Parents often struggle with the sleeping habits of young children. Getting a child to sleep through the night can be a nightly difficulty that creates anxiety and frustration on the part of the parents or caregiver. Young children thrive on routine and will function better when they know what to expect on a daily basis. Following a few steps can make the bedtime routine an enjoyable experience for the parents and the child.
Define the differences from day to night through light, activity and noise levels in your home. A child needs to be able to tell the difference between going down for a short nap during the day time and going down for eight to 12 hours of sleep at night. During the day, the house should be a bustle of activity, with lights on and noise at normal levels. At night, the house should be quieter, with dim lights and a lower level of activity. The child may also do better if the sleeping quarters for naps are different than they are for sleeping at night.
Establish a bedtime routine, and follow it nightly. Give the child a bath, which is a naturally relaxing experience. Follow this with a short massage of baby lotion to further relax him. Next, dim the lights in the bedroom, and sit together to read a book aloud or to sing songs to him. This should be followed by a bottle and then bedtime. Do not rock the child to sleep or hold him until he falls asleep. The child expects the same environment when he wakes, and this closeness when going to sleep can cause fear when he awakens and realizes he is alone. Lay him in his bed awake but drowsy, kiss him good night, and leave the room.
Make the baby's sleep environment comfortable, soothing and safe. Before putting your child to bed, change her diaper. Make sure she is dressed accordingly for the temperature of the room so that she will neither be too cold nor too hot. Play music or white noise at a low level by playing a lullaby CD on repeat or running a fan or humidifier in a room. Complete silence in the bedroom can be unnerving for some children. Experiment with different sounds to find the one that works best for your child. Make her sleep environment safe, with no excess blankets in her bed and stuffed animals that are age appropriate and without small parts.