If you are a parent to a little baby or an infant or even a slightly older child, you have surely experienced the nights when your beloved little bundle of joy would refuse to fall asleep. Lulling a baby to sleep is a hot topic and managing this part of life requires a lot of love but also patience and strong will. If a child doesn't want to sleep, it may have multiple causes. Firstly, check the usual suspects.
One of the usual causes is that the child may be hungry. Try to offer him/her some milk or formula, if age appropriate. Another possible cause is that the child has a loaded diaper. Don't forget to check that the temperature in the room where the child sleeps is pleasant and if the child is dressed accordingly. The room should be well ventilated and air sufficiently humid for healthy breathing.
There Are Many Ways to Lull a Baby to Sleep
If you checked all these circumstances causing the child trouble to sleep and everything seems alright, try to lull the baby to sleep. Contact and touch are the best and verified helpers and the mere presence of the mother in the room calms the child down. There is not one and only correct way to lull a baby to sleep. Follow your intuition and sensitivity and choose an approach that is closest to you and your way of upbringing. However, do not combine or change the approaches too often.
Sleep and Struggle for Power
Falling asleep, lulling the baby and sleeping itself bring about one of the first situations when a so-called "struggle for power" may arise between the child and the parents. The baby will test your boundaries. He/she will try to find out how far can he/she go with their requests and what is the maximum that Mommy and Daddy are willing to do to get them to sleep.
The parents need to assess when the crying and calls for attention are caused by the child genuinely failing to calm himself/herself down and when they try to semi-aware manipulate their parents. So watch your boundaries, maintain your requests and be consistent. When lulling a child to sleep, it is not always simple to put these recommendations into practice, but keep at least trying. Children cannot feel safe sufficiently alongside weak and manipulatable parents.
Sleepy and Sleeping Rituals
Even though you might be an advocate of benevolent upbringing, rest assured that as far as sleep is concerned, your baby needs a firm schedule and correct sleep rituals to be healthy. Sleep rituals are natural, they help set up the right atmosphere and they calm the child down. They prepare children for the fact that the time of sleep is coming. Tell your baby a fairy tale with a happy ending, recap pleasant events of the ending day, sing a lullaby.
Try to avoid watching television before sleep. A child is able to sleep alone in the room. Until then, parents must be near the child at night. A child's bed is best situated beside the parents' bed. Experts do not recommend for the child to sleep directly in the parents' bed. The bed is full of pillows and other soft objects and such environment is not entirely safe for an infant; there is serious danger of suffocation - so be attentive and careful. A child older than 5 years should not sleep in the bed with his/her mother in any case. Children must deal with the fact that mother and father are a fixed couple. Otherwise there is danger of problems not only between the parents, but also in the child in later age and in adolescence.
Make Your Baby Fall Asleep Easily
A correct length of sleep is also important; a baby needs to sleep longer than an adolescent. So what is the correct timing for your baby? Firstly, the child should learn to go to sleep and get up approximately at the same hour. An infant should sleep 15-19 hours a day, a three-year-old needs around 12 hours and a child in puberty 8-9 hours of sleep a day. During the weekend, schoolchildren may sleep maximum 2 hours longer than during the week.
Never let an infant sleep on the belly, on a soft pad or in an overheated room. These factors may increase the risk of the sudden infant death syndrome.
If you put your baby to bed for the night and he/she cries, try not to respond for four or five minutes. If the child still cries after this time, go to him/her, stroke his/her hair, tuck him/her in and leave again. Don't take the baby out of their bed and don't turn on the lights; speak little and softly. If the baby keeps on crying, continue calming him/her down and make sure the baby knows you are near.
Jiřina Prekopová: Tips for More Pleasant Nights for You and Your Baby
JiřinaPrekopová is a children's psychologist and the author of popular science books from the field of education and children's psychology. As far as lulling a baby to sleep is concerned, JiřinaPrekopová advises the parents to be confident. When you feel confident, you also support your child. An insecure parent invokes chaos and feelings of uncertainty in the child.
