It may not seem like it, especially when you are waking up every couple of hours with an infant, but by the time your child is two years old they’ll have spent around 40 percent of their lifetime asleep. Something that might not surprise you is the fact that up to 70 percent of older kids have sleep-related problems a few nights a week -- from resisting bedtime to having a hard time falling asleep --. The key to avoiding these problems is to try to establish good sleeping habits when your child is still a baby. Here’s how to start.
Your Newborn (1-2 Months Old)
Your brand new baby will spend up to 18 hours of everyday sleeping! Their sleep-wake cycle won’t adhere to typical day-night hours, either; it’s more in tune with their eat-change schedule. They’ll move their arms and legs, make a bit of noise and will generally look fairly restless while they’re resting. Try to put your baby down for sleep before they actually fall asleep. Look for signs of drowsiness such as eye rubbing and fussiness. Watch your baby for patterns -- you’ll know their signals better than anyone else! Also be sure to put your newborn down on their back and make sure their sleep area is free of blankets, pillows and stuffed animals.
Your Infant (3-12 Months Old)
The good news is that most babies sleep all the way through the night by the time they’re nine months old. Infants need between nine and 12 hours of sleep every night and most will take a couple of naps every day as well. Putting your baby down for sleep while they are still awake, but drowsy, and letting them “self soothe” will get them used to the idea of falling asleep without your help, and will help them get themselves back to sleep if they do wake up in the middle of the night. Establishing a regular nighttime routine (quiet time together reading a book or singing songs after bathtime, for example) will also help signal to your baby that bedtime is imminent.
Your Toddler (12-36 Months Old)
By the time your baby enters toddlerhood, they’ll need between 12 and 14 hours of sleep every night. They’ll probably only need one nap during the day, but it might last a couple of hours -- so try to keep naptime far enough away from bedtime that it doesn’t cause a problem. Your bedtime routine is more important than ever now; as toddlers start to assert their independence, they might try to do so by getting out of bed and having trouble getting back to sleep. Be sure to set and maintain firm limits relating to bedtime and naptime. Using a favorite blanket or stuffed animal as a security item can help toddlers sooth themselves to sleep.
Establishing good bedtime and sleep habits might sound tough, but with patience and consistency, your child (and you!) will be blissfully drifting off to dreamland.