‘Is he sleeping through the night yet?’; ‘I need coffee, I was up half the night’; ’sleep deprivation is the worst!‘
When it comes to parenting, one of the biggest features of rearing our children is sleep. How much should they get? How do we settle them? Should they share the bed with us? Should they share a room? When should we transfer them to their own cot? How often should they nap? Why won’t they sleep??
Then we compare ourselves to other parents. ’I would never let my child in the bed with me, she is mad.’’ I would never let my child cry for a minute, let alone cry themselves to sleep. Self-soothing is a form of torture‘! The blame game continues on and on.
So let’s get back to basics. No matter what your own personal outlook is, the fact is that children really need sleep. They need a lot of sleep. Sleep is crucial to their growth, brain development, physical development and general well-being. Often when our children are not sleeping well, it is because they are over-tired or are caught up in the running around that is part of everyday life, and so we need to stop making excuses and start parenting up!
Every child is different!
However, when a baby starts on solid food (usually at around six months), they no longer need feeding during the night. I know that we like to think that the baby should decide when they want to stop night feeds and this is true up to a point. Still, once they are eating solids and getting their nutrition during the day, night time is when they need the chance for precious sleep not milk. It falls to us to help our babies learn how to sleep through the night. Bringing them in for a quick comfort feed just because you missed them during the day, or because it is too tiring trying to settle them in their cot when you are getting up to a full day’s work the next day, suits us parents but is not the best practise for the sleep deprived baby.
They can catch up on sleep during the day!
I have often said as I watched each of my babies nap peacefully during the day, after I have been up pacing the floors all night ‘ isn’t it grand for you, you can sleep whenever you want’. Again, napping is crucial to our babies’ development but it does not replace the valuable sleep that they need during the night. Letting your baby ‘catch up’ by napping for longer during the day will not help them sleep at night. Another thing we do is reduce their nap times to ‘tire them out’ in the vain hope that they will fall into a deep restful 12 hour sleep – then we pull our hair out wondering why they will not sleep. An over-tired baby finds it very hard to get to sleep.
My child is a bad sleeper – I’ve left it too late!
Not true at all and there is a wealth of advice out there to help you encourage your child to develop healthy sleep patterns. There are volumes of books on getting children to sleep and a myriad of methods out there. I recommend the recently published Irish sleep expert Niamh O’Reilly – ‘No Fuss Baby &Toddler Sleep’,(available on Amazon) as she talks a lot of sense! Choose a method that fits in with your lifestyle and parenting beliefs, and then be consistent.
The key things to remember are:-
- Do not make excuses
- Change sleep patterns if they need changing
- It is never too late to start
Knowing that a large chunk of our children’s happiness and well-being is based on them having a good night’s sleep is reason enough to put in a little hard work to encourage them to develop healthy sleep patterns.
I am taking a few weeks holidays but will be continuing this series when I get back with the topic of ‘Screen Time’.
All comments and feedback very welcome.
Thanks for reading