Most parents know how hard it can be to get their little one to sleep. And if you expect them to sleep through the night while they are young, well forget it! While there are many tactics to try to get your baby to sleep, there are some you may not want to get into the habit of doing. New research is showing how common efforts of parents to help get their little ones to go to sleep could actually be having a reverse effect.
For example, when a child is crying in their bed it is almost an instant reaction for parents to pick up their child and bring them into their bed to help them get to sleep. Dr. Elsie Taveras of Harvard Medical School says, “It is very hard to let your child cry it out when they are toddlers, but if you approach it differently — ‘I am not even going to start my child making these sleep associations’ — it’s much easier to prevent [future problems].”
A new study by Valerie Simard of Hôpital de Sacré-Coeur in Montreal is centered on this issue. The study was created to examine the link between the behavior of parents in relation to their bedtime rituals with their children, and the sleep disturbances in those children during infancy and early childhood. There were nearly one thousand parents—all with children at the age of 5 months when the study began—chosen to be participants. The parents were given yearly questionnaires which would describe their regular nighttime habits and track the sleeping progression of their child. Simard found that the parents who were most likely to interfere with their child’s natural sleep adaptation—such as the mother staying with her child until he or she fell asleep, or the parent giving a child food or drink upon nighttime awakening—was linked to the child’s sleep difficulties as a baby, at five to seventeen months of age. Furthermore, those parental interferences, which parents reported continuing to practice from 29 to 41 months of age, led to disrupted sleep—bad dreams, short sleep time and delays in falling asleep — in children of preschool age.
To read more about the findings from the study you can find them published in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine.
Now if you are wondering about some advice on how you can get your baby to sleep through the night, check out these seven tips:
- Play with your baby—by providing stimulation for your little one during the daytime, he or she will be much more likely to sleep longer.
- Reduce your baby’s naptime—if your baby is sleeping more during the day than he is at night, this will help balance out his sleeping pattern.
- Let your baby sleep in his crib—when your baby becomes tired but while he is still awake, bring him to his crib so he can associate the crib with bedtime.
- Have a quiet time before bed—this will allow your baby to wind down and realize that it is almost time to go to sleep.
- Have a scheduled bedtime—we are all creatures of habit, babies included.
- Use a pacifier instead of a bottle in bed—this will comfort your baby, without any negative repercussions.
- Wait to go check on your baby when he is crying at night—going in right away is a common response, but many times he will go back to sleep if you wait.
- Increase your baby’s solid food at dinnertime—the feeling of fullness will help your baby to sleep longer.