Paediatric Sleep Consultant, Best-Selling Author and Baby Elegance Ambassador shares her top tips on improving children’s sleep patterns this year

A common New Years Resolutions for parents around the globe will be to get more sleep in 2018. Paediatric Sleep Consultant and Baby Elegance Ambassador is on hand to share helpful sleep tips on how to get started in improving sleep habits for both parents and their children. Beginning to help a child sleep better can take time and patience but as it’s a new year, there is no better time to make a few adjustments and alter the mindset.

Lifestyle change

Firstly, parents must acknowledge that this will entail a lifestyle change and with any self-improvement you will need to be open about making adjustments to your current life. Some changes will be long term while others will be short-term. In order to improve a child’s sleep, change is often necessary. Lucy believes it is an important process to accept that as parents, you are going to be tired and that children do wake up overnight and early in the morning. However if your child is 6 months and older, they could sleep for longer periods and get more consolidated stretches of sleep if you foster healthy sleep habits.

Don’t wait

Lucy advises that parents should not wait for your sleep problems to resolve themselves; many parents assume that sleep will get better when solids are introduced or when your child starts to move. Although it may improve, it may not unless you start to make the adjustments that allows positive sleep patterns to emerge. For example, it is important to observe a regular wake time between 6am and 7.30am and always anchor the day with a feed, even if your child has fed frequently overnight. By providing a feed first thing and pressing start on the day, you are regulating the feeding schedule and ensuring that both the feeding rhythm and sleeping rhythm can run in sync with each other and not at odds. This helps to avoid feeds and naps from clashing; a problem that often prevents day time sleep from happening or from being long enough.

Avoid allowing a baby or child to become over tired

One of Lucy’s main sleep lessons is to avoid allowing your child to become overtired. The main signs of overtiredness are eye rubbing, big yawning, agitation, clenched fists, stretched limbs, becoming vocal, whiney, fussy or hyper. It’s important to attempt sleep before you see these symptoms as it will make going to sleep less challenging and increase the chances of longer sleep duration. Lucy also recommends earlier bedtimes as most children sleep better when they are in bed asleep between 6pm and 8pm. If the child is under 8 months they respond to a wakeful period not exceeding 2.5 hours before bedtime. Between 8-17 months, 4 hours works well before bedtime and 18 months onwards 5 hours of wakefulness before being in bed asleep can have a significantly positive impact on the quality of overnight sleep.

Bring YOUR bedtime forward

Another tip from Lucy is for parents to go to bed earlier as well. Parenting is challenging enough without having to do it on a fractured nights sleep. Lucy suggests parents factor in regular early adult bedtimes in order to make a conscious effort to get more sleep. Also, where possible, share the load with friends and family and draft in support as you begin to make sleep changes. Any assistance will only be needed at the very start until you get into your new sleep groove with your soon-to-be great sleeper. In the meantime, remember to be kind to each other as you work through the problems as it can be a fractious time.

Bedtime routine

Another technique proven to help is to establish an appropriate bedtime process to prepare your child’s body for sleep. Do this activity specifically in the child’s bedroom to help ingrain positive associations with sleep and to avoid breaking the spell of your hard work by changing locations at the end. It is best to introduce low impact activity such as reading, softly singing, puzzles, shape sorting. Do this in a dimly lit environment, with plenty of physical and eye contact to help your child feel relaxed and supported close to sleep time. If your child is relaxed and awake when they get into their cot or bed, the less exposed to night time activity you will be.

Manage expectations

Lucy warns that you manage your expectations. Better sleeping patterns can take over 3-4 weeks to emerge depending on the issues and your child’s age so try not to feel disheartened if progress feels slow. Early improvements may be represented by improved mood and behaviour, better eating, ease getting to sleep and then longer stretches will start to emerge. It is not an upward only spiral of improvement it can fluctuate throughout the few weeks, sometimes getting worse before it improves or you may find it gets better and then regresses, this is normal. Be prepared and confident in your new approach.
Interviews with Lucy Wolfe are available upon request.
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