It is no secret that becoming a parent means preparing to give up uninterrupted nights of sleep for the first couple of months. We know that when our new baby arrives we will be waking at least once or twice every few hours for several weeks but what happens when your baby gets a little older and still won't settle?
Try these tips to help your baby or toddler sleep through the night, making night time better for him and for you.
1. Establish a routine through the whole of the day and don't just limit routines to the evening. It is quite easy to get babies into a routine after only a few days of consistency. It doesn't have to especially rigid but even approximate times for breakfast, lunch and dinner along with set nap times during the day can help establish evening and bedtime routines more effectively. When baby becomes familiar with some kind of schedule his body clock will fall into a regular pattern.
2. A nice warm bath after the evening meal will relax your little one. A little splash about is fine but don't overdo it - you don't want him getting too over-excited!
3. Make the evening routine calmer and quieter, signalling that the day is drawing to a close. Put all toys and activities away until tomorrow. Limit any activities to quiet, relaxing ones like reading a book or listening to lullabies.
4. Dim the lights, again signalling that the day is drawing to a close. Turn off the television, radio or any other noisy distractions and make this a special, peaceful time of the day for you to share together.
5. Snuggle on the sofa with a cuddle and a story. Again, keep things calm and peaceful and steer clear of action-packed stories.
6. Before settling your baby into bed for the night give him a warm drink of milk. Hot chocolate works well for toddlers and young children too. If your baby is a little younger and still takes a bottle or breastfeeds take them up to their room and feed them there, again keeping lights as dim as possible.
7. Make sure that your child's room is quiet and free from distractions. Again, make sure all toys are put away apart from perhaps a cuddly toy or two that your toddler may like to sleep with. Remember, it isn't recommended for young babies to sleep with cuddly toys in their beds for safety reasons.
8. Settle your baby into bed - clean, fresh sheets work wonders! Make sure the room is not too hot nor too cold. Room thermometers can be bought for a very reasonable price and will help make sure that your baby is safe and comfortable too.
9. When he's all tucked into bed give him a kiss goodnight and quietly leave the room. Try to encourage your baby to fall asleep by himself in his cot, not while he is still in your arms. When he wakes he will expect to be in the same place as he fell asleep. If he falls asleep in your arms but wakes in his cot without you near him he is more likely to become confused and upset. If he learns to fall asleep by himself he will be able to settle himself quicker and easier if he wakes during the night as he won't be expecting you to be with him.
10. Repeat the same things every day and you will find your baby responding to the new routine fairly quickly. Occasionally, you may find that circumstances mean you can't stick to the usual pattern. That is okay every now and then and as long as you stick to the routine the rest of the time it shouldn't cause any problems.
Don't expect to see results overnight. It might take several days before you see any improvement but keep persevering and you will begin to see the light at the end of the sleep deprived tunnel.