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Jo Frost helps your baby become a super sleeper
Parenting expert Jo Frost gives step-by-step instructions to help the whole family get a good nights sleep.
Jo Frost has been a parenting expert for 25 years and stars in Supernanny and Jo Frost: Nanny on Tour.
lsquo;How do I get my child to sleep? lsquo;My baby wont sleep – help!
This is the number one question Im asked, but the answer is simple. You dont need fancy gizmos or a magic potion. Youve already got everything you need ndash; and thats you. The way to do it, is to focus, detach from technology, and commit to a regular routine of bath, book and bed for 14 days. Do this and youll give your child, and yourself, the gift of a good nights sleep.
When you see me on TV, implementing a bedtime routine is one of the first things I do. You need to establish the difference between day and night, and that happens with a bedtime routine. Thats why you see me coach families through bath, book and bed. It becomes a predictable ritual that creates stability and trust. A child needs trust to feel reassured and safe, in order to get a good sound nights sleep. Thats when she knows she can slumber deeply, because shes being taken care of by you. She needs to feel shes tucked up safely underneath your wing.
But establishing a bedtime routine is more than just helping her make the transition from an energetic day to a peaceful night. It means that at the end of the day you are consciously aware that this is the last moment of her day, and youre giving her your time. When youre in the moment with your child, she isnt chasing for your attention, and can relax. And then sleep will come easily.
Bathtime is the beginning of the transition from day to night, and theres a reason for this. Babies and toddlers love the sensory experience of being surrounded by bubbles in lukewarm water. Theres something about immersing ourselves in a warm tub that really relaxes us. People think its different for kids, but its just the same as for adults.
If your child isnt always happy about bathtime, then you need to make it a special part of her day. If it all seems like a chore, then she wont enjoy having a bath. If you are happy about it, it becomes a special time. Entice her with the bath toys she loves to play with, and make it fun for both of you.
When its time to take her out of the bath and dry her, make sure its a lovely experience for her, with lots of cuddles, tickles and laughter. Warm the towel beforehand and enjoy the extra hugs, even if you get a bit damp yourself!
The next thing to do is to create the right atmosphere for a story. Think of it as setting the mood. For example, if you have a dinner party, you create an ambience for how you want the night to be for your guests. I think this is so important, because we are stimulated by what we see as well as what we feel. So, for a babys bedtime, you need to create a soothing atmosphere. Lower the lights, pull down the blinds and draw the curtains, so you show that its bedtime, and its time to wind down.
Its important to behave in a way that shows that its time to rest. During the day we have big, loud volume. At bedtime we quieten down, and bring everything down a couple of levels. Children are very receptive to energy and to their surroundings. So, at bedtime put her into a situation thats very calm. Think of how your child is at a kids birthday party ndash; she isnt going to stand there and be quiet, is she? Shes going to join in and be part of the energy of the party. By creating a low-key environment at bedtime, the easiest option for her is to calm down.
There are some very popular books at the moment that are designed to help your child go to sleep. And what they do is exactly what I encourage ndash; they help parents to achieve the right level of calm, so they can encourage their child to fall securely to sleep. The books will help parents talk more s-l-o-w-l-y, like this, or whisper, like so. I say to parents, lsquo;Just bring it down. The books can help you to do this, but you dont really need them and can easily achieve the same outcome by yourself. You can choose any book you and your child want to read, as long as you remember to
read it calmly and peacefully.
If your child is old enough to choose her own book, you might find that she wants the same one read over and over. And as boring as that might seem when youre sitting there reading it again and again, thats a good sign. If its boring to you, then I would say youre doing a good job, because your child must have asked you to read it a dozen times, and that repetition is helping her learn and develop.
Even newborns can benefit from this routine, and being read to. People think, lsquo;Im not reading to a little baby, she doesnt understand. But even the smallest baby can hear and listen to you. She may not understand the content of what youre reading, but she sees your facial expressions, and hears your tone, and that allows her to know that whats being done is a good thing.
I hear some mums say, lsquo;I feel a little bit embarrassed about reading to my child. But you dont have to be great at reading aloud, just get stuck in and start reading the story and youll be fine. Youll soon get into it, and when your child smiles and giggles, youll really start to enjoy reading to her. And if you have a toddler, when she looks over your shoulder to follow the words and pictures in the book, you cant overstate how good it feels. Just thinking about that makes me smile. When your child is really excited about what youre reading, when her face is so focused and shes concentrating on the story, that really is a magic moment.
If you read to a toddler and she doesnt seem focused, dont jump to the conclusion that shes not interested in the book. Children need to be engaged, so you need to work to help her concentrate on the story. Its all about interaction. So, if youre reading a book and her attention seems to be drifting, get her to focus by asking questions about the story: lsquo;Hey, wheres the bunny gone? lsquo;Where did the bunny rabbit go? Grab her attention, so she takes a look at the book and spots the bunny. Thats how you re-engage a little one to follow the story youre reading. But dont worry if you cant get her to focus straight away. If youre interested in the book, she will eventually focus on the story too.
Once your child is lovely and relaxed after youve read her book to her, its time to tuck her up safe and sound in bed. At this point, I like to talk about the lovely things we did that day, and the exciting things we will be doing the following day, everything weve got to look forward to.
If you have an older child, its a good idea to give her an opportunity to ask you questions as well, so that shes mentally at ease, and youve given her a chance to completely slow down, as well as being physically tired. That way she is more likely to be fully relaxed, so she can settle down for a good nights sleep. Then you will help her settle in whatever way suits her best, and she will
be so calm and relaxed that sleep will come easily. Keep the routine up for 14 days, and I think you will be amazed by the changes.
I know, its one thing to read about this routine, and another thing altogether to give it a go. You might be thinking, lsquo;Im not sure, its probably easier to just keep doing what were doing already. But I think your child will really benefit from this routine ndash; and so will you.
Most popular articles in Baby sleep problems
Toddler sleep regression: Reasons why your toddler may be waking in the night!
Is your toddler having trouble sleeping at night? Childcare expert Fi Star Stone shares her top tips on dealing with toddler sleep regression
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Ever wondered about your baby’s dreams? We ask a pediatrics professor to tell us more about our little one’s sleep habits.
13 tips to help get through the night feed (from real mums)
As a new mum, getting used to waking up every few hours can be tough! To help you get through the twilight feeds, our Mother Baby mums shared their top tips.
Great article! Would this work for younger babies too? My 8 month old has suddenly started rolling around in her cot and moaning for 45 minutes when we put her to bed, and wakes up crying every hour and a half until we finally take her into our bed! She stopped night feeding at 4 months, and used to sleep so peacefully. Does anyone have any advice?
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