MommyNoire Moms Know Best: The Top Bedtime Tips For Babies
By Kweli Wright
Who can mothers go to that knows best about getting newborns, babies and toddlers to sleep? Other moms, of course! We’ve been there and done that–hopefully with some victory–through the challenges of fussy, sleepy-eyed kids and, ahh finally, children who are successfully in a sweet slumber.
If you’re having a hard time getting your little one to nap during the day or snooze through the night, we’ve got great tips and tricks from our Mommynoire community.
We surveyed moms of mini’s from three-months-old to six-years-old about the tips and tricks that have worked for them, sponsored by Random House Children’s. You’ll also find gems from doctors, sleep experts and researchers at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, MD.
The major key to getting kids to sleep? While there are many tips and tricks to get children off to dreamland, what all the advice has in common is the fact that having a solid routine definitely makes sleepy time less stressful and more relaxing for kids and parents. An added bonus is that creating and continuing healthy sleep habits plays a major role in your child’s day-to-day behavior and temperament, development and success in school and beyond.
Read on for a bunch of ideas… and here’s to happier bedtimes!
Make A Plan From The Start – Newborns sleep around the clock, but once your babe is three-months-old you can start them on a nightly sleep schedule. “It might feel time consuming, but you’ll be thankful for a plan in the long run,” said Mommynoire reader, Vanessa, from Chicago.
Put Them Down While They’re Almost, Not Fully, Asleep – When you put an infant to bed while they are drowsy instead of asleep, they’re more likely to become self-soothers, so they can fall asleep on their own (this is also important for when they wake up during the night). Make sure to be aware of those sleep clues from your baby, including: eye-rubbing, yawning and general fussiness.
Figure Out Your Routine – Of course, the routine will change as your children grow, but having a set plan will establish a tone for the evenings. Exactly what you do leading up to bedtime is flexible, of course, and according to your family flow and preferences. It can include bath time and teeth brushing, picking out pajamas, reading together or saying a prayer. A great tip is to write it all down, so older kids can check off the list and feel accomplished and ready for bed. One mom likes to keep their bedtime list right next to her son’s bed.
The Actual Bed – As tempting as it may be to transition your child to a ‘big boy bed,’ hold off and keep him in a crib until he’s about two-years-old. This way, your child they won’t climb out of the crib and hurt themselves (but that is the clue to know it’s time for a toddler bed). The crib sides provide great barriers for when he wakes at night and can’t understand, “stay in your bed.” Mom, April, from Tampa, says she put guard rails and a few pillows near the bed in case her daughter fell out during the crib-to-bed transition.
Meal Times – Making sure your child is getting proper nutrition before bed will also give them better sleep. Sometimes, kids wake up during the night just because they’re hungry, so make sure those tummies are full, but not too full, before they are tucked in for the night. Also, make sure not to give her anything containing caffeine less than six hours before bedtime.
Quiet Time – After dinner, avoid all stimulating activities, says Carol L. Rosen, M.D., medical director of pediatric sleep services at Case Western Reserve University’s School of Medicine at Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital in Cleveland. A relaxing bedtime routine that lasts between 20 and 30 minutes and ends in your child’s bedroom works well. You might also try a warm bath (that works for us moms, too!) or some kid-friendly yoga poses. When my daughter was about eight-years-old and having stress around school, we did yoga at night before bed to relax her mind and body. It worked wonders.
Put Away Technology And Wind Down – This is not the time for video games, rowdy play, scary stories or TV shows which will just rile the kids up. Soft music and book reading is way to incorporate relaxing routines to bed time. Another tip is to read a favorite book every night instead of a new one because it’s familiar. Try our favorite, the newly-released book The Little Elephant Who Wants to Fall Asleep by Carl-Johan Forssén Ehrlin (recommended for ages 3-7). This is the second book of its kind from Ehrlin whose books use positive-reinforcement techniques to promote relaxation. His first book for children, The Rabbit Who Wants to Fall Asleep (2015), was a runaway success with international sales exceeding 1.6 million copies and widespread media attention for its reported success in lulling children to sleep. “I’ve used this book for my daughters, ages four and six, and they love the story and I love how it puts them soundly to sleep,” says Mommynoire reader Marissa of Charlotte.
Beautifully illustrated by Sydney Hanson, the new book features Ellen the Elephant, who is on a journey through a magical forest that leads to sleep. Along the way, she meets different fantastical characters and has soothing experiences that are meant to help children relax and slip quickly into slumber. The book also includes tips from Ehrlin for using the techniques successfully. Follow the series on Facebook.
To help your bedtime ritual with your kids be positive, Mommynoire has partnered up with Random House Children’s for a giveaway of the book, The Little Elephant Who Wants to Fall Asleep by Carl-Johan Forssén Ehrlin.
To enter: Comment below with your best tips for getting your kids to sleep, and follow RandomHouseKids on Twitter | Facebook | Instagram. Enter as many times as you like until Friday, November 18, 2016. Open to U.S. residents only.
The Comfort Zone – Make sure your child is comfortable. Clothes and blankets should not restrict movement, and the bedroom temperature shouldn’t be too warm or too cold. Have her get used to falling asleep with a transitional object, like a favorite blanket or stuffed animal.
Lights Out – After you’ve said goodnight and the room is dark, hopefully your child is having sweet dreams. If your child calls for you after you’ve left his room, wait a few moments before responding. “I never respond immediately unless someone is sick,” says Erica, a mom of two toddlers and two pre-teens, from Memphis. “This reminds them that they should be asleep,” she offers and says that her younger sons usually soothe themselves. “They usually fall back asleep while waiting for me.”
Up All Night – If your child comes out of her room after you’ve put her to bed, it’s suggested that you walk her back and gently but firmly remind her that it’s bedtime. We know, sometimes it’s 3:00 a.m. and you just say, “Come on, get in my bed,” but try and resist. Give your child tools to overcome those fears. “We have a spray bottle filled with ‘monster potion,” don’t tell my kids that it’s just water,” reveals Sheree, a mom of two girls, from New York City.
Even if your child is struggling with sleeping at night, set up a reward system where they get a star for each night your child goes to bed on time and stays there all night. Four stars equal a small prize.
There’s no one-size-fits-all bedtime routine. Some moms go with the bare essentials, while others turn the evening into something magical. Try combining some of the ideas below with your own, suggested by Parenting.com:
- Bath: Aim for a warm soak, rather than a manic splashing.
- Brush teeth: It’s important for health reasons, but over time it will also help to send your body “go to sleep” signals
- Potty time and glass of water: One last chance to use the toilet before bed and to fill up a small glass of water. Having water bedside will help ward off requests for water later.
- Pick out pajamas: Give your child a feeling of control over bedtime by letting her choose, but limit the options to two or three.
- Pick out books: Again, he’s in charge. Let him choose two or three books for you to read.
- Bedtime yoga: Pick some child–friendly, sleep–friendly poses to wind her body down.
- Talk quietly: Connect by talking about her day or engaging in some creative thinking. Or, have her “pick a dream” to decide what she’ll dream about tonight.
- Prayer: This can range from a formal religious prayer to a few simple words giving thanks.
- Say goodnight: To each other, the moon, the stars, the teddy bear — let your child lead the way.
- Snuggle: Tuck her in and kiss her goodnight so you can both go to bed feeling warm and fuzzy.