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Three Biggest Bedtime Mistakes

When it comes to establishing an effective sleep routine, there are any number of variables that may need to be manipulated in order to get your particular child into the groove.

But when you pull the camera back and look at kids in general, there are three specific things that I see parents doing that are, without a doubt, the most detrimental to the process.

I’m talking here about mistakes that could conceivably be overlooked by rational people. I’m not including things like, “Playing loud music in the next room,” or, “Giving your toddler an after-dinner espresso.”

(Go ahead and laugh, but it’s not far off some of the situations I’ve come across!)

The ones I want to talk about today are mistakes I see people making all the time, and I understand why they make them. If you’re just working off of intuition, they make perfect sense.

They’re kind of like mosquito bites. It feels right to give in to the urge, but you just end up making the problem worse.

So, without further delays or unnecessary insect analogies, here are the gold, silver and bronze recipients for bedtime mistakes.

1. Letting your child fall asleep before putting them to bed

Nursing your baby to sleep is such a beautiful feeling, but it teaches your child to only fall asleep when they’re being attended to, and not when they’re lying in their bed.

The best way to get your child to sleep peacefully through the night (without the use of NyQuil) is to get them accustomed to falling asleep while in their bed, without you there.

Don’t worry; you can still bond with your child throughout the process. You can cuddle, brush your teeth together, read stories, sing songs, but make sure you put them to bed and leave the room before they fall asleep.

Kids need to associate falling asleep with being in their beds. That way, when they wake up at night, they can settle themselves without your assistance.

2. Modifying the routine

Bedtime routines are about more than getting physically ready for bed. It’s about getting mentally and emotionally ready for sleep.

You might think that a little deviation won’t disrupt the overall process. The routine is still basically the same, right?

Sorry. Interruptions to the routine don’t just create a delay in the process; they cause stimulation. Your child will notice the change and assume that it’s due to some sort of special (and probably exciting) circumstances.

This little jolt of interest as to why tonight’s a special night will disrupt the mental and emotional process that prepares them for a night of healthy, uninterrupted sleep.

3. Negotiating

Kids can be incredibly sharp and creative, and they learn this tactic at an astoundingly young age! Angus, my middle child, could have sold used cars to Henry Ford by the time he was five.

Although it’s important for kids to learn to compromise, bedtime routines are not the arena you should let them practice in.

For a child who’s resisting going to bed, it doesn’t really matter if the bargaining process eventually gets them their way, because by stalling though negotiations at bedtime, they’re getting a later bedtime.

Don’t engage in the negotiations. As soon as your child starts with demands of, “Just one more story,” or “Five more minutes of cuddling,” tell them that they can have another story the next night, or that they can start getting ready for bed five minutes earlier if they want some extra cuddle time.

Most importantly, don’t let it turn into a fight. Stand your ground, but keep your cool. Don’t raise your voice or threaten punishment, or you may just stress your child out to the point where they genuinely can’t get to sleep.

Having said all of that, if your child is genuinely distressed about something, you might need to take some extra time to settle them down.

If they have a problem with their surroundings, (Room is too hot, pajamas are itchy) they need to be addressed, but fix the problem quickly and put your child back in bed.

Once the two of you have established a predictable, relaxing routine, stick to it as closely as possible. Your reward is a better night’s sleep for both parents and child, and a happy, bright-eyed child in the morning.

As I mentioned earlier, these are the three major front-runners for bedtime mistakes, but you may still run into other issues when you’re establishing your routine.

As luck would have it, The Sleep Sense Program has everything you need to identify and correct problem behaviors, and get your child (and you) sleeping straight through the night.

Learn more here.

Certified Sleep Sense Consultant Tip

“Most babies fall asleep on the breast or bottle while in a bedroom environment, and by feeding outside of the bedroom you are dissociating feed with sleep.

Providing feeds outside of the bedroom allow for the opportunity to keep the baby awake, making for an easier transition to falling sleep independently. Feeds can take place essentially any other well-lit room.”

Karoline Babaian M.S.L
The Sleep Nest


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Dana’s Sleep Blog

Straight talk about sleep, parenting,
babies, toddlers, relationships… and
just about anything else!
My blog is a great place to find opinions, advice, the occasional rant, and some great videos about sleep.

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