Blog 3: Sleep!

Posted on 16th May 2020

Blog 3: Sleep!!

Well, blog number 3 is definitely long overdue… It’s been over a year since my last blog so I apologise! Its been a busy year for me, as some of you may know, I have recently given birth to my first child so am now on the wonderful, exhausting, magical and difficult journey of being a first time parent! Hence why my blog topic is sleep!! Something that, over the last 4 months, has become increasingly important to me and something I know that all parents struggle with at one time or another!

People keep saying to me ‘You’re so lucky she’s a good sleeper!’ but I’m a firm believer that this isn’t luck… It’s something that I work hard at to make work because it is so important to me! I do not function well without my sleep; therefore, I need my child to be good at it for my own sanity!!

I say it all the time as a professional and it is definitely a key factor in Kind Hearts Preschool’s ethos, children need consistency no matter what their age is and we, as the parent/ adult, need to recognise their likes, needs and dislikes to make these consistencies work for both parties.

In my work life, I deal with pre-schoolers and toddlers, ages two to four years old; at home I’m dealing with a 4 month old. The approaches are different I agree, but the principles are absolutely the same!

·      Consistency

·      Routine

·      Rules/ boundaries.

Again, Kind Hearts preschool build our daily goals on the above three points. Both the St Georges and Bishops Hall site are on the same page, St George’s is definitely geared more towards younger children but what we do there lays the foundation for their transition to Bishops hall and then on to school.

Let’s apply these principles to bedtime… Consistency, you behave in the same way each day- calm tone of voice, same routine, and same reaction to various outcomes that may occur.  Routine, it doesn’t necessarily have to be done at the same time everyday but the same series of events should happen each day in the lead up to bedtime. For example, with my daughter it is feed, wind down play, bath, lay in cot, story, lights out, sleep.  I am finding those as she is getting older, these events do occur at the same time each day, give or take 30 minutes – 1 hour. Rules and boundaries, by this I mean, set rules and boundaries that you know you will be able to keep up with and that your child can learn to understand. In my case, the learning happens non verbally and she is learning these rules because I am consistent, in a toddlers/ pre-schoolers case, they can learn them verbally, you can tell them what you expect to see from them at bed time, then follow that up in your responses and consistencies. Rules/ boundaries can be anything from once the bedtime routine begins, your little one doesn’t leave their bedroom or they get one story and one question before mummy/ daddy leaves their room for the night for them to sleep.

Now, I know this is all very simple in theory… writing it down is much easier than actually putting it in to practise so lets break it down a bit further. Every parent’s obstacles at bedtime are going to be different because every child is different! You have to think outside of the box to overcome these obstacles. My current obstacles are teething, wind and sleep associations to her dummy (made that rod for my own back in the early days of breastfeeding when I was being used for a dummy and sleep was more important to me than trying to be her comfort for hours and hours on end). So, this is how I’m dealing with it: Teething- Gel, calpol, anything she needs to help soothe the pain. Wind- Gripe water, allowing enough time after her last feed and before bedtime for her to wiggle that wind out, making sure she is thoroughly burped after and last but certainly not least, the sleep association to the dummy. This one is proving very tricky and I know it wont be an overnight cure… At the moment, I am only giving her the dummy after her story if she still isn’t drowsy enough to fall to sleep on her own, I give her the chance to attempt to sleep without it but if she is getting too stressed I give her the dummy. If, throughout the night, she wakes because her dummy has fallen out, I am trying to teach her to put it back in her own mouth… Sounds ridiculous I know, because she is only 4 months old but waking throughout the night to put my child’s dummy back in is not something I want to do in the long term, so, I put the dummy in her hand and guide her hand to her mouth!

Some other sleep associations I have already tackled in the short 4 months are:

Feeding herself to sleep- when she was about 8 weeks old, I noticed that she would fall easily asleep whilst feeding and I caught myself trying my hardest to put her down in her crib/ moses basket gently without waking her and when she did wake, she would be upset that I wasn’t there feeding her anymore and the only way to get her back to sleep would be to feed her again… As above, this isn’t something I could maintain for the foreseeable so I started to try and break this sleep association, it wasn’t an instant fix and it didn’t happen over night but what I started to do was once I had put her down, rouse her slightly, by tickling her nose or feet and letting her get herself back to sleep. As time went on I was able to complete a feed with her just getting drowsy and then put her down where she would get herself to sleep, these sleeps then got longer and more satisfying for her and she woke up happy and refreshed.

Rocking her to sleep: Luckily I caught myself doing this one nice and early so it wasn’t too hard to break) but at around 16 weeks, she was sleeping through the night and I had decided to move her in to her own room because I was disrupting her when I went to bed. I got so fixated on her having to be asleep by a certain time that I started to rock her to sleep when she was perfectly capable of getting herself to sleep and she proved that with all the naps she took throughout the day. This is when I adjusted her bedtime routine to be bath, lay in cot, story then sleep so she was still getting comfort from me being in the room whilst she got ready for sleep but didn’t physically need me in anyway. 

Now, lets think about toddlers and pre-schoolers. They are definitely more complex than babies because their likes, dislikes and awareness are greater. Obstacles you might face are things like fear, wanting mummy/ daddy, sleep associations that have been in place for a long period of time and so on. I would start by looking at their environment. Is it over stimulating? Do they feel safe and secure in their room? Is the lighting just right for them to sleep? Is the temperature right? The beauty of this age is they can begin to tell you why they aren’t happy so listen to them and let them help you create the perfect sleep environment for them. Next, look at your routine. Is it effective or are there things that need to change? Is there enough time between dinner and bedtime? Have they had a chance to wind down play? Are you calm and helping them calm themselves down? If you make any changes to your routine, then stick to them for 6 weeks to give your child a chance to adjust. Reflect on your bedtime routine frequently and try to highlight things that aren’t working to help you rectify this in the future. Finally, think about your rules and boundaries and how you enforce them. What do you do once you have finished your story and your child is still trying to get your attention? Does your response work?

It might feel overwhelming to see it all written down but just take it a step at a time. If you have sleep associations that you want to break, do it gradually so that you don’t upset your little ones unnecessarily.

If you feel like you have tried everything and it is still a stressful time for everyone involved, please feel free to comment on this blog/ on our Facebook pages and I’m sure the other mummy’s and daddy’s out there have had the same problems as you and will be able to offer support or advice and I will certainly do the same when I can! Just remember, this isn’t a one fix suits all, you have to work with your child to make it work for you both!

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