Some of our children seem to fall into a good sleep pattern without much effort. The easy child goes to sleep without a whimper and sleeps through the night at a very young age. We wonder what we did right!
Then there are the other children who seem to fight sleep in every possible way. It is difficult to get the child to sleep and then multiple times per night the child is calling for you. Parent and child get more and more exhausted.
What is the answer? Unfortunately there is not an easy answer. I think sleep is like a puzzle. You must fit all the right pieces together to help that child sleep well.
What are the pieces?
1. The age of the child makes a difference. Sleep changes as our children grow and develop. For a newborn, sleep is very disorganized. At about 8 weeks the night sleep begins to lengthen. At 16 weeks the naps consolidate and more adult type sleep cycles develop. We have to adjust to the growing child’s sleep needs.
2. Timing of sleep is important. The body develops a circadian rhythm at 16 weeks which means the body has time periods when it wants to sleep and times when the body wants to be awake. It is necessary to coordinate sleep with the times the body desires sleep.
3. The sleep environment needs to be conducive to sleep. We want the child to associate their bed with sleep. The bedroom should promote sleep for the child, not a play area.
4. What happens during the awake time determines what sleep time is like. The child must have proper nutrition whether that is nursing, formula or solid food. Sleep is effected by having time in the sun to help set their body clock. Activity during their awake time is necessary, but the child needs some calming activity prior to sleep.
5. Sleep leads to more sleep. How well the naps went effects how the night time sleep goes. Good naps lead to good nights.
6. Each child is an individual. Each child has their own likes and dislikes. Children have their own personality which affects sleep. Some children can easily handle changes in their life and other children resist any change in their schedule. Some children do not want to stop the fun activities of the day to sleep.
7. Parents have their own parenting style. We all approach parenting in a different way. There is not one right way to parent. Sometimes our parenting approach for one child might not work for our second child.
Fitting all these pieces together leads to good healthy sleep. It can be tricky to know how to do that. An educated and experienced sleep consultant can guide you through the process to help you find the optimum sleeping situation for your little one.
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