Imagine yourself coming back home from a great party with loud music, flashing lights and exciting conversations with friends or coworkers. When you do get home, most likely you need some time to wind down. It works the same way with your baby. She does not have an on/off switch that can instantly make her fall asleep. She needs some time to gently switch from the excitement of the day to the calm of the night. As a general rule, you should allocate about an hour for winding down and falling asleep. This hour should include about 40 minutes before getting to bed and 20-25 minutes in bed.
Engaging in an activity that revs you and your baby up
Some parents make an even bigger mistake than not allowing for the wind-down routine: they actually re-energize their babies and toddlers by letting them watch loud TV shows, play video games, or having them present while spending time with loud guests. Obviously, you can’t turn your home into a quiet cemetery, especially if you lead an active social life. However, you can keep your baby away from loud activities for an hour before bedtime. Use noise such as the sound of ocean waves or rainforests, turn on soft music, turn off the TV.
Stretching out time before bed is one of the favorite children ploys. A baby that moves with incredible speed during the day suddenly turns into a tortoise as bedtime approaches. If this is what happens every night, don’t let your child make this happen. One of the tricks you can use here is schedule the least favorite parts of the bedtime routine, such as teeth-brushing, right before the favorite parts, such as story-telling. This way your child will hurry through the parts he or she doesn’t like to get to the best parts.
Not having consistent rituals
Your kids need to know what to expect from you. If your behavior is inconsistent and one night you stick your head to see what is going on, another night you cuddle as long as your baby wants and the third night you leave your baby alone, the child will keep testing you and pushing the boundaries.
Establish the rules and routines and stick to them. Obviously, there will be exceptions and you will break your own rules sometimes. If you suspect that the baby may have caught a bug or you know that the baby had a particularly long day, follow your instincts and make sure that he or she is okay.
Dealing with too many baby emergencies
One of the ways your toddler may push your boundaries is by telling you that he or she needs a drink, a story, a visit to the bathroom and so on. Make it clear what is allowed before and after going to bed. It goes without saying that from time to time you will have to deal with real emergencies, but there will be obvious tests that you need to learn to ignore.
Losing your temper
To help your baby wind down, you need to be calm and relaxed yourself. You may be tempted to raise your voice and get annoyed if your computer crashes, the cable goes out or a co-worker sends you an email late at night asking to help solve an issue. If you let these problems get to you, you will have to deal with two other problems. The first one is that your baby will sense your energy and will not be able to sleep well. The second one is that if you use bad words, your baby will remember them and most likely use them the next day.
Changing the schedule without realizing it
Even a little change in schedule, such as a short vacation, a holiday in the middle of the week or a visit from grandparents, can disrupt the sleep schedule of your toddler. If this happens, first establish if something changed. Next, take steps to put the schedule back on track as soon as possible. Change is one of the biggest reasons for baby and toddler sleep issues.
Turning living room couch into a toddler’s bed
The living room couch is the ideal place for your baby to go to sleep because mom and dad are right here. However, it is not an ideal long-term strategy because you need to train your toddler to fall asleep in a separate room. If you are spending time together in the living room and see your little one falling asleep, start the bedtime routine before you child falls asleep on the couch.
Not adjusting bedtime milestones
Bedtime routines need to change as your baby grows and needs less sleep. Also, you want to gradually be increasing the amount of control that your toddler gets over the routine so that you don’t end up having to tuck in a 15-year-old in bed every night.
Avoiding issues you know you have to deal with
Some parents go to extremes in trying not to upset their children. If your child is used to having you by his or her side in the middle of the night, you do know what will happen if one night you are not there. There will be a reaction that is almost certain to shake the emotions of even most thick-skinned parents. Many parents fear these meltdowns so much that they don’t even try to have their toddlers sleep on their own and sleep in the same bedroom for years. Whatever you do with your child, it is your responsibility to think about long-term effects and sustainability of your actions. After your baby reaches the age of about four months, she can start sleeping on her own. You simply need to try and let her do it.