Getting more sleep, a better quality of sleep and just talking about sleep, sleep, sleep is probably the most common convo in the mum world. Am I right? So then, in the first instalment of my #askamum series, I’m going in for the big hitter; how can I get my child to sleep more?
In this new series, I will be asking a group of experienced mothers just what they think about the topics that matter most to us, picking their brains for the most useful tricks up their sleeves and basically just sharing the tried and tested waters of motherhood with you.
If you’re a first time mum, frantically googling the shit out of your phone at 3am every night, then this is the place for you.
Let’s talk sleep. Or lack thereof.
My own children have been wildly different; Zak (now a teenager) basically never slept and without fail he will still rise as early as the dawn. He was a co-sleeper, an early riser and a no-napper. I thought the torture would never end but of course it did and I learned that it’s just the way he is wired.
Sophie, my two year old – she has been a very “good” sleeper if that’s even a thing (it’s not – kids are not bad or good) until recently when we have had weeks of night calling and 5am starts. It’s hideous and I’m exhausted but second time round I know there will be light at the end of my sleep deprived tunnel so I’m way more relaxed about it.
So how about you? Is there something you can do that can you make your child sleep more? Please bear in mind that these tips are only for children over the age of one year. Below that age, a waking, fretful baby most likely needs something, even if that something is just a cuddle from mama. In fact, often way longer than one year old, children just need a cuddle!
What about after that though?
Let’s ask the mums’ – what are your top tips on how to get kids to sleep more?
It’s very old-school but has always worked well for us: a consistent bedtime routine. So wind-down for half hour (no screens – I’m totally NOT against screen-time btw but it really helps), followed by bath (with nursery rhymes) and short bedtime story (in bed) – Caroline.
Since our small has been old enough to get out of bed we have always taught him that if it’s still ‘sleepy time’ he either comes to snuggle with us or goes back to his room to read (we have no toys in his room)
9/10 he will go and read for 10 mins and then go back to sleep.
Average wake up time in our house in 7.45 am
It’s worked for us, and we’ve never had to battle with the 5am up and awake craziness – Sinead.
Amy suggests trying sleepy stories – these are specially crafted stories with a hypnotic rhythm when you read them aloud, or night lights with a projector in them. The distraction can often calm and lull children off to sleep.
One that’s often missed is keeping the kids rooms the same throughout the night. So for example people turn off night lights or close doors or turn off music etc once their child has fallen asleep. However, if they stir and the space around them is different to when they fell asleep then it’s more likely they will notice and wake up properly. If everything is the same, the child has a better chance of drifting off again without noticing – Ann
My own tips for what its worth would be to make sure you as a parent are as calm as possible. No matter how frustrating, try not to turn bedtime into a battle ground. Accept some days are just awful and others will be better. It’s easier to go with the flow on the truly awful nights / early mornings than to desperately cling to a few minutes of sleep here and there.
Equally, I’d avoid the ‘tiptoe out of the room when you think they’re asleep’ game. Try putting them down to bed and letting them self settle a bit. Say goodnight, tuck them in, state in a normal tone of voice at a normal volume that you are going downstairs and they are going to sleep. Act as though that is normal and you aren’t tricking them into going to sleep with you there, only for them to wake and find you gone. This is what we do with Sophie and it works really well.
There will be people who will advocate the cry it out method but without judgement, I say that this is not for me and my family so I won’t advocate for it in this post because I haven’t tried it. Interestingly, the mothers I asked didn’t mention it either.
When it comes to getting children to sleep more, there is no magic cure or answer I’m afraid. It’s always worth checking that waking isn’t through pain, fear or discomfort of some kind before trying anything else but ultimately different children will sleep in very different ways and it’s our job to live through it with them.
Check out my post on sleep deprivation if you are in the midst of the fresh hell of no-sleep and 5am Cbeebies calls and know that most of us are right there with you.