Tips for Parents to Take Control of Bedtime
“We have him sleeping in our room. Occasionally he’ll sleep on the floor because that’s where he’ll fall asleep. Otherwise, I’ll have to hold him and rock him the whole time and I’ve been trying to do business on the phone while I’m rocking him.
The little guy is sleeping for 45 if I’m lucky, but I know he’s still tired, so then I spend another 45 minute trying to get him back down by rocking him and feeding him. At this point we’re trying everything and anything to get him back to sleep. There’s no routine, there’s no schedule. If he wants to eat, let him eat and if he falls asleep, then great.”
This story will hit home for far too many of us parents. It’s an experience shared with us by Alexandra Gingrass, a Certified Pediatric Sleep Consultant at Little Reds Sleep in Austin, Texas. We invited Alexandra onto the Village Childcare Podcast to share how she solves sleep challenges and to cover important sleep topics for new parents. Alexandra is a nanny of 7 years, certified by the Family Sleep Institute, which was established in 2011 to provide information, strategies, and holistic support regarding child sleep to families with varying parenting styles.
At Village Childcare, sleep is important to us because it plays such a big role in your child’s success in a childcare setting. You have new sleep environments, new caregivers putting the child to sleep, sleep safety, and navigating nap times that all can lead to a wonderful childcare experience or a difficult one.
Below is a condensed summary of our full conversation which you can find above.
Are your baby’s sleep challenges normal?
For starters, every child is different and what you hear from your neighbors or friends is no representation of where your family should be. Alexandra did point to one major indicator if your child’s sleep routine needs fixing. She shared,
“Nobody should feel as if they’re chained to the crib and the nursery because their baby won’t sleep. You shouldn’t have to feel that way.”
One of the biggest lessons from Alexandra is to watch for babies cues. If family is feeling rested, and your baby is happy and hitting milestones, then whatever your family routine seems to be working. However, a lot of families are stuck at the end of their two-year-old’s bed for hours, because your child refuses to sleep without you.
Setting up a sleep environment for your baby:
“Sleep Environment and a child’s room is one of the most important aspects to achieving good sleep.” Alexandra shared that parents should try to create a room that is:
- Dark to help babies associate sleep with night time
- Cool to help babies sleep comfortably
- Use a sound machine to help a baby stay asleep
- A safe room! Remove all crib accessories for safety
- Just a fitted sheet and your baby
- No stuffed animals, blankets or pillows at first.
- AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) Guidelines 18 months for a pillow and a blanket. You can find a list of the AAP’s safe sleep recommendations here.
What’s the difference between sleep routine and sleep training?
A sleep routine is the thing that you’re doing before your naps and bedtime. Perhaps they have a bathtime, then jammies, then reading, a song and then bed. In her head, she knows that we’ve gone through a routine that winds her down and signals that it’s time to go to bed.
For sleep training, we’re helping a child not need somebody else as a crutch to sleep, but start them on a strong foundation of “I can sleep by myself and if I wake up in the middle of the night, I’m capable of falling back asleep by myself unless I do really need someone.
Is there something you see parents getting wrong, or maybe myths they’re following, or expectations that are a little bit off from reality?
Some families want to be move involved and really hands-on, and other families realize that being super involved or hands-on upsets my child even more. So taking a step back is more beneficial for us and them in the long term.
“I think that a lot of parents think that one is better than the other. It’s not the case. Everybody is different and every child is going to learn differently. We’re teaching each child in their brain cognitively learning that you’re capable of doing this.
Everbody learns differently, so there’s obviously going to be different sleep approaches. And each family just has to find what’s best for maybe not themselves, but for their child. And I think that’s really hard for parents”
The key to any (sleep) process is consistency. As long as you’re consistent, your families process can work.
How does nap differ from regular sleep?
Naps and bed time are different but both are needed.
Naps are very important. They’re both mentally and physically restorative. They’re helping your child that just learned colors process new information. While they’re napping, their brain is able to soak that information in because they don’t have to focus on anything else.
Bed time is also very restorative both physically and mentally, but it also resets their day. If a child is really upset on Friday, and they slept really great Friday night, Saturday is going to be a whole new day. Now if Friday was a rough day and sleep was awful Friday night, it’s fair to guess that Saturday is going to be pretty rough as well.
How can parents make the adjustment to another caregiver puting their child down?
The routine is key. As a nanny going into a family that has a naptime routine, the child feels more at ease. The child thinks - yes the nanny is new, but she understands what we’re doing. I can’t really get away with trying to stay up, because the nanny gets it. Mom and dad must have talked to her.
The child who doesn’t have a routine sees a new caregiver AND a new routine which creates stress and increases cortisol levels. That makes the child fight sleep and not even want to nap. Their adrenaline is pumping because things are new, and Mom and Dad are gone.
How long should it take for your child to adjust to sleep with a new caregiver ?
Anybody that comes in new, will result in a small adjustment period. If you have consistency and a routine however, this adjustment period can take only days. Consistency is key. This is the routine for sleep and naps really benefits a child. It makes the child feel more comfortable and more confident with a new caregiver.
How much sleep should a child get?
Every child is different of course! For your child, Alexandra shared that at the Sleep Institute, they taught parents not count hours and instead be looking to your child. Is your child happy when they wake up? That’s a wonderful sign.
“Is your child fussy and throwing meltdowns around bedtime? Maybe it’s time to move bedtime up. Everyday is going to be different but you have to be looking at your childs sign because trust me, they’ll tell you”
What are Milestones that children move between for sleeping?
Newborn babies straight from mom to 4 months - I tell parents right now is the time to snuggle them and love them whenever they’re crying becausehey havent grazped night and day, they haven’t grasped learning that mom and dad are coming back, I’m fine. You can teach them good sleep hygiene of naps in the crib with the dark room so they get used to it.
When a child transitions in the 4 months, children are normally at 3 naps. It’s normally a morning nap, an afternoon nap, and a bridge nap to bedtime. As they grow, you’ll realize that at some point your child is fighting the late afternoon nap and, and the trick here is to track it for two weeks. And if they don’t sleep for 5 days or more in that two week period, get that nap”
Reach out to Alexandra Gingrass at Little Reds Sleep