When you’re a brand-new parent, you expect that the baby will interrupt your sleep time, but unfortunately, this doesn’t completely stop when your child pushes past infancy into toddlerhood and beyond. And sometimes, it doesn’t even feel like it slows down! By setting the right boundaries, you can ensure your nightly rest no matter what your child’s age.
Newborn babies come with their own special sleep schedule. While every baby is different, you can count on your infant sleeping anywhere between 10 and 18 hours each day. Sounds like plenty of resting time for you, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, these hours tend to come in two- to four-hour chunks instead of consecutive hours.
If you’re in a two-parent household, mothers can pump their breast milk in advance, and the two of you can take feeding shifts throughout the night. You can also alternate nights: one of you handles the infant one night and the other the next. You can also have one parent sleep in the same room as the baby so one of you gets undisturbed sleep on those nights.
You can keep your newborn baby in the same room as you so you don’t need to travel as far to answer the call of your crying child, as the less you move around when you do wake up, the more quickly you’ll fall back asleep. Some doctors recommend sleeping with your infant in bed with you as well; it may help him or her sleep through the night more soundly. Of course, you may be hesitant to try this as you don’t want to endanger your child in the process, so you remember to be careful.
Enlist the help of others. If a family member volunteers to watch the baby so you can catch a nap, take advantage of this. Schedule a rotating play date with other parents so you can be free to rest for a few hours. Hire help if that feels like a good option for you. This can be babysitters for a chunk of time, night nurses to manage feedings and changings in the twilight hours or nannies to take care of the baby during the day so you can catch up on your zzzzz’s.
When your son or daughter reaches toddlerhood, they are probably able to sleep through most nights, but separation anxiety, nightmares or bed-wetting can lead to a tiny child in your bed in the middle of the night.
One potential line of defense against sleepless nights is to go to bed when the children do, even if it’s earlier than you would normally hit the hay (and it probably is!) This way if you do have to wake up in the middle of the night to deal with a wet bed or a nightmare, you’ve at least already gotten in a few good hours of sweet restful slumber.
You should also make sure that you’ve set up a normal routine for your child so that they always go to sleep and wake up at the same time. When schedules are erratic, you may find your child waking up in the middle of the night instead of sleeping through it—and then coming to your room to wake you.
Also give your child something soft to snuggle with throughout the night to provide him or her with an extra layer of security when you’re not there. Blankets and teddy bears are an excellent choice for this. And pay attention to your child’s sleep environment. Is there an environmental factor that’s rousing our child from slumber, like an early morning train whistle or sunbeams streaming in through thin curtains?
When your child moves into adolescence, he or she may have trouble sleeping or wake you up in the middle of the night simply because they like the attention you give them when this happens.
Give positive reinforcement for your child staying in his or her bed—extra kisses or hugs, for example. Keep the television off for at least two hours before bedtime, as the stimulation from the screens and noise can keep your little guy wired long after it’s time to wind down.