Thursday, March 6, 2014

Bedtime Routine Struggles for Your Infant and/or Toddler?

For infants ~ usually, at the age of eight months (or sooner) your infant will start the routine of crying when you leave the room. This is after he had bath time, last bottle feeding, diaper changed, book read, and was placed in the crib. Make sure he has his favorite attachment with him (blanket, stuffed animal, or binky). Turn down the light, and allow a night light or a hallway light to lighten the room a little bit. Let him cry for a little while – anywhere from one to five minutes. Go back in and soothe him without picking him up. Leave again, and stay out for a few minutes longer. For example: The first night stay out one minute, then three, then five, and continue to go in every five minutes if he is still crying. The next night try
staying out for three minutes, then five, then seven, then seven again, until he stops crying. This gives your infant a chance to learn how to soothe himself to sleep overtime. If there is any concern while you are soothing him, feel his forehead, arms, and legs to check for a possible fever. Also, try to feel or smell if he has a messy diaper without turning on the light or undressing him. This might be a reason why he is struggling.

Transitioning from a crib in parent’s room to a crib in his own room ~ some parents do this as early as a few months old. This is when an infant is sleeping longer through the night. However, if your toddler has grown attached to sleeping in the same room as you, here are some suggestions in how to make this transition a smooth one. Follow the same routine suggested in the above paragraph for infants; however, instead of every three to five minutes . . . go longer. The first night, act like you have to take care of something, and tell him you’ll be right back. If he is crying, try to stretch it five to seven minutes before you return. Try not to pick him up. Lay him down if he is standing up. Soothe him by rubbing his back, or what you find comforts him. Make sure he has his favorite blanket or stuffed animal. Keep the light down low. Try not to stick around too long and leave again. Continue the five to seven minute intervals, until he falls asleep. The second night, you can do the same; however, try to see if you can stretch the return time to every ten minutes. Eventually, he will learn to soothe himself to sleep. This routine might take a few days, until he gets accustomed to sleeping in his own room without so much crying. Sometimes toddlers like to throw their blanket or stuffed animal on the floor, in hopes that you will return. This is normal, if he does this several times after you gave it back to him, leave it on the floor. You can return the favorite blanket or stuffed animal to him when he falls asleep.

Another suggestion ~ is to stay in his room until he falls asleep, to help get him accustomed to sleeping in his own room. You can setup a chair nearby his crib, and sit while watching him. Remind him that there is no talking, as it is quiet time. Then, just for the next few days, set up a sleeping area for you to sleep in his room. After several days, you can start putting him down and leave the room. Use the suggestion above, by coming back every few minutes until he falls asleep.

Transitioning from a crib to a toddler bed or mat ~ should not be a challenging issue, if the little one is ready. These are the specifics I tend to look for:
If the little one . . .
    shows signs of out-growing the crib
    sleeps in a toddler bed or mat away from home while in care
    demonstrates good listening skills
    doesn’t get up and wonder around the room very often

If you feel your little one is ready to transition from a crib to a toddler bed or mat, communicate this with the grandparents or your child care provider, a few days before you plan on doing this. The grandparents or provider might want to talk about the new napping arrangements. This is usually a transition that little ones are willing to do, especially if an older sibling or his playmates at child care are sleeping on a toddler bed or mat as well.

For the first few days of transitioning from a crib to a toddler bed or mat ~  as I am setting up for naptime, I usually setup his mat last (when there are other little ones involved) and bring out his favorite blanket and/or stuffed animal. I hand the favorite things to the little one, or place them on the mat. I get excited with the little one, as I show him the new napping arrangement. He might settle right down, and after a few days he’ll eventually get accustomed to the new routine. For the first day or so, if you find that your little one is really struggling with the new change, you might sit nearby to comfort. Once he falls asleep, you can quietly sneak out of the sleep area or room. Again, it’s a good idea to keep an eye on this new arrangement, because they sometimes test those boundaries, to see if they can get up and wonder around without you knowing.

Night-time routine with a toddler bed ~ it’s a good idea to calm your toddler down 30 minutes to an hour before bedtime. Think about when he typically gets sleepy, and then start your quiet time together before that. It’s one of those situations that require the right timing. You can create the simplest routine like giving him a bath, brushing his teeth, and reading a couple of books or sing some nursery rhymes. TV can be too excitable or stimulating at this time. 
By this time, he should be good and ready to go to bed. Several nights of the same routine will help him get accustomed to his new night-time routine. If he still has a tough time falling asleep, put on some soft music for him to listen to in his room. Toddlers like to have either a night light on, or the hallway light on with the door just cracked open a bit.

Remember to set limits when he continues to climb out of bed for a glass of water, one more book to read, another back rub, or some other reason. Stand firm and try not to give in. Walk him back to bed and say something like, “It’s time for night night. No more getting out of bed.” Sometimes, as a parent, it can be exhausting fighting with your little one’s nightly trails, and find it easier to just give in to his demands. I understand how it can be; however, kids want and need set boundaries along with routines to feel secure in their world.

You might find him asleep in the hallway or on their floor. This is normal. Just place him back into bed, while he is still sleeping.
He might wake up in the middle of the night crying, because of a bad dream or some kind of disturbance. Come to him and comfort him, until he is calm. Feel his forehead, arms and legs for signs of fever. If all is good, encourage him to lie back down. If you stay with him for a little while, he will fall back to sleep. I highly discourage taking him back to your bed or sleeping with him. This will create a habit of him climbing into your bed, or expecting you to sleep with him on a regular basis. If he starts the habit of climbing into bed with you, continue to take him back to his own bed. I know and I completely understand how tiring this can be; however, if you are consistent in the routine of bringing him back to his own bed, he will soon get accustom to his new bed and familiar blanket or favorite attachment(s). The habit of climbing into you bed will become a rare occasion.


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  1. This article was so helpful. Thank you for your reminders of setting limits.

  2. Wow this article is really great! Been struggling with the bedtime routine.

  3. Transitioning from a parents room to his own room. We are working on this. I loved your suggestions. Thanks!

  4. Your suggestions for night time routines are great. Somethings we are doing and a couple of things we should try.

  5. It's been a big transition moving from the crib to a bed. I like your suggestions. Thinkin' about buying your book.

  6. I viewed the first few pages of your book. I see how it can be useful for parents with an infant or toddlers to care for.


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