Since you’re exhausted and dying for some decent shut-eye, it’s hard to understand why your baby doesn’t feel the same. According to experts, the answer lies in consistency – so if you follow these steps night after night, you might well find the sleep situation improving.
If your baby is aged six to nine months
Get rid of excess energy
The older and more alert a baby is, the more they want to explore. You can imagine how that feels: picture arriving in a brand new, exciting place that fills you with curiosity – and then being told it will all have to wait until the next day. It may seem counterintuitive if you’re trying to induce a sleepy state, but indulging baby will actually lead to more success – so let him play with some of his favourite toys or crawl around for a while.
Start to wind down
Let these high-energy activities naturally slow down so your baby becomes calmer. For instance, if he has been crawling around, pick him up, put him on your lap and have a little chat.
The all-important bath
It’s not just the warm water of the bath that is soothing; bath time also sends a message to the brain, telling your baby that it’s time to prepare for sleep. This becomes especially effective if it happens at more or less the same time every night.
Begin the routine
Let your baby know that it’s time for sleep by saying goodnight to all his favourite things – “goodnight, bunny. Goodnight, books.” Next, read a bedtime story. Remember, this is a crucial step not only for the bedtime routine, but also in terms of promoting a love of reading that will serve well when the school years start. Finally, sing a lullaby or, if you’re not much of a singer, switch on some soothing music and turn off the lights.
If you have a toddler
Start during the day
A busy day, filled with exercise and activity is the best way to ensure your toddler is ready to sleep when bedtime rolls around.
Keep bedtime regular
If you keep regular hours, you’ll notice that you automatically start to feel tired around your own bedtime. Your toddler will react in the same way, so it makes sense to keep bedtime at more or less the same hour every day.
Make the bedroom conducive to sleep
It might surprise you to learn that everyone – even you – wakes up regularly at night. The difference between you and a toddler who shouts for his mom in the night is that you have learnt how to go back to sleep. You can help him do the same by making sure he’s warm enough (a sleep sack can be helpful in this regard, especially if your toddler usually throws off blankets), dark enough (consider blackout blinds) and has a level of white noise.
Give a bedtime snack
Sugar-free, of course! Warm milk or yoghurt just before bed may help stave off hunger pangs that may strike in the night, especially if there’s a growth spurt in progress.
What works for me
Living and Loving moms share their secrets:
“I wait until I can see she is tired, then I lie her on her tummy and give her a dummy.” – Melissa
“A warm bath.” – Blessing
“Bedtime is easier if I am smart with naps. At night, I give her a little workout and join in to make it fun – we run around, and then she’s lights out.” – Nthabiseng
In her 16 years as journalist, Lisa Witepski’s work has appeared in most of South Africa’s leading publications, including the Mail & Guardian, Sunday Times, Entrepreneur and Financial Mail. She has written for a number of women’s magazines, including Living & Loving, Essentials and many others, across topics from lifestyle to travel, wellness, business and finance. She is a former acting Johannesburg Bureau Chief for Cosmopolitan, and former Features Editor at Travel News Weekly, but, above all, a besotted mom to Leya and Jessica. Lisa blogs at whydoialwayscravecake.blogspot.com and lisa.witepski.blogspot.com, and tweets at @LisaWitepski.