Many sleep-deprived parents are overwhelmed by the amount information that is out there about how to get their child to sleep. I know this. I was once one of them.
The truth is that, once you boil all the information down, it doesn’t have to be all that complicated. It comes down to a few key components:
- Timing. Sleep coaching involves learning your child’s cues to pinpoint when he’s most sleepy. Keep in mind sleepy signs are much more subtle than parents often realize. (Slowing down during play and staring off into the distance are two examples.) Once you see those signals, that’s your window of opportunity to get your child into their sleep space. More than likely the timing is earlier than you’d think.
- Routine. Don’t underestimate the power of this. The pre-sleep ritual indicates to your child a predictable pattern of what’s going to happen and when. (This is key for especially sensitive, spirited or alert kiddos because this—coupled with a healthy sleep environment—will convey that they won’t miss anything.)
- The ability to fall asleep independently. This skill is especially important at bedtime. Parents can help to support their child by providing tools and strategies to enhance sleep and shift the responsibility of falling asleep from parent to child.
- Consistency. It all comes down to this. You need a plan on how to respond when your child resists sleep and use the same response every time so you can send a clear message to your child. Don’t overcommit yourself here. The approach that is going to work for your family is the one that you’re comfortable with and can adhere to–all the time.
Most parents have a combination of these already in place. However, if they aren’t collectively effective, they may need a little dissecting and tweaking.
For example, take a closer look at bedtime: Is it too late? Is the bedtime routine too long or too stimulating? Or, is the response helping or overwhelming the child?
By watching your child and using your instincts, you can come up with the right recipe to provide your child with the rest she needs to be happy and healthy.