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toddler bedtime

By 12 months, most babies will be sleeping for long stretches at a time, and many will be sleeping through the night. If they are not, try to establish a regular routine so your toddler knows when bedtime is approaching. Perhaps, start with bathing, followed by playtime, some supper and a quiet period, which can include looking at some books and singing a few lullabies. If your baby still has two extended sleeps per day, the first stage is to reduce it to one long sleep but avoid them sleeping well into the afternoon, otherwise you may have difficulty getting them to sleep by bedtime. You should be able to tell when your child is sleepy and try to put them to bed around the same time each night. If you wish to alter this at any point, and, say, move bedtime from 8.00 to 7.30, then gradually make bedtime slightly earlier each day over a week.

It is important to let your child learn to fall asleep on their own. If you rocked or breastfed your baby to sleep, it may take a while for them to get used to falling asleep unaided, but try to do this when your child is still a baby and certainly before they are about 9 months. It may help to put them in their cot with a soft toy so they get used to settling down on their own. If they do start crying once you have left the room resist the urge to go back immediately. Leave them for a few minutes and see if they stop crying on their own before rushing in to them. If the crying gets worse after a few minutes, go in with as little fuss as possible, comfort your child and leave them again. For babies who are used to falling asleep in your arms it may take some time for them to get used to falling asleep on their own, but it will happen, so persevere. Try not to get upset or frustrated. Try approaching the task with confidence; your baby will sense it and gain security from you and should settle without too many problems.

It is also important your child gets used to falling asleep with household noises. Resist the temptation to creep around the house when your baby is very young. It is better for babies to grow up with household noises such as the dog barking, television, hoovering etc. In this way you will find they are better equipped to sleep in all manner of situations, such as in the car, at their grandparents house etc.

Once your toddler has established a pattern of sleeping try not to disrupt it, as routines are important for children.

There will be occasions when your toddler wakes up during the night, if they are ill or teething for example. Try to find out why your child has woken up. If they need reassurance, talk to them quietly and perhaps pick them up for a quick cuddle, then put them back in their cot. It is best not to take them downstairs or start to play with them. Your toddler needs to know that night-time is for sleeping and even if they wake up they are expected to go back to sleep fairly promptly. Once you have given up night-time feeds try not to slip back into giving your child milk during the night as they may re-establish a habit of waking up during the night for a feed.

Many parents like to set out a plan for dealing with sleep problems and the guidelines below may help to solve, or at least lessen, what many people find to be a stressful subject.

  • Set a time when your child goes to bed.
  • Establish a routine if you find it helps - play, bath, supper and milk.
  • Don't spend too long putting your child to bed - set a time limit if necessary.
  • If your child wakes up, wait 3-5 minutes before entering the room.
  • Settle your child back with the minimum of fuss. Keep the lights low, talk quietly and try not to stimulate them too much.
  • Be prepared to repeat this routine several times for about a week if your child has got into the habit of waking during the night.
  • If you are breastfeeding ask your partner to settle your child if he wakes up during the night so that your baby cannot smell your milk and demand a feed.
  • Don't bring your child downstairs after bedtime.
  • Leave a light on if your child is frightened of the dark.
  • Don't be in a rush to move your child from a cot to a bed. Children don't like change and if they are comfortable in their cot then why change? However, if your child is climbing out of their cot, it might be time to change to a bed. You can get special bed guards that prevent the child from falling out.
  • In summer it can be difficult getting children to sleep. Try to keep their room cool; provide cotton sheets rather than duvets. If the light keeps your children awake, perhaps invest in a blackout lining for your curtains and blinds.
  • Be reassured that, as your child gets older, sleeping becomes much easier and you can set targets.

Don't worry if you seem to be having trouble with settling your child. He will eventually get into a good sleeping pattern, and your own sleepless nights will just seem like a distant memory! Speak to your health visitor if you have any further concerns.

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