Routine and predictability are very important to children of every age; they promote security. Children thrive developmentally and emotionally when they have consistency and security. It is during sleep that their little bodies are growing and developing most rapidly; healing and rejuvenating. We need to value their sleep and treat it like the gold that it truly is!
A bedtime routine creates positive associations with sleep. The routine is about 20-30min before your little one crawls into bed; she feels sleepy, she gets that wonderful bonding time with you as she winds down, and she has your reassurance and comfort as she gets ready to sleep. Positive associations with sleep help infants and toddlers learn to develop the very important life skill of independent sleep.
First, set the stage in the bedroom with shades drawn, a dim lamp on, and calm, relaxing bedtime rituals. You can start this early with infants: beginning with a bath, lotion massage, singing and cuddles. As her attention span grows – you can add in books, baby yoga, songs, and talk about her day. (A nap routine is important too and can be just a shorter version of the bedtime routine, eg.10-15min).
This is followed by putting her into her crib/bed drowsy-but-awake. This means that she is awake enough to know that she is doing it on her own, she can recognize where she is, and she is sleepy enough to fall asleep within about 10-15 minutes. She will gain confidence in her ability to fall asleep as she has you nearby to offer reassurance and encouragement to soothe herself.
These routines are a perfect time for bonding and developing a secure attachment with your child: she has your undivided attention, you are helping her through the transition from active play time to sleep, and you get that precious time for snuggles.
A feeding routine of eat-activity-sleep-your time is an ‘EASY’ (Baby Whisperer) routine to get into:
E – Feeding upon wake-up
A – activity and play time
S – sleep
Y – now it is your time (we all know this is rare)
Carry on this pattern throughout the day. Along with the skill of falling asleep independently, this routine helps your child to disassociate the need to eat to go to sleep. Of course, you will want to feed your baby before bedtime so put the feeding near the beginning of the bedtime routine; have at least 1 thing happen after the feed and before going into bed (eg. Eat, story/song, put down). The night feedings will continue to be the same, feed then sleep.
Sleep and wake-up routines are great ways to learn and follow your little one’s circadian rhythm. You will see that her circadian rhythm, or ‘internal clock’, will have her sleeping and rising at nearly the same time every day, as she begins sleeping through the night. She will have the best quality and most restorative sleep if you follow this rhythm. The right Amount and Quality of sleep can positively affect our children’s: attention span, adaptability, eating habits, irritability and frustration, moodiness and emotional issues, ability to play independently, and ability to take in fully and learn from their environment. You can help improve behavior and mood by ensuring that she gets enough sleep and encouraging her to learn the skill of falling asleep on her own.
Every child has different sleep requirements depending on their age and temperament. Consistency and routine are very important tools for us to have as parents and definitely two of the most important factors in helping our children thrive.