Let’s talk about it, that elusive, but necessary thing every parent chases after: getting your kids to sleep! The end game here is just a tad more shut-eye for everyone involved, but it is a tricky path to navigate. Not to mention that each stage and age presents distinct hurdles, not to mention the uniqueness of every child’s temperament. But there are certain consistent pain points during each stage that can be addressed to help get your kid to the land of dreams.
Drawing from my background as a Family Nurse Practitioner, Labor & Delivery Nurse, Lactation Consultant, and the founder of NAPS, I’ve spent over a decade listening to the concerns of parents and collaborating with thousands of families to provide a few tips to overcome these hurdles.
So, here’s the lowdown on snoozin’ situations. Read through the tips for your kid’s stage and more resources so you can chase those Zzz’s like a pro!
Pain point: Sleeps a lot during the day, wide awake at night.
Tip: Flip the nocturnal switch. Between 6 am – 10 pm, focus on your daytime hours and wake that newborn up for feeds every 2-3 hours. Get the calories in during the day to eventually have longer stretches of sleep at night.
Resource: Newborn Sleep Webinar
Babies 2-3 Months
Pain point: Wants to be held all of the time and has a “witching hour” in the afternoons or evenings
Tip: Avoid an overtired baby, which is the common culprit for this. A baby who misses naps during the day, or has awake windows that are too long, is like a snowball rolling down a hill getting bigger and bigger and the storm comes in the evening or overnight. Watch awake windows during the day, which are about 60-90 minutes at this age, and make sure naps happen.
Resource: Sleep for Babies 12-20 weeks
Babies 4-6 Months
Pain point: Baby was sleeping well overnight and is now waking up an hour or two after bedtime and/or multiple times overnight.
Tip: Start with bedtime. This is the age where babies can go to bed at the same time every night and are old enough to put themselves to sleep, by themselves, and stay asleep overnight. Get back to your basics of putting your baby to bed at the same time each night, awake and aware that they are in their crib, and let them put themselves to sleep. This does not have to mean cry it out, there are lots of methods for this.
Resource: Group Sleep Consults
Babies 6-12 Months
Pain point: Your baby is taking short, bad naps or having early morning wake-ups.
Tip: Consider if it’s time to drop a nap. Babies drop from 3 to naps in this age group. Consider bedtime. Is it too late? A later bedtime can backfire and cause early morning wake-ups. Look at your sleep environment. Is there ANY light coming in the nursery at 5 am?
Resource: Short Naps & Early Morning Wake-Ups webinar
Babies 12-18 Months
Pain point: Bad naps at daycare.
Tip: Give it time. Daycare transition is a new environment, a new place to sleep, and different from home. Stay consistent at home. Keep sleep solid and don’t change it up. Meaning, keep your same bedtime, crush good naps on the weekend, and keep your dark environment, with a sleep sack and white noise. Bank that sleep when you can. On a daycare day, embrace an earlier bedtime, even as early as an hour.
Resource: Join Nurture and write on our Ask a Nurse board
Toddlers 18 months+
Pain point: Suffering from bedtime battles. Your toddler is resisting bedtime or asking for one more snack, one more sip of water, and one last trip to the potty.
Tip: Be the steady pilot of the plan through this turbulence and remember, you are in charge of bedtime. If you give an inch, they’ll take the mile. Decide what’s a part of your routine each night (ex: 1 book vs. 5 books) and then hold the line once you have told your toddler the boundary at bedtime. Anticipate their needs. If they always want a snack or sip of water, offer it right before you go up to bed.
Resource: Nurture course Bedtime Battles: Crib Escape Artists and Other Bedtime Escapades
Toddlers 2.5-3 Years
Pain point: You have a crib climber escaping in the middle of the night or in the morning.
Tip: Exhaust all ways to keep this kid in their crib before you take them out. Did they try to climb out, or actually get out? Was it only once, or is it consistently happening? Can you lower the mattress to the floor, so they lose extra leverage?
Resource: Nurture course: Transitioning to a toddler bed
Toddlers 3-4 Years
Pain point: They are refusing their nap, or napping some days, but not all days.
Tip: Hang onto that nap for as long as you can. Keep offering it each day and if some days it doesn’t happen, embrace the quiet time. When it’s time to drop the nap completely, keep one hour in the day to always offer quiet time.
Resource: Nurture course Dropping Naps Completely (or, the end of an era)
Mom is Pregnant…Again
Pain point: Having ANY sleep issues and panicking, because, well you’re pregnant and you need sleep to be solid before you bring home a newborn, again.
Tip: Work with NAPS in some capacity – whether it’s inside of Nurture, at a live Q&A, or on a private sleep call so we can get your sleep problems resolved before you have your next baby.
Resource: Join our Veteran Bootcamp where we will not only review childbirth and newborn care, but the basics of feeding and sleep, as well as sibling prep and preparing for a family of 4, or more!
If you’re looking for more trustworthy, uncensored support and coaching from honest, judgment-free Registered Nurses who are parents themselves, then check out NAPS. As a member of the Sittercity community, you get an exclusive 20% off classes, support groups, and virtual services. Get your newborn and parenting support that’s actually supportive.
Emily Silver is the Co-founder of NAPS, NP, IBCLC