What to remember when putting your kid to sleep

by beagooddad on August 24, 2006

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After reading a couple blogs where people mention their childrens’ bad sleeping habits, and after needing to get Pookie back to sleep after he decided to start reciting TV shows at 1am last night, I decided that I should talk about how to get kids to sleep.

Here’s a brief background. Geetle and Pookie started sleeping through the night at about 10 weeks old. 12 hours a night. Everynight. We have had a couple of handfuls of nights where we needed to go help them in the middle of the night, but almost all of those have either been from sickness or wet beds. Our kids are the best nighttime sleepers in the world.

How did they get that way? Here’s my tips:

  • Sleeping is about sleeping. You get to bond with your kid all day long. When they are awake bond. When they should be asleep, teach them how to sleep. This means they need to be in their bed. This means they should not have toys. Stuffed animals and books are encouraged in our house. Anything with batteries and flashing lights is not.
  • Sleeping is about routine. We go upstairs at about 7pm almost everynight. We get dressed. We brush teeth and wash faces. Geetle and Pookie each pick out a story. We sit on the reading spot (currently a pile of pillows in the corner of their room) and read the books. Everybody hugs and kisses and we leave. The last words our kids hear everynight are “Goodnight Geetle. Goodnight Pookie. Goodnight all the things.” It is part of the routine.
  • Sleeping is about trusting mom and dad. When the kids were little, we decided that we would teach them to sleep by comforting them if they needed it and as soon as they calmed down, we would leave. The first couple nights we had to return every couple minutes, pick them up until they calmed down, and then leave. They learned very quickly that if they needed us, we were there.
  • Sleeping is about not being too tired. Napping is very important for young kids. It is much more difficult to get an exhausted toddler to sleep then one who is just tired. Even if they do not nap, a little bit of quiet time in their room in the afternoon can really recharge a little guy and make it much easier for them to sleep at night.
  • Sleeping is about filtering out the noise. We vacuum at night. We watch TV at night. We talk at night. Our kids quickly learned to filter out that noise. When we have to go into the room to help one of them, the other one almost never wakes up.
  • Sleeping is about waking up. Schedules are good for kids. In addition to going to bed at a consistant time, we wake up at a consistant time, too. I am normally up and out of the house between 5:30 and 6:00. The kids are normally awake between 6 and 7. Even on the weekends. Every once in a while we will all sleep in until 9 on a Saturday, but it is definitely the exception. Our kids’ internal alarm clocks have become very precise. Beagoodmom and I sometimes alternate sleeping in. I will wake up with them on Saturday and she will on Sunday.
  • Sleeping is about remembering why you are there. Last night, when Pookie had a little trouble falling asleep, I went in and told him that he had to stop talking. I told him that it was time to go to sleep. Each time he stopped talking, I left the room. I did not talk in a way that would entertain him at all. I did not pick him up. I did not hug him. I did not bring him something to drink. I did not sing songs to him. My entire mission was to remind him why he is in his room at 1am. He eventually went back to sleep without any fuss.

I do not claim to be a child sleep expert. I do claim to be a father of two 3 1/2 year olds that both sleep well and have both slept well their entire lives. A lot of the techniques that we use we learned and slightly modified from Tracy Hogg’s book, Secrets of the Baby Whisperer.

I love this book. We read it right around the time we brought the kids home from the hospital. Her approach is different than a lot that I have read. She advises that so much of the sleeping success is started long before you reach the bedroom. She is a big advocate of getting into a daily routine. Especially with infants. Getting them used to the order of sleep, wake, eat, play helps them avoid confusion. They learn the routine and are more involved with each phase because of it.

If you are having trouble getting your kid to sleep, go to the library, bookstore, Amazon, neighbor and pick up the book.

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