Moms Council Talks Sleeping Habits

This week’s question and answer is all about developing good sleeping habits for your child.

Welcome to Moms Talk Q&A. Each week in Moms Talk, our Moms Council of experts and smart moms take your questions, give advice and share solutions.

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Question: “Some kids seem to be natural-born sleepers — they have no problem falling asleep on their own and staying there soundly through the night — while others are terrified of the idea and/or wake up every few hours, crying or yelling. What have you found that works to get your kids into good sleep habits?”

Carla King

Both my own children and foster children have had very strict bedtimes. For me, I need my “me” time. All of the children go to bed between 7:30 and 8 p.m. It worked very well with my own girls; even as they got older, they had to go to their room and do something quiet. They could read, etc, but no getting out of bed, etc. My kids never fussed, nor do my foster children (once they were settled into this schedule). They know what to expect and with a strict schedule, they get used to it and even ask for bedtime.

Amanda Symmes

This one is another one of those “each child is different” things. But more than that, I think children also go through phases all along the way as they grow older. There are no magical solutions for anything, especially with sleeping. And let’s face it, when our children are babies  and sleep deprivation takes over, we sometimes fall into bad habits. But that’s just the thing: they are habits and we do have the power to change them at any time.

My oldest child, my son, was quite a snuggler. He was the first grandchild and simply one of those babies that liked to sleep on someone’s chest whenever he could. And boy, did people enjoy having him there. Including me! As a breastfeeding mother, I got the most sleep (and maternal satisfaction) from co-sleeping with my son. I was never concerned for his safety when he co-slept, as I was fully aware of his every move, and mine! Yet, it just felt right and I have no regrets about that.

My daughter, however, could not co-sleep. She was simply a different sort of kid. She required a schedule, a routine and lots of little routines around that structure to provide the right sort of comfort for her. She slept wonderfully in her crib and then her toddler bed all on her own! She would practically push us out the door. Needless to say, co-sleeping made it more difficult as my son got older and separation was harder. However, I now have a nine-year-old boy who goes to bed on his own and sleeps soundly in his bed all night. No issues. It can be done. My daughter, on the other hand, is now in a habit of waking (she has nightmares and has also struggled with night terrors) and sneaking into our bed in the wee hours of the morning!

Our needy sleeper turned into our best sleeper and vice versa! Go figure. It is hard for her, as she really doesn’t want to be doing this anymore, so we are helping her to figure out the ways to stop doing this on her own...and when she is successful, she is proud of herself for her efforts. Ultimately, we try not to get into battles, bottom line. But let’s just say this: it’s not easy. There are no answers. Talk with your partner and with your kids about what works for your family because families are definitely different. But my belief is this: it’s sleep! It shouldn't be stressful!

Lauren Brown

Since my son was born, I have always held and cuddled him until he fell asleep — I just never wanted to put him down. At around eight-weeks-old, he began sleeping through the night. He slept in our room until he was about 10-months-old when we moved into our new home and thought it would be a good time to transition him to his own room and crib. This worked out fine; it was definitely harder on me than it was my son! However, he started to wake up faithfully between two and four in the morning and wouldn't fall back to sleep unless he came into bed with my husband and I. This was never a problem, as I love having my baby snuggle up next to me; in fact there were plenty of nights where Max slept in the bed with us the whole night.

Because I never put Max in his crib unless he was sleeping, it sort of grew into a habit, and he would cry if we put him in his crib before he was asleep. And me being a softy, would never let him cry for more than a second and would rock him in his chair or sing to him until he was sound asleep. People kept telling me to let him “cry it out,” that he had to learn to fall asleep on his own. Although I did agree that soothing yourself to sleep is a skill that has to be learned, it has never been my intention to let him cry — not when he needed or wanted his parents. My son is not, and never was, the type to cry for no reason, so when he does cry I listen.  I wanted him to know that if he was upset for any reason — even if it was just because he wanted to sleep in our bed — that we would respond and be there for him.

Although they say that babies thrive on routine, Max never really has, he’s always been pretty unpredictable. So basically, we let him figure it out on his own. We never set a “strict” bedtime and let him fall asleep when he was tired, not when we thought he should be tired. And now at 17 months, he has set himself his own little sleep schedule, naps included, and I no longer need to wait until he is asleep to put him in his crib. We will read a book or watch one of our favorite shows on TV and he will get tired snuggling with me on the couch. And by nine o’clock, if he isn’t already asleep, I will put him in his crib and he will fall asleep on his own, without so much as a whimper.

Aimee Cary

This was something that was very important to my husband and I. I have always had issues falling asleep and I wanted to give my children all the tools possible to be able to do so. It started when they were brought home from the hospital. We always put them down drowsy but awake in a tight swaddle (love the miracle blanket!) with a white noise CD playing. Both of them were completely sleeping through the night by eight-weeks-old. I found the book by Dr. Ferber “Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems” to be an excellent resource over the years. In a nutshell, it is sleep training for infants to young children with various techniques for teaching your children how to sleep and fall asleep. There have been hiccups along the way caused by illness or teething, but once they are healthy we go back to the Ferber method to reinforce the sleep training.

Lauren Brown April 27, 2011 at 04:50 PM
Amanda - I was the same way with my son - it just felt right to have him sleeping with me - and he slept the best that way. Its good to know, that despite what people have said to me, I haven't set him up for a life time of bad sleeping habits! Like I stated above, at 17 months, he already has switched from wanting to sleep with mommy and daddy, to sleeping comfortably in his own crib - without any "sleep training" or help from us.
Aimee Cary April 27, 2011 at 06:44 PM
I just wanted to add that it can be frustrating to hear people say "how can you bear to hear your baby cry" when you discuss sleep training. No one likes to hear their baby cry and if you do sleep training it is a personal choice because you believe in its benefits. It does not mean that hearing your child cry is easy that your "mean" for doing it.
Amanda Symmes April 27, 2011 at 07:17 PM
I agree with BOTH of these comments Lauren and Aimee! (As well as the excellent points made above)... I think they are all choices that we make out of LOVE for our children...and none of them are easy. For example, when we let them sleep with us, we sometimes worry we are "damaging" them by making them dependent on us for comfort, and when we let them cry we worry we are causing harm by sending a message they are abandoned in their sadness! We beat ourselves up either way. I know, because I have used both techniques.... And yet, when you think about it and really step back from analyzing all of it, it's easy to see that no matter what we choose, THEY WILL BE FINE!
BarsandBartending.com April 30, 2011 at 01:20 PM
I've suffered from poor sleep my entire life. My mother always mentions how as a baby I would never nap, while my sisters loved to. Now in my adult life I struggle with keeping a healthy, daily routine to ensure I get adequate sleep. Along my journey to find peaceful slumber, I have learned many useful tricks, as well as weeded out the useless ones. There's a great FREE ebook you can download called Get To Sleep Now! at http://www.instantlyfallasleep.com that lists many helpful techniques as well as things to avoid. Many people live fast and stimulating lives, but few of us take the time to unwind before bed. Stimulating activities you want to AVOID before bed are TV, reading, working, computer, stress/fights, and certain foods. The book will always suggest what is beneficial to do before bed, like writing, or talking.


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