1.Conducive Sleep Environment
Safety is always the top priority. Make sure your child is sleeping in their own space, whether it is a crib or bed. Follow all safety guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics for safe sleep. If they have transitioned to a bed, make sure the room is safe, as they are now free to move about! Keep bedroom doors closed for the utmost safe sleep space.
In order to set your child up for sleep success, you want to make sure the environment is conducive to sleep. Keep the room super dark (think: cave-like!). Darkness tells our brain it is time to be asleep. Any light, whether it is nightlights, an overhead light, sunlight, or light from a screen, tricks our brain into thinking it is time to be awake.
White noise is also a great way to help our brain get into a resting space. Keep it at a low volume and make sure it is a constant “ssshhh’ing” sound.
2. Calm and Consistent Bedtime Routine
Consistency is the key to any type of positive sleep experience especially when you are sleep training. This is because children feel safest when they know what to expect. When they feel safe, they are more likely to feel calm.
Keep your pre-nap and bedtime routines the same each day and night, so your child knows the order of the routines and so that there are no surprises. Neither routine needs to be super long, but make sure to include quiet tasks such as taking a bath, massages, reading books, or singing songs. Also, do not forget to turn off all screens at least one hour before bedtime!
3. Appropriate Bedtime
An overtired child is usually cranky, fussy, melting down or having a tantrum. But sometimes it is hard to tell when your child is overtired because they seem to have a burst of energy (running around, bouncing on the bed, etc.) That burst of energy is really just their body’s way of keeping them awake. Having an early bedtime is a fantastic way to prevent your child from being overtired, but also allows them to get the most restorative sleep. Early bedtimes can also help to prevent bedtime battles!
4. Clear Boundaries Including Bedtime Routines and Rules
It is very important that toddlers and older children know the rules around bedtime. Often times these children are in a bed and have the ability to get up and roam around their room or your home. Set some boundaries and stick to them. One example is to make sure your child knows that once they are in bed, they are supposed to stay in bed until you come to get them or until their toddler clock changes color. You can create some sleep rules to hang near their bed. They should be simple and straightforward, and you should go over them a few times a day. A toddler clock is a great tool to help enforce the rules.
5. Have Confidence in Your Child and Yourself
This might be the most important part of helping your child with sleep. As parents, we cannot force our child to sleep (even if we want to!). But what we can do is set them up for success. Following all of the above suggestions gets you well on your way but allowing your child the space to learn to self-soothe is a crucial piece. If you have confidence in your child and believe that they can fall asleep independently, your child will start to develop confidence in themselves. Think about how proud they will feel when they fall asleep on their own and sleep through the night without your support! Give you child the time and space to practice.
And lastly, make sure you have confidence in yourself as the parent. You can help your child to sleep better so that your whole family gets the sleep you need and deserve.