Getting your baby to sleep is not always an easy task. When you are a new parent, you haven’t necessarily learnt all the tips and tricks that can help. Then when you are a second, third or foruth time parent it can be very easy to make sleep mistakes when you are juggling multiple kids because you just need them to sleep so you can concentrate on your other kids. Don’t stress if you know you have made common baby sleep mistakes. We’ve all been there a time or two!
If you are unsure if you are making some of the most common sleep mistakes, have a look at this list. These are the mistakes I see many of the parents I work with making, but they are all absolutely fixable.
Putting your baby or toddler to bed too late.
If you or your partner work, you might want to have your baby or toddler go to bed lager to maximize time spent with them. While it is lovely to have this special quality time with your little one, this may be affecting them getting the sleep they need.
Also, when you are having trouble working out why your little one isn’t sleeping well overnight, or waking early the first thought can often be to keep them up later at night, so they’ll sleep longer in the morning. What many parents don’t realize (Me included, before I was a sleep consultant!) is that later bedtimes can actually exacerbate sleep problems. This is because your toddler can become overtired and find it hard to not only fall asleep but also stay asleep overnight.
A baby over 6 – 8 weeks old through to a child of 8 years old should really have a bedtime between 6 to 8 pm. Often the exact bedtime depends on their naps during the day, and how long their wake window is, but bedtime should fall somewhere in that range.
Using motion to sleep.
Babies love motion and babies often fall asleep pretty easily when it is used. There are quite a few reasons why this isn’t the best idea. When we talk about motion we talk about rockers, strollers, cars etc.
When babies or toddlers are helped to fall asleep through motion they can begin to feel like this is the only way that they can fall asleep and don’t learn how to fall asleep independently. This can mean that they need more and more motion to get to sleep and can even wake up early from naps or overnight wanting that motion again to get back to sleep.
The other thing to note about motion sleep, is that if your baby or toddler is sleeping in motion (not just to fall asleep) they are not getting the rest their body and their brain needs because it doesn’t allow them to fall into the deep sleep they get in their cribs or beds.
Skipping bedtime and naptime routines.
I can’t stress how important bedtime and naptime routines are. They provide a cue to your baby or toddler’s brain that sleep time is coming, thus preparing them for the process of falling asleep. It also helps a busy, active toddler start the winding down process, which allows them to relax. Toddlers often struggle to make the transition from playtime into sleep time if they are immediately plopped into their crib from whatever exciting activity they were doing previously.
Not every cry or noise needs to be attended to.
As new parents we often feel like every cry, grunt or groan means we should go and check on our baby. But babies are very noisy creatures and sometimes they cry out in their sleep or wake briefly and cry but manage to return to sleep. If parents immediately jump up and attend to every noise a baby won’t learn the skill of getting themselves back to sleep and will want their parents to help them each time.
I always suggest to parents to wait a bit when they hear thier baby cry just to see whether it is just a quick one before falling back to sleep. Check the clock as well and see if it is a reasonable time for your baby to need a nurse or a feed. If not, allowing them a little bit of space to try and return themselves back to sleep can help them learn important independent sleep skills.
Ignoring sleep cues.
Babies and toddlers provide cues that tell us when they are getting sleepy and ready for their next nap or bedtime. Babies will often get fussy, yawn, start losing interest or rub their eyes. Toddlers can be a little bit different but yawning, crankiness or even acting wired could be a sign that they are tired and need to sleep. If we ignore the signals they are showing us we can make their nap or bedtime too late, which leads to an overtired little person who may struggle to fall asleep (cue extended crying) or not be able to stay asleep (cue short naps or multiple night wakings).
Not being consistent.
The last thing we want to do as parents is to provide our little one mixed signals. Ever seen a toddler who was one day told he can jump on the couch and next day he couldn’t? They get confused and may start acting out due to frustration.
Babies and toddlers can get really confused if things aren’t consistent at sleep times too. It can mean they don’t know whose job it is to get them to sleep. Theirs or their parents?
Consistency is also important if you come up with a plan to address sleep challenges. Parents often come to me needing help to make changes and one of the biggest problems is consistency. They might try some thing for a night or two and then give up. Or they might try something at the beginning of the night but not follow through overnight. To really make sleep changes we need to be consistent for naps, bedtime and overnight and try something for at least a week or two. I’d love to say changes happen overnight, but they often take a lot longer than that.
What mistakes have you made as parents? Please comment and let me know if you have been guilty of any of the above, or if you can think of any other things I’ve missed.
If you’d like help addressing the sleep mistakes you’ve made, please don’t hesitate to reach out for your very own get acquainted call and we can talk about how I can help and support you to teach your little one to become a star sleeper!