Teach your toddler to soothe himself to sleep

Teach your toddler to soothe himself to sleep

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During the early days of life with a newborn, you’re alert all the time focusing on what’s best for the baby, so sleepless nights seem like a small price to pay. Sleep is required to build and repair muscle. Research has linked the lack of sufficient sleep with serious health issues such as heart disease, heart attacks, diabetes and obesity and it shortens your life expectancy. But often parents ignore their own snoozing needs in favour of their child’s. Disturbed sleep can lead to fatigue and frustration. That’s why it is important that you and your child form regular, restful sleep habits.

Dr L H Hiranandani Hospital’s Dr Bijal Srivastava told Times of India, “Sleep is like taking a small holiday on a daily basis. It helps in the development of the normal circadian rhythm, which is related to the hormonal changes in the body. It allows the body’s various functions to run smoothly.”

Some experts suggest that parents treat sleep as a learned behaviour in children in order to make bed time less toll-taking for them. The first step is not to promote the reliance on rocking or shushing so that a baby can learn how to fall asleep without much of your help. Rocking your baby to sleep isn’t an appalling thing to do. But it can take a toll on you and can be grueling, and for many, one of the most wearisome thing to do over and over again. Instead of rocking, give your baby a chance to fall asleep on his own.

A bedtime that occurs at the same time every night will set your baby’s internal clock so that he’s naturally sleepy at a knowable time.

Most babies start sleeping through the night between 3 and 4 months of age if you let them, says Charles Schaefer, Ph.D., author of Winning Bedtime Battles: Getting Your Child to Sleep (Barnes & Noble Books, 1998).

Kavitha Nair, a UK-based Gentle Sleep coach, develops tailor-made plans for parents that take into account their child’s age, health and temperament as well as family dynamics. These plans suggest change in sleep routines and behaviours to teach babies to learn to sleep on their own and for longer periods which is beneficial for both child and parent.

Nair said, “When we wake up in the middle of the night, we know how to get back to sleep. Babies don’t, not until we teach them. Most babies are often nursed, rocked, patted or walked to sleep. Therefore, when they wake up at night, they need these motions and gestures to go back to sleep. Their cry is a way of saying, `I am kinda awake, exhausted. I need to go back to sleep, but just don’t know how to. So come back in, rock me or nurse me back to sleep.'”

She adds that once infants gradually get out of their previous sleep habits, they will not need assistance in falling asleep, but just need to have something comforting nearby to help them slumber peacefully.

Nair’s technique involves giving your children a familiar and comforting bedtime routine in order to help them sleep. “As the baby starts to unwind, they activate oxytocin and the sleep hormone melatonin that regulate the body’s arousal system. In other words, their little bodies are ready for sleep,” says Nair.

However, she adds, “Most babies are not ready for sleep coaching till after six months. Their ability to self soothe is not fully developed by then. Trying to implement independent sleep skills too early can lead to negative outcomes and lots of frustration for the mother and her baby.”

Gradually, your kid will feel comfortable falling asleep without your physical proximity. You’ll find that your toddler is asleep almost as soon as his head settles on the pillow and you’ll be happy to find that you actually have the time for yourself.

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