Parents often see getting their child to sleep as a daunting task. We asked Sleep Specialist and Paediatric Nurse, Hannah Love to share with us her 20 years' of experience helping babies and children sleep well. Below are her 6 tips to help your toddler sleep.
1. Avoid short naps leading up to sleep time
Even a ‘power nap’ for a couple of moments could prevent your child from falling back to sleep for several hours! Watch out for your toddler getting drowsy in the high chair, on the sofa or on milk if they are still having it. Any power naps after 2pm can prevent toddlers from going back to sleep well in the evening.
2. Offer a healthy, low sugar, snack leading up to bed time.
Magnesium rich foods are great to include as they have been shown to reduce the production of the stress hormone, cortisol. Some sleep-enhancing snacks are:
- banana and nut butter,
- avocado and banana mash
- nut butter on a rice cake
- porridge and milk
Brushing your little one’s teeth should be done at the end of the bed time routine, after any snacks or milk. Try avoiding milk just before bed as all milks contain sugars and shouldn’t be left on the teeth at night.
3. Bedtime should be a relaxed time
Although the time before bed doesn’t need to be quiet or seen as ‘wind down’ time it is important it is stress free and happy. Children are amazing at picking up on your body language and tone of voice, any stress will mean they find it much harder to relax when it comes to going to sleep – show that you're happy and relaxed and they will find it much easier to settle.
4. 'Sleep Triggers' are key
These are repeated each day before bed time, some can also be used for nap time and overnight wakes too. They are there to let your toddler know that bed time is approaching so it isn’t a shock to them when it happens.
Some good sleep triggers could include:
- A bath
- Massage – massage has been shown to promote relaxation, why not try incorporating a short massage with Magnesium Sleep Lotion Junior to help relax muscles and slow sensory activity.
- Lullabies or white noise
- Giving them a comfort item such as a soft toy
- Reading them a story
5. Be realistic and have manageable goals
If your child is feeding to sleep don’t expect to move them instantly to falling asleep unaided. Choose a more gradual change, such as lying with them, once your child is falling asleep without feeding, you can look at ways to move forward from this new point.
6. Always prepare children for change
If you are embarking on any ‘sleep training’ then explain the change you are going to make first – use role play or pictures to make it easy to understand.
This preparation is also important if you are thinking of removing your toddlers dummy- explain the change, be consistent and stick to what you say. This will make the process easier. For more help on getting rid of a soother see this blog.
7. Stay relaxed and be consistent
When parents contact me, I reassure them that all children have the ability to sleep well – the most important thing is for the parent to stay relaxed, consistent and confident.
I hope that these tips help to make bedtime into a relaxing and easy process. Please do remember that it is normal for toddlers to sometimes fight bed time. As long as you stay relaxed and ignore the protests this should pass. The more attention you bring to the behavior, generally, the longer it’ll go on for.