Q: Sleep recommendations seem to change from year to year. What is the best and safest way to put my little one to sleep? – Christina, Chandler
Every parent of a little one knows the daily and sometimes frustrating struggle of getting them to sleep. Your question is two-parts: the best way versus the safest way to get a child to sleep. To begin, the best way to get a little one to sleep may vary from family to family. After speaking with multiple families about this same challenge, here are some of their best tips:
Establish a daily routine: It’s very important for young children to have a consistent daily schedule so they know what to expect each day and to set their “body clocks.” Daily routines help children set their body clocks for things such as when it is time to eat, sleep, play, and have a bowel movement. By establishing a daily routine you can reduce the frequency of chaotic or stressful tantrums or meltdowns that often occur at times such as leaving the house for daily activities like work or school, regular family outings, or before bed time.
Have a consistent daily bath and bedtime routine: You would be surprised how helpful it can be to have a daily bath and bed time routine in place for your child. Think of it as having a daily bath time ritual by having your child help you pick out their bedtime clothes, get the bath water ready, pick out some bath time toys, and set out their towel. In addition, you want to make sure to build good health habits such as brushing and flossing their teeth before bed and picking up any dirty clothes or shoes left on the floor. You may want to avoid using this time to put away toys because of the temptation your child may have to want to start to play.
Read a daily bedtime story: It is highly recommended that families read at least 20 minutes a day with their child to increase their language and literacy skills and what better time to do so than right before bed? After you’ve finished your bath time routine, make reading a part of your bedtime routine and allow your child to pick a story from a selection of bedtime books. You will want your child to choose from books you’ve identified beforehand to reduce the chances of your child choosing a book that will get them excited, like “Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed” etc. Reading a calming bedtime story can help your child relax and get in the mood to sleep.
Safe sleep recommendations for children of any age do change from time to time so it is important to stay up-to-date on the current American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) safe sleep recommendations. AAP has created a handbook of safe sleep practices and recommendations for families that addresses the importance of putting baby to sleep on his or her back, and how to create a safe sleep environment to help reduce the risk of SIDS, entrapment, strangulation, and suffocation. To ensure you have the most up-to-date safe sleep recommendations and view the Safe Sleep for Parents handbook, visit: www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/sleep/Pages/A-Parents-Guide-to-Safe-Sleep.aspx.
Michelle Saint Hilarie is the Senior Statewide Program Director of Child Care Resource & Referral – ARIZONA (CCR&R). CCR&R coaches families on how to find high-quality, licensed or certified child care they can trust in Arizona. For more information, visit www.ArizonaChildCare.org.