There's no one solution, but these 4 tips worked for us.
Having your children sleep through the entire night — or at least for eight hours in a row — is a dream for many dads and moms. It’s possible that lack of sleep is one of the greatest challenges of parenting. We all want our children to sleep well, in part so that we can rest, too, and be ready to give them the best of ourselves during the day.
I always say that my family is blessed: our two children love to sleep. The older brother, who is 11, has been sleeping through the night since he turned 3 months old. The younger one, who is 16 months old, is on the same track. It’s only when he’s sick or teething that he wakes up at night. During the day, the little tyke also takes two good naps, each more or less an hour long; this provides us with a welcome respite which allows us to prepare his lunch and wash his clothes.
But, what’s the secret to this unusual situation? That’s the question we always get from our friends and family. While I’m far from being an expert in this area, I think that the way we raise our children and habituate them to identifying and accepting bedtime can make it much easier for them and us to get a good night’s sleep.
There’s no one recipe, no instruction manual, and no universally effective way to get children to sleep. Every child is different, various factors impact sleep, and every family raises their children their own way— there’s no “right” or “better” way.
But for parents who are desperate and urgently in need of a good night’s sleep, there’s some advice that might be helpful. This was the case with us, and I hope that our experience can help you, too. Here are four simple tips that worked in our home:
So you’ve already read in 3,689 different magazines and websites that establishing a routine is fundamental for a baby to learn the habit of sleeping well. Yes, there’s nothing new about this, and yes, routine works! Babies need a certain minimum of organization of their time and of activities in order to start to understand what they should be doing at each moment of the day. Therefore, it can help to establish schedules for nursing, baths, going for walks, playing games, eating, and of course, sleeping. At the beginning, it’s not easy, but our little ones will get used to it, and soon, they’ll start to work like beautiful Swiss clocks. But, be careful … when you break from the routine, you’re all going to feel it.
Here at my house, for example, our baby has a time for everything. When it’s 8 p.m., he already expects our bedtime ritual: getting the bed ready, putting on his pajamas, breastfeeding, and lying down. Sometimes, we get a little behind schedule, and he—who’s accustomed to the routine—starts to call for Mommy and goes straight to his room. After rolling around in bed for half an hour, he falls deeply asleep, and stays that way until 6 in the morning.
2Bedtime should be enjoyable
Your child shouldn’t feel like going to bed is torture. Try to find a relaxing activity to make bedtime more special. Suggestions: include a bath in your children’s routine at night. Don’t play games with them that can make them giggle too much. Don’t even think about letting them play with electronic devices! Afterwards, lie down with them, and read them a book or tell them a story.
Your company at this moment will make your children feel more secure, less anxious, and more prepared for a continuous night’s sleep. But be aware: you need to be relaxed and comfortable too, not anxious or impatient, because your baby will notice how you feel, and may end up catching your mood.
3Praying is fundamental
Here at our house, bedtime is also synonymous with prayer time. Our firstborn, even today, asks us to pray with him in bed. His favorite prayer is the prayer to his guardian angel; the youngest is already learning to make the sign of the cross.
You don’t need to pray long prayers that may try the patience of your little ones. There are plenty of short prayers out there for children. My advice is to choose one among two or three prayers each night.
4Partnership between Mom and Dad
Making a child fall asleep shouldn’t to be the exclusive task of the mother or the father. In our case, generally, my wife and I both lie down together with our toddler. If I’m not around, or she’s not available, one of us takes charge of the task without any difficulties. This way, our child doesn’t suffer from the absence of one or the other of us.
In short, create habits and motivate your children to sleep peacefully and enjoyably. You also need to be relaxed and sure of yourself in order to pass these feelings to your children. Before long, they may be ready for a beautiful night’s sleep, without waking up every hour during the night. What greater blessing could you ask for?