Get Your Child To Sleep Through the Night

It can often be a big challenge to teach your child to sleep through the night. If you're a parent struggling with this issue, Kim West, social worker and author of Good Night, Sleep Tight — The Gentle Guide to Helping Your Child Go to Sleep, Stay Asleep and Wake Up Happy, lists the most common mistakes parents make when trying to get their baby to sleep and has some tips to help you get back on the road to a good night's sleep.

Mistakes Parents Make:

  • Not making your child's need for sleep a priority.
  • Inconsistency with how you put your child to sleep at bedtime and with your response to the child's wakening. For example, sometimes a parent will feed the child until he/she falls back to sleep, and other times the parent will rock the child or bring the child back to the parent's bed out of desperation.
  • Inadvertently creating more crying by giving up and resorting to the original sleep crutch after a certain amount of time. For example, letting your child cry for 30 minutes and then taking him/her out and rocking to sleep.
  • Putting your child to sleep too late. Children need an average of 10 to 11 hours of sleep at night for the first nine years. Too late of a bedtime and skipping naps will create more night awakenings, poor quality sleep and an overtired child.
  • Allowing your child to fall asleep being nursed, bottle fed, rocked or walked to sleep at bedtime. Your child will wake during the night and expect the same thing in order to go back to sleep. Also, this doesn't allow the child the opportunity to learn how to put themselves to sleep, which is a vital life skill.
  • Not creating a flexible schedule or routine during the day and before sleep that comforts your child and helps prepare them for sleep.
  • Not being a united front as parents and sabotaging each others efforts to improve your child's sleep.
  • Making important decisions on how to respond to your child's waking in the middle of the night when you have just been woken up. Rarely are you at your sharpest between 2 a.m and 5 a.m.
  • Practicing reactive co-sleeping out of desperation. This is when a family co-sleeps because it is the only way to get their child to sleep.
  • Expecting quick results when trying to change a habit you have created with your child. Parents need to dedicate two to three weeks of their time, energy and consistency to sleep coaching to see significant changes in night sleep and naps.
  • Many parents feel immobilized by shame, guilt and blame and don't know where to start to change their child's sleep habits. It's less important to focus on how you got here, than how you are going to change it. 
  • Believing that their child's sleep habits will change on their own, and they just have to endure the sleep deprivation in the meantime.

Tips on How to Teach Your Child to Sleep:

  • Don't skip naps
  • Pay attention to child's sleep window
  • Put your child to bed drowsy, but awake
  • Start teaching your child to sleep when he/she is an infant
  • Once your child reaches 6 months old, encourage an attachment to a blankie or stuffed animal
  • Don't transition your child from two to one daytime nap until he/she is sleeping through the night
  • Don't move your child from the crib to his/her bed before the
    age of 2
  • Install room darkening shades if your child awakes early, a white noise machine or fan if you live in a noisy home or neighborhood
  • If you have a new baby on the way, move your older child from the crib to the bed two months before or four months after the baby comes, to avoid feelings of displacement
  • Consistency is key. Sleep is a learned skill and remember, kids don't learn overnight.

To read more from Kim West, visit her website.

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