If you have a baby or toddler, you likely already know that the cutest little members of our families are also the ones that do the least cute things. One example: resisting sleep. Although young children require up to 15 hours of sleep each day (between overnight and daytime naps), they are also insatiably curious and never want to close their eyes. While we want to encourage exploration in their early years, we also want to get our own eight hours of sleep so that we can be healthy parents.
Sleep Is Crucial
Everyone in your family needs sleep, your tiny tot included. Sleep is when your body repairs itself. The entire day can take a toll on you, and you have to rest to essentially reboot both your brain and your body. For your baby, Enfamil asserts that sleep is just as important as nutrition. When babies sleep, they are growing. Their brains have an opportunity to form stronger connections, and, as such, healthy sleep improves your child’s ability to learn.
Environment Is Key
When it comes to getting to sleep, your bedroom matters. Your room should be quiet, cool, and dark. If you are in an area with lots of noise, find a noisemaker that offers water sounds, nature sounds, or white noise. Determine your ideal temperature, which, for adults and children, often ranges anywhere from 65° up to 72°. You also want to make sure that both you and your little one are wearing comfortable clothing — preferably something you can machine-wash at home and allows free movement and breathability. Your nursing gown or pajamas should be soft to the touch and, importantly, make you feel confident and calm.
ABC (Alone, Back, and Crib)
Babies should sleep in their own bed or bassinet — the US Consumer Product Safety Commission keeps an updated list of product recalls, including baby beds and products — and be dressed as minimally as possible. Avoid blankets, stuffed animals, pillows, and decorations in the crib, and, on the advice of the March of Dimes, don’t use a sleep positioner or crib with a drop-side rail.
Even if your baby is just born, establish a sleeping routine now. This should include waking and going to bed at predictable hours each night. You can also round out the evening with a warm bath, bottle- or breastfeeding your baby, and a good book. If you find that your child isn’t tired when the clock says it’s time to go to bed, you might start your bedtime routine earlier in the day with activities that perpetuate fatigue. This can include anything from swimming to participating in parent and me movement classes to simply walking through the park.
Your nighttime winding down session can also include a snack of yogurt, cheese, dry cereal, or other filling food that won’t spike your child’s blood sugar. Try to avoid heavy meals for yourself and older children just before bedtime. Another important step before sleep each night is to turn off your phone, TV, and computer. For the best possible sleep, avoid artificial and blue light 30 minutes before bed.
Sweet dreams don’t have to be a struggle. You can settle in and soothe yourself and your little one by establishing routines, wearing comfortable clothing, and, perhaps more importantly, understanding why sleep is so important in the first place.
About the Author
Josh Moore entered the world of fatherhood four years ago with the birth of his son, Wyatt, but he’s on diaper duty once again with the arrival of his second son, Hayden. He created diaperdads.org to not only give credit to all the superhero dads out there, but give them some helpful tips to navigate fatherhood, diapers and all.