I hear it ALL THE TIME from moms and dads alike that their kid just doesn't sleep, or that napping is out of the question. While I'm in no position whatsoever to critique anyone for how they feel about this, I do know how important sleep is for the growth of tiny people and I also know how reluctant they are to sleep. I've done tons and tons of research on this and I've also spoken to countless doctors and seasoned parents along with child psychologists so I've decided to compile all the information I have on this and also provide the resources at the end. As soon as we took our babies home from the hospital, we knew that sleep was out of the question for us as newborns are not on any kind of schedule until atleast 6-8 weeks. When I say "schedule", I do not mean a rigid, clock-watching type of deal. I'm talking about being in tune to my children and following their lead. There is a lot to be said about following their body language because as babies their only language is crying or acting out when they are tired. I cannot stress enough the importance of predictability in the day of a baby and toddler.
Skipping naps for a trip to the store is something that I tried once, and never again. Everyone suffers and interestingly, the more sleep the child misses, the less likely they are to sleep well at night. Predictability is something that helps kids thrive. Mine in particular know that at around 11:45 in the morning we do "cuddle time", where we wind down and sit together and do a quiet activity and get ready for nap time. I've also noticed that interrupting playtime to go nap is something that doesn't work, so that's why we do an "activity" that leads to sleepy time. Basically my husband and I look at our children like they are little versions of us...which they ARE. But as parents, sometimes we take for granted that they ARE people because we get caught up in having authority. For example, when it's time for me to go to bed, I like to wind down, have a cup of tea, and read something. I can't go from a busy day to dinner to cleaning to sleep. It just doesn't work that way in our brains. Why wouldn't it be the same way for our babies
So because we've set a routine in motion since we were able to, our kids are no like clockwork when it comes to taking naps AND going to bed at night. There have been MANY nights that we turn down invitations because our kids need to go to bed, and there have been MANY appointments missed during the day because we stop the world for our kids to nap. The goal is for them to be at their best when its time to learn during the day. We want to feed their brain and help them reach their potential. Both of our kids have a warm bath every single night. No, they aren't filthy dirty kids, they just do really well with a lavender scented warm bubble bath. (don't we all??) After that they get a lavender lotion rub down and are down for the night by 6:45 and yes, they sleep through the night (with the exception of my 15 month old who wakes for 1 or 2 feedings and maybe a cuddle). All in all it's about an hour-long process, but it's pure bliss. It's to the point where my daughter will say "it's bath time" and by the clock she's right. It's kinda cool.
Hubs and I have gotten a lot of eyes rolled at us for how early we put them to bed but like I said earlier, everyone wins, and it CAN be done. It takes prioritizing, sacrificing, and routine, routine, routine. Lately, our 2 1/2-year-old isn't falling asleep till 7:30, but she sits in her bed and reads a book until she falls asleep. This is so great to watch on her monitor because she has no issues with sitting in her room and winding down on her own now. We do not wind down with TV, because for our kids, its way too stimulating. Any article on TV viewing with toddlers will tell you that, so don't take my word for it. However, we love TV. We LOVE Chuggington and Little Einsteins. We just use it all at the right time of the day.
One thing we've learned to NOT do is to discipline our children with sending them to their rooms. That's a surefire way to cause sleep issues. How can a two or three-year old know the difference between being punished and healthy sleep? Talk about asking for confusing sleep issues! We got that advice from a sleep specialist when our son had a sleep study. Valuable advice indeed. So basically all you need to do to get your kids to sleep is establish a pattern. The only thing that's scheduled in our day is sleep. Everything else depends on the day.
The best book I've ever read is "The Baby Sleep Book" by Dr. Sears. He talks about the importance of sleep and how it truly leads to well-behaved children.
"But my son/daughter wants to get out of bed and watch TV with us."
- The answer is No. "Everyone is going night night. "
"But I have "all these errands" to run".
- It can wait. YES IT CAN!
This is how it works for us and I'm not in any way telling anyone their way is wrong. It's just that people are always asking us how we do it, so I decided to write it down.
Do you have any other night-time and nap time techniques that work for you?