My Child Won’t Sleep!

Posted by on Jul 19, 2015 in Uncategorized | No Comments
Annie The Nanny

Annie The Nanny

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Annie the Nanny is a professional parenting educator. She writes a weekly advice column for parents who need help with their children's behaviour. Her advice has also been featured on CTV, CBC and in all kinds of print media. For more information about Annie, please go to her 'about' page.

Hi Annie, My child won’t sleep!  My daughter is one and I can’t get her on a decent sleeping schedule. Any suggestions?  Michelle.

getting my child to sleep (unused)Hello Michelle,  Thanks for the question.  I don’t have a lot of information to go on here so I’m going to do my best surmising what may be happening to you.  One year olds generally need around 12-13 hours of sleep and as they move towards 18 months old they can usually drop their need for their morning nap and just go with the afternoon one.  

If you’re having an issue and you wake up at night thinking my child won’t sleep, there could be several areas that are causing a problem.

Here’s a list of the most likely culprits.

Check these for the source of the problem.

  • Giving her two naps which is beginning to interfere in her need for night time rest.
  • A bedtime routine that is all over the place.
  • Eating and/or attention during the night.
  • Missing the sleepy cue and putting her to bed too late.

Ok, let’s address each one of those.  The first one, ‘Giving her two naps which is beginning to interfere with her need for night time rest’ is just a matter of beginning to notice a change in her needs.  During this phase she’s likely to be grumpy because she’s adapting to a new schedule.  To deal with it, persevere but remember when you do what your daughter is looking to you for.  She wants you to feel confident about what you’re doing and how you’re doing it.  She wants to feel that in your movements, your calm demeanour and your voice.  If you’re sure you’re doing the right thing, she’ll likely adapt quickly.  Learning these things isn’t difficult but it is important to have in place right from the start of your parenting adventure which is why parenting support is a key part of my service structure.

The second one I’ve mentioned is a bedtime routine that’s all over the place.  Children are essentially creatures of habit.  Knowing what comes next makes them feel warm and cosy and they enjoy the fact that life is predictable.  So, to make little people happy have a unwavering routine.  Don’t put them in to bed at different times or in different places.  Try and build a routine that works for you that might look something like bath time, jammies, snack, teeth brush, stories, cuddle, sleep.  Don’t lie down with them one night and not the next.  Be firm and confident about your expectations.  If you want them to sleep with you, fine but if you don’t, try hard not to give them mixed messages.

The next one of giving undue night time attention happens a lot.  Children have several periods of light sleep a night.  During these periods they wake up and have to relax enough to go straight back to sleep.  As adults we do it all the time.  We drop a pillow off the end of the bed and we reach over, grab it and stick it back under our head again.  We know that to get back to sleep requires us not to start thinking about the gas bill.  If we do, we’re hooped.  That means that relaxing and going back to sleep during those light sleep phases is a skill and it’s learned.

If your child wakes up in the night and you cuddle them and give them a bottle or breast feed (past when they need it for nutrition), you are actively giving them something to wake up for.  If someone rubbed my head and cuddled me in the night, I’d wake up too.  The way to handle this then is to stop being your child’s de-facto soother and allow them to learn the process of relaxation.  This process is often called sleep training and although it’s difficult, I haven’t met one child who once they’re sleeping properly would have it any other way.

The last one of missing the sleepy cue is also a common problem.  Toddlers need at least 11- 12 hours sleep a night and many need more than that so you want to make sure they are wrapped up in bed somewhere between 6 and 7.30pm.  To make sure they’re happy kids ensure afternoon nap isn’t taken so late so they aren’t sleepy at that time.  Then, have a good routine and try and keep things on the slow side 1 – 2 hours before bed.  Try not to have a great fun game of Dad tossing them in the air just before bed or your little one will find it difficult to wind down. Turn of the TV too as the images are often stimulating enough to keep toddlers awake.   Watch out for the sleep cues of rubbing eyes and being clumsy or staring in to space.  Little people may not know when they are tired but we do.

To get more of your parenting questions answered, please visit my parenting services page.

Hope that helps.


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