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Sleep strategies that work

There are times in every parent’s life when lack of sleep becomes a problem and it is accepted that for the first six months it will be a way of life.

However, babies and young children need sleep, and you might be surprised by how much. The most common problems are when they can’t fall asleep (it may take them hours to fall asleep, or they can only sleep if you hug them or if they are in your bed), or when I can’t sleep through the night without waking up.

But keep in mind that your behavior influences your child’s actions and you have the key to improving sleep behavior, you just need to learn how to use it. It might take a while; I’m often amazed at how quickly problems can be fixed, but don’t worry if it doesn’t happen in a week. Be consistent and you will be successful.

Safe and successful sleep techniques

Try to wrap

Young babies are often awakened by moving their arms and legs and wrapping them tight enough that they feel comfortable but cannot move their limbs too much, which can help prevent nighttime awakening.

Lay out a square blanket so the corner is pointing up. Fold the corner down and lay your baby down so that his head rests on the top edge of the blanket. Place one of the side corners on your body and tuck it under, then fold the bottom corner up over your feet and legs, and then wrap the other side of the blanket tightly, leaving your room comfortable.

The mummy’s water method

Its scent can help your baby relax and sleep. Putting something like an old t-shirt near (but not inside) the crib can help her fall asleep while in another room.

Gradual withdrawal

This is a really effective technique for getting your baby or older child into bed. It is especially useful for young children who are not used to sleeping in their own bed or who need to be physically close to sleep.

Every night, throw her on her own bed or cot, say good night, but then stay in the room. This doesn’t mean that you keep talking, touching or playing with her, it just gives her a comforting presence. Don’t even make eye contact.

As the days go by, gradually move away from your child until he can get out of bed and out of the room completely.

Quick return

This is a “tough love” approach for young children, but it works well for chronic sleep problems, especially when these involve aggression or tantrums. It’s the nighttime equivalent of ‘time out’, and you have to be very, very loud and clear about what is going to happen. It is difficult to implement, but it is worth it. You can start using the gradual withdrawal method if it is easier for you.

The quick return technique means you tuck your child into bed, turn off the light, say good night, and leave the room. If he does get up, take them back gently and immediately, without talking and without losing his temper (which is very difficult when it is the twentieth time that night). Repeat this process promptly and firmly as many times as necessary, until you finally fall asleep.

It can be exhausting, so whenever possible, try to enlist your partner’s help and trade turns, but make sure you fully agree on what to do, to avoid sending confusing messages to your little one.

Incentives, Compliments, and Rewards

Regardless of how you decide to approach your child’s sleep problem, negotiation will likely be necessary in the early stages. It’s okay to negotiate a deal that promises a gift the next day, but don’t make it a habit. If your child has met the goal he set, whether it be sleeping through the night or staying in his own bed, praise him. Then set new goals and this should help you form a link between being good and being in your good books.

Stickers rarely fail as a means of showing children how well they are doing. If your child is old enough to understand the concept of a night fairy, tell her that the fairy will be waiting to see how well she sleeps, and then the fairy will add a sticker to her chart.

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