Tags: aqua, babies, baby, bedtime, beneficial, boppy, children, cloud b, constellation, cosleeping, dangerous, development, ergo, for, force, instinctual, items, kids, natural, need, nightlight, parenting, peaceful, review, routine, sleep, tranquil, turtle, twilight
Many parents these days come to me desperately seeking ideas for helping their children sleep every night. There is not a magic answer that works for every child. My best advice is to never use sleep as a punishment, and never force your child to sleep. Yes, you read that right, never force your child to sleep. No, I don’t mean you should have your children up all hours of the night partying (that’s not healthy), but I think it’s important to choose our words and actions wisely when it comes to sleep so we don’t create sleep issues that would otherwise not arise for our children. We need to do whatever it takes not to destroy their desire to sleep (ideas below). Our nation has horrible sleep issues and I think much of that stems from being out of touch with our bodies. Children are told to do so many things that I think they lose touch with their instinctual signals. They are told to clean their plates when they are full, clean their rooms when they are in the middle of building something…you get the idea. Sleep is natural and normal and should come without coercion. Raising children takes time and effort and a lot of love, patience and dedication. Helping them learn how to fall asleep is just like all the other life lessons they learn from us, and it’s not always easy.
Depending on the age of the child there are different tools that can assist in helping your child get good sleep:
1. First is diet. Always, always, if there is a problem with your childs behavior, first look at what he or she is eating and the condition of their gut. The gut and the brain are connected. In a compromised gut maldigested proteins from gluten and dairy pass through the intestines into the blood, and are carried to the brain where they can affect behavior. This is more common than most realize these days, so make sure you don’t overlook it. There are many things in the diet and environment that can affect a childs behavior, so try to examine their lifestyle and make sure it’s as clean as possible. If you suspect gut issues, the book Gut and Psychology Syndrome is excellent. Make sure you also assess how your child is feeling. Teething or a sickness could also be preventing your child from falling asleep.
2. Make sure your child has plenty of play time outside in nature each day. Plenty of exercise and sunshine are imperative to all humans, and children are no exception. I know some of you are moaning that it’s not always possible, but then we also need to be accepting when our children cannot fall asleep some nights. It is okay to be flexible in our parenting. Children need exercise and time away from the TV and video games. They need to exercise their minds as well.
3. Have a bedtime routine. So this one you already knew, right? Pretty obvious. As adults we have our routines of winding down for bed, and children benefit from them as well. A warm bath, brushing the teeth, changing into some comfortable pajamas, and a nice story all help to set the mood for going to sleep. A few drops of lavender essential oil in the bath water helps some people relax and can be experimented with. Having their favorite pillow, blanket, and/or stuffed animal is also helpful. I also use Badger Night Night Balm and Aura Cacia Pillow Potion for my children on those nights that they seem to have a bit of extra energy. If you are still desperate to try more ideas, chamomile tea an hour or so before bed may help. Chamomile tea has also been said to help those with bed wetting issues as it helps them relax and empty their bladder before going to sleep.
4. Forget what you’ve been taught about cosleeping and comforting your babies. Cry it out is not going to promote healthy sleep habits. There is plenty of evidence that cosleeping is beneficial to babies. Just make sure you do your research and do it safely. Most importantly never cosleep while under the influence of any substances including certain prescription medications and alcohol. Babies need us to meet all of their needs for them since they are not capable. When we don’t, they become stressed and that stress causes them to release cortisol which can affect brain development. There is nothing wrong with a babies nursing themselves to sleep either. My 3 1/2-year-old nursed to sleep up until he weaned himself at age 3. After he fell asleep I would lay him down with his brothers. He does not have issues falling asleep at night. He asks to go to bed because he is tired. He also takes naps during the day by himself. I believe all children would function this way if they were not forced to sleep all of the time. Some babies might require assistance falling asleep while others are just content to be near their parents. The situations will vary. Just remember that flexibility is not a weakness, it’s your tool.
Again, remember to speak about sleep peacefully. Don’t threaten to put your children to bed because they aren’t behaving how you want. In their minds it will become a punishment to sleep. That is not what you want. Remember not to have unrealistic expectations either. Newborns shouldn’t sleep through the night even when cosleeping. They need to wake for feedings.
“I can’t help noting that no cultures in the world that I have ever heard of make such a fuss about children’s bedtimes, and no cultures have so many adults who find it so hard either to go to sleep or wake up. Could these social facts be connected? I strongly suspect they are.” ~John Holt
We recently added a new step to our bedtime routine. I’m pretty careful about things I buy and bring into my home. I try to thoroughly research things and read all of the reviews to make sure I’m going to love something before bringing it home. We all have bought items that don’t live up to our expectations and end up on a shelf collecting dust. When it comes to baby and children’s items, I’m no different. I don’t need all of the doo dads that commercials try to tell me I need like strollers, cribs, diaper genies and so on. Give me a Boppy and an Ergo and I’m good to go! Years ago, when my older two boys were babies, I started seeing the constellation turtles that project stars onto the ceiling and I was immediately drawn to them. I thought they were such a cool idea! I added one to my wish list and then talked myself out of needing it. Years went by and I finally bought one. I was delighted to find that it exceeded my expectations. My children loved it and immediately embraced it as part of our bedtime routine. We got the Constellation Turtle that projects the stars in three different colors and my children take turns getting to pick what color we are going to use each night. After being so impressed by the turtle, Cloud b sent us their new Tranquil Turtle Night Light which is a sea turtle. I couldn’t be happier with this one. It’s the whole family’s new favorite! It plays soothing ocean noises or a melody and projects an underwater light effect that moves gently across the ceiling. It has soft blue light that turns off after 23 minutes. Although my children rarely have issues falling asleep, I am still grateful to have the turtle as part of our bedtime routine. It’s exciting for them and something they look forward to. It really does help them switch into bedtime mode. My only regret is not getting one years ago. It definitely will not be collecting any dust in our home. My husband even loves them and he’s usually not impressed by toys.
I was compensated for this post. All opinions expressed are my own.