Maintain the conditions under which you require the baby to fall asleep and if possible, do not change them too much. Create a pleasant sleeping space for the child, a sort of hideout where the child will feel well and safe, same as in the mother's belly. That is also why babies find it pleasant when mothers carry them in a sling or a baby-carrier face to face during the day. Indulge your child in the certainty of maintaining sleeping rituals. Maintain also the rituals preceding the lulling stage. Such rituals include bathing, brushing teeth, etc. Keep strengthening the baby's feeling of certainty also at the time of waking up. Make sure that when the child wakes up in the morning, he/she finds everything the same as it was when he/she was falling asleep.
Babies enjoy rocking and cradling. It is interesting that various babies prefer various rhythms and intensity of cradling. When a child is not falling asleep, his/her parents often tend to pick them up and carry them. However, this measure is far from ideal. The problem is that when pacing the room with your child in your arms, you encounter plenty of stimuli that may rather excite your child than calm them down.
This pleasant technique is not very well rooted in the awareness of modern parents. Baby massages have been used to calm babies down in many non-European civilizations and also around France. A crying baby massaged by his/her mother will quickly calm down. The relaxation effect and feeling of comfort for the baby will intensify if you use massage oil (e.g. almond or camomile).
First Teeth and Falling Asleep
The first teeth in babies show between the third and the sixth month of age. In rare cases, babies are even born with teeth. During the period of the first teeth coming through, babies suffer from aches and so the usual daily routine and sleeping rituals may become more difficult and demanding. Pain reduced comfort of the baby during the first teething may manifest with overall dissatisfaction, stronger irritability, problems with sleeping and eating. Gums tend to be reddened and swollen. You may try to ease your child's pain with various teethers and also with a soft massage of gums with your fingers. You may also apply various cooling gels on the gums; always consult your physician about their use.
Eduard Estivill's book "Como Solucionar el Problema del Insomnia Infantil" (How to Solve the Problem of Children's Insomnia) is designed for all parents who have tried pretty much anything to make their baby sleep but without much success. This method may only be applied when the mother no longer breastfeeds the child at night. It is usually for children older than 6 months; they should sleep for 10 to 12 hours without interruption. Do not start the Estivill method training when the child is sick. All household members who participate in putting the child to bed in any way should get acquainted with this method. The essence is to prepare exterior conditions for the baby falling asleep. The room in which the baby is to fall asleep should have temperature around 20°C, dark and minimized noises. Children love regularity which makes them feel safe and reassured. Before you put the child to bed, he/she should be bathed and fed.
You may play or talk with the baby a little before sleep - approximately 10 minutes and then put him/her to bed. The baby should have a thing or two in his/her bed to keep them company through the night; plush toys are the most suitable companions. As soon as you put the baby to bed, utter a sentence, a sort of a "magic incantation" that you will say to the baby to let him/her know it's time for bed. Say it calmly but decisively and do not linger in the room. The baby will probably fish for your attention by crying or in other ways. The older the child, the more refined methods to lure you back to the bedroom. So if you do re-enter the room, it is mainly to let the child know you haven't left him/her. However, as soon as you enter, only touch the baby lightly, say the sleeping spell again and leave, do not linger. Do not talk with the baby long and definitely avoid picking the baby up from the bed.
During the upcoming days, re-enter the room and utter the sleeping spell in the following intervals:
- Training day 1: first wait – 1 minute, second wait - 3 minutes, third and further waits- 5 minutes
- Training day 2: first wait – 2 minutes, second wait - 5 minutes, third and further waits- 8 minutes
- Training day 3: first wait – 3 minutes, second wait - 7 minutes, third and further waits- 11 minutes
- Training day 4: first wait – 4 minutes, second wait - 9 minutes, third and further waits- 14 minutes
- Training day 5: first wait – 5 minutes, second wait - 11 minutes, third and further waits- 17 minutes
- further days before the child starts to fall asleep by himself/herself: first wait – 6 minutes, second wait - 13 minutes, third and further waits- 20 minutes
You will enter your baby's room in this manner when necessary and when your child is awake, regardless of whether it is 8 PM or 3 AM. The procedure is always the same.
After several days, your child's sleep should improve and therefore so should yours. Some parents find the method rather drastic, but there is no need to worry. It is definitely not harmful to the baby in any way. On the contrary, the baby's sleep will improve and he/she will also become calmer during the day as well.