed and then quietly leave the room. For older children, a light snack before bed can help them but stay away from sugary foods and caffeine.

  • Adjust your sleeping arrangements, if needed, by having your infant and young child sleep in your room so that you can comfort them before they are fully awake.

  • Lots of babies love “white noise” that drowns out distractions and simulates the sound they heard in the womb. This sound can be from a vaporizer, a fan or even a sleep machine.

Some habits not to encourage:

  • Don’t put your children to sleep in a bed full of toys. It’s dangerous for babies, and distracting for older children. Plus, beds are to sleep in not for play.

  • Don’t soothe your children to sleep by placing a bottle of juice, milk or formula in bed with them. These liquids can cause tooth decay as well as sleep onset associations that increase sleep problems.

  • Don’t let your children use screens two hours before bed time and keep screens out of bedrooms. The lights from the screen interfere with their natural melatonin production.

  • Don’t punish your children by sending them, or threatening them with going, to bed.

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