Special thanks to today’s guest contributor, Nancy Parker, a former nanny who enjoys writing about parenting. Please check out her bio at the end of this post!
As a new parent, it is hard to know what is natural and what should be changed. One thing that all new parents seem to suffer through is their child’s sleep cycle. If the sleep cycle is not consistent, or is consistently backwards, it can be hard on the parents. Here are six tips on how to turn your child’s sleep cycle around. You really can’t change a baby’s sleep cycle until they are more than six months old. With newborns, their cycle is completely dependent on their needs. Avoid trying to train a child younger than that. Once they reach six months, however, they can start to be trained.
Look for patterns
If your baby has habits, as most babies do, look for them and record them. Example: the baby wakes at 3 am every night for a pacifier. Once you record the patterns, you can start to counter those problems specifically.
Wake to sleep
Once you have figured out the baby’s habits, set your alarm clock to wake you 20-30 minutes before the baby usually wakes up. Then, go into the child’s room and change their sleeping position or do some other motion that almost wakes them up. Anything that disturbs their sleep without waking them completely will do.
Continue to do this for three to five nights. Eventually, you will see that the sleep cycle has been broken. The habit has been changed. Now you, and your child, should be able to sleep through the night.
Encourage healthy sleep habits
Make sure you encourage your child’s healthy sleeping habits. Nap times shouldn’t be too long or too late in the day. Have a bedtime routine where noise is kept at a minimum and soothing activities, like bath time and reading time, are used. Do not hold or cuddle the baby until she falls asleep. Instead, when the child begins to nod off, place her into the crib partially awake. That way the child can learn to master independent sleep and it won’t become necessary for you to hold or rock them to sleep.
If all else fails …
Let them cry it out. It sounds mean, but older babies fall into bad habits. If your child is constantly waking in the middle of the night for attention, you may have to withhold it. If no one comes after a while, the child will eventually discard the habit as ineffective. The best thing to do, however, is not let bad habits begin in the first place. For step-by-step directions on how to “CIO”, read How to Sleep Train Your Baby Using CIO or Dr. Ferber’s Progressive-Waiting Method.
The nocturnal baby
Some babies have their sleep clock so messed up that they sleep all day and are up all night. This is not healthy for you or the child. But how do you reset their clock? Well, keep them up all day. It may sound a little harsh, but the object is to keep moving, playing, and being active during the day. They’ll get tired and cranky and may cry a lot, but by the time night rolls around, they’ll be more than ready to hit the hay. When you’ve accomplished this, try to keep it up. Make sure they don’t sleep all day by keeping them active and involved. It’s a lot easier to avoid a problem than to correct it later.
Depending on your child and their stubbornness, habits can be very difficult to break. However, with a little time and effort on your part, you can change your baby’s sleep cycle. After all, healthy sleep is necessary for people of all ages and childhood bad habits turn into big problems if not dealt with early on.
Nancy Parker was a professional nanny and she loves to write about a wide range of subjects like health, parenting, child care, babysitting, nanny background check tips etc. You can reach her at nancy.parker015 @ gmail.com.