Several months ago, I came across the most poignant of memes. Robin Williams from the movie Jumanji - disheveled and scraggly with the title "After Putting the Kids to Bed..." and the caption "What Year Is It?" I know I'm not alone in feeling like bedtime is a time warp in which two hours can often get lost in snacks and trips to the bathroom and toddlers abruptly in desperate need of water. And this is exactly why I was so excited to have Stephanie offer some tips for getting through this challenging time of day. - Britt
How Much Sleep Does My Baby Need?
Working with your baby’s sleeping habits is not a clear-cut process because the amount of sleep needed and when it is needed varies by age and by the unique needs of your child. However, here are some general guidelines of required sleep in a 24-hour period, organized by age group and based on a 2015 study conducted by the National Sleep Foundation.
Newborns: 14 – 17 hours
Infants: 12 – 15 hours
Toddlers: 11 – 14 hours
Preschoolers: 10 – 13 hoursRemember that these are just averages. Every child is somewhat unique when it comes to sleep patterns, so don’t be alarmed if your little one doesn’t fit perfectly into these guidelines.
Prepare For The Worst
Be prepared for what may happen after you’ve tucked your child into bed. From teething to nightmares, you and your child are bound to face sleep disruptions together. Here are a few common sleep challenges to be aware of:
Battling the Bedtime Tantrum
Children love to test boundaries, which makes it important for parents to establish firm rules and limits at a young age. Unfortunately, the cutest age is also the age where tantrums are most prevalent (1-3 years old). But don’t worry, here are a few helpful tips to help you deal with tantrums like a pro:
Positive Reinforcement: Make sure your child is rewarded for good behavior. Soon they will be able to spot the difference between behaviors that are rewarded versus those that are not.
Give Them Choices At Bedtime: Maybe your child doesn’t want to go to bed, but chances are they will want to pick out the pajamas they wear, the flavor of toothpaste they use to brush their teeth, or their bedtime story. Add some diversity so that they are excited for bedtime, instead of treating it as a chore.
What NOT to Do: Do not reward your child’s tantrum by giving in. Sometimes it’s easier, and a time saver to avoid the headache of arguing with your child, however this will only prove to your child that the tantrum was effective and increase the likelihood of it happening next time.
Basic Components of an Effective Bedtime Routine
Now that you have a general idea about how much your baby should be sleeping and some challenges you may face, here is an outline of a generalized bedtime routine.
Food: Regardless of whether you’re formula feeding, nursing, or chasing around a toddler, you’ll want to fit in a feeding or snack at bedtime. However, not all kiddos do well with going to sleep with a full belly because they get gassy. Experiment with what and how much you feed your child before bed to find what works best for them.
Books: This component will vary depending on your child’s age. With infants, it’s usually best to read the same book every time. This doesn’t need to apply during the day, however. Sticking to the same book at bedtime will help your baby’s brain recognizes that it’s bedtime.
Potty: Although this one may seem obvious, it is often overlooked by parents after their busy day. Ensure that your child takes a trip to the restroom right before bed. They should soon pick up on this habit and initiate it on their own.
Teeth: You can actually start this habit before your baby even sprouts teeth by brushing their gums gently with a silicone training toothbrush or a regular one with very soft bristles. This isn’t strictly necessary, but once your child begins teething, it’s important to make this habit part of their bedtime routine.
Lullaby/Prayer: For this component, choose a song or songs that are meaningful to both you and your child. As with books, stick to the same songs or prayers, and keep them quiet and uplifting.
Hopefully, following these guidelines will help you and your child establish a bedtime routine that really works. Remember, you can customize your bedtime rituals to meet the unique needs of your child. However, it’s best not to change things up on a nightly basis. Happy sleeping!
Stephanie James is freelance writer, world traveler, and wellness enthusiast from Raleigh, North Carolina. As someone who loves to travel, and spends more time in a plane than in a car, she has mastered the art of sleep & comfort from any time zone, and encourages others to get their best sleep! In addition to covering topics on sleep health, you can also find her stories on travel and healthy living.