Welcome to parenthood. I hope you like being tired.
These adorable, precious little creatures rip themselves out of the tender parts of your body, attach themselves like leeches to other tender parts of your body, and wake you up all hours the night. Sound like fun? Surprisingly, it is.
Well, fun might not always be the best word to describe it, but it’s certainly joyful, fulfilling and the best kind of growth experience you can imagine. Except when you’re sleep deprived. Because then, it’s none of those things.
But what are we supposed to do? Unless you’re one of those lucky parents whose baby comes out and sleeps all night, getting your little one to sleep better is something you have to work diligently at. The good news is, they actually want to sleep as much as we want them to. It’s just a skill they’re not naturally very good at so we have to teach them. And it’s actually pretty easy if you know how to do it right. Easy? Is this chick serious?
I am serious. Sleep training isn’t nearly as daunting or overwhelming as we make it out to be.
So, what’s this magical secret that promises more sleep, less resistance, happier children, unicorns and glitter??
Okay, I can’t promise unicorns and glitter, but I can promise the other three… and so much more! Good sleep promotes physical, emotional, intellectual and social development. Basically, if your kid sleeps well he’ll grow faster, be more calm, smarter and make friends easier. And you, mama, will feel better, look better, you’ll be more patient and rational, you’ll be your sharp self-again instead of a foggy, blubbering mess, and you’ll also find it easier to be friendly and nice to important people in your life (ahem, your husband).
Preventing over-tiredness in your child is the key to the glorious, rejuvenating sleep you and your baby desperately need. Why? Because over-tired babies resist sleep. They fight, protest, cry, take shorter naps, and wake up more often at night. I know, I know. It makes no sense. If a baby is tired, why won’t they sleep?! They just don’t. It’s a cruel trick.
BUT, if you can catch babies when they’re sleepy before they’re tired or over-tired, they’ll drift effortlessly into a peaceful slumber.
5 tips to prevent over-tiredness:
- The first nap of the day should be about 90 minutes after they wake up. If baby wakes up at 7am, nap #1 should be around 8:30. This stays true until about 16-18 months when baby transitions to only one nap per day.
- Don’t confuse the “dawn-awakening”. Many babies will wake up around 5 am and act rested and content. Good lord, 5 am is waaaaay too early to be waking up. Feed them and put them right back to bed, or leave them in their crib and they’ll drift back to sleep on their own.
- Naps less than an hour don’t count. Babies often wake up at the 30-minute mark and roll around for a minute or cry. This is a deceiving little trick, but they’re not actually ready to be awake yet. Leave them for a few minutes and they’ll fall back to sleep.
- Give baby an earlier bedtime. Ideal bedtimes for babies under 2 is 6-7 pm.
- Look for sleepy cues, not tired cues. If baby is acting tired, she’s over-tired. Watch for a lull in activity, longer gazes and a peaceful, quiet demeanour. When you see eye rubbing, ear pulling and fussing you’re quickly entering over-tired land.
For those newborn parents out there, download this FREE Newborn Sleep Survival guide here: http://thepeacefulsleeper.com/sleep-training-guides/
Christine Lawler is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and Behavioral Sleep Specialist. She strongly believes that improving sleep is one of the quickest ways to improve quality of life, and is passionate about helping parents all over the world get better sleep. You can follow Christine on Instagram and Facebook.