Children crave consistency. From birth, they will feel more secure and confident if they understand that “when this happens, then it is necessary.” Whether your child is a newborn, toddler, or schoolboy, your family will benefit from sound sleep if you commit to establishing a daily routine.
Develop a daily routine, not a schedule
Strict schedules are unnecessary and may even be harmful, especially if the child is still young. For example, infants need flexibility with on-demand feeding and age-appropriate wake windows. Trying to get a child to adjust to a particular sleep pattern often tires him or her, which could potentially lead to poor sleep for the entire family. Instead of following a rigid schedule throughout the day, create a loose, activity-based routine that you stick to consistently day in and day out. Not only does a predictable daily routine help you fall asleep, it can set your child up for social and academic success in the long run. The easiest way to establish a daily routine is to focus on waking up in the morning, eating, being active, time before bed and the dream itself. As your child gets older, you are likely to include additional activities in your routine.
Morning wake up time
It is very helpful to establish a consistent wake-up time and associated daily routine. While we want to be flexible and allow the “schedule” to change from day to day, consistent morning wake-up times help your child sleep better. By increasing this urge or pressure during sleep, babies can sleep better for longer during the day. When babies turn into toddlers, a set wake-up time in the morning helps to avoid resisting naps and also ensures reasonable bedtime. When your little one wakes up, put together a simple daily routine so he knows it’s time to start his day. Start by walking into the room with a bright “Good morning! After the first few weeks of life, the natural time to wake up in the morning is likely to be somewhere between 6 and 7 a.m. Building a routine based on these two constant times of your day will naturally make your day more predictable.
Before the baby starts eating solid foods, it is helpful to establish what happens before and after breastfeeding. For example: waking up, feeding, belching, resting time. When you start adding solid foods, try to offer the food at about the same time every day in similar circumstances. For example: staying awake, breastfeeding, playtime, firm feeding, playtime. As they get older and if they develop abdominal discomfort, you can also set aside enough time for proper digestion between meals and sleep. A simple routine of feeding babies solid food can begin with the announcement, “It’s time for breakfast! and a conversation while cleaning. Eating modes provide great opportunities to bond with your baby, which can help make the transition during sleep more relaxed.
Physical activity for babies
All children need regular exercise to learn, grow and develop properly. As an infant becomes a toddler and learns to walk, it becomes more important to provide regular physical activity to help shed excess energy. If possible, try to keep your little one engaged in physical activity for at least 20-30 minutes every morning and evening. Exercising outdoors has the added benefit of giving them the natural light that their circadian rhythm needs to sleep well.
As the day draws to a close and you are anxiously waiting for your child to go to bed for the night, do not forget about the routine before bed. A robust bedtime routine perfectly supports a full night’s sleep for the whole family. Make sure you set aside enough time for all the steps you need to complete before going to bed by starting to “work backwards”. For example, if your child goes to bed at 8:00 pm and the bedtime routine usually takes you 30 minutes from start to finish, you should start by 7:30 pm. You can then plan ahead so that your walk, games, and dinner are complete by this time. Try to keep activities that begin just before bedtime as calm and relaxed as possible.
Here’s an example of a bedtime routine:
17:00 outdoor games
17:20 time for indoor games
18:15 quiet time for indoor games
All the work you put into your daily routine is needed for this item. If you’ve helped your little one understand the “when it happens, then it needs it” pattern throughout the day, then the next step before bed is natural relaxation. It will help reduce your fear of sleep, anxiety, and resistance, and will also set you both up for a sound sleep every night. In fact, a 2017 study found that setting a sleep schedule can improve sleep outcomes and increase sleep in as little as 3 nights! We recommend that you set your bedtime from 5 to 10 minutes from birth, increasing it to 20-30 minutes in about 3 months. Sleep patterns are individual and unique to each family. However, there are a few key building blocks you can incorporate into your own family’s bedtime routine at any age:
Change of clothes. The simple act of choosing a pajamas and putting them on offers another opportunity to help toddlers understand the “when it happens, it needs it” pattern.
Books. Reading the same books every night in the same order helps to ensure comfort and intimacy. It also helps the child to perceive books as pleasant things, which creates a foundation for future literacy. If your baby seems fidgety when you read a book to him, give him another book or toy to hold while you read. You can also read or tell stories as you walk around the room with them.
Songs. Singing the same songs every night in the same order serves the same purpose – more comfort.
Using the same sleep phrase just before bed each night will help your child know when to sleep. Simple: “Good night, sound sleep! Mom loves you, ”is of great importance. Regular use of sleep phrases will help your child understand sleep patterns. You give them another opportunity to feel comfort and reassurance by telling them exactly what is happening and what will happen next.
If you are having any difficulty sleeping with your little one, it really pays to make sure that you establish a consistent and predictable daily routine – both day and night. By helping your child learn the rhythm and patterns of your family’s life, you also help him know when and how he should sleep. This will definitely lead to the best sleep for them and for you now and in the long term