Sleep habits a challenge for parents

first_imgSome kids are great sleepers, then they hit a milestone and their sleep falls apart, says Jodi Mindell, author of Sleeping Through the Night: How Infants, Toddlers and Their Parents Can Get a Good Night’s Sleep (HarperCollins, 2005). To calm the nightly ruckus, make each evening dull. Don’t give up or give in. After good-night kisses, switch into “night-time mode,” suggests Dawnn Whittaker, a sleep consultant who is the mother of a 10 month-old daughter and a 3-year-old son. Whittaker, too, has dealt with the problem of excuses, excuses, excuses before bed. Her solution: Put the baby to bed 30 to 45minutes before the older sibling, preferably by 7 p.m., so the baby is fast asleep before the toddler’s routine begins. Have some quality time to wind down with the older child. Read a book or two, snuggle and talk about the day. Have the older child go potty before she goes to bed. Make sure that all other needs such as hunger and thirst are met before she goes to bed, so she doesn’t have any excuses. “It’s really important that you don’t give in. It is OK for a child to have water available in the room should they need it,” Whittaker says. Put a potty in her bedroom with a box of tissues or wipes and a night light. If she needs to go to the bathroom during the night, she can do this herself with minimal fuss. “After you have said good night and had kisses, leave and switch into nighttime mode,” she says. It’s OK for the toddler to look at a few books alone once you have left. But if the child gets out of bed, the books should be taken away. If the child leaves the room, she should be taken straight back by the hand. Don’t say anything except good night. Put her back into bed and then leave. Do this three times if needed. On the fourth attempt, put the toddler back to bed and sit in the doorway. Refrain from making eye contact and don’t say anything. If the child gets out of bed, then put her back to bed. Stay until the child is asleep. Whittaker, who lives in a Vancouver suburb, has a sleep-consulting Web site at Also, be sure nap times do not sabotage early bedtimes. Sleep consultants Jill Spivack and Jennifer Waldburger of Los Angeles say a rule of thumb for 1- to 2-year-olds is they need to be awake 3 to 31/2 hours between their last nap and bedtime. The women are co-authors of The Sleepeasy Solution: The Exhausted Parent’s Guide to Getting Your Child to Sleep from Birth through Age 5 (HCI, 2007) and an accompanying DVD. For more information, their Web site is If a child takes more than about 15 minutes to tumble off to sleep, she’s usually either not tired enough for bed or overtired, says Mindell, associate director of the Sleep Disorders Center at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. When a child is too tired, it’s actually harder for her to relax and fall asleep. Children get less sleep during a 24-hour period than sleep experts recommend. The National Sleep Foundation says: Babies 3 to 11 months should get 14 to 15 hours. Children age 1 to 3 need about 12 to 14 hours. Preschoolers age 3 to 5 need 11 to 13 hours. Kids ages 5 to 12 need 10 to 11 hours. Teenagers need about nine hours. Can you help? Here’s another concern from a parent who needs help: “My 3-year-old daughter has run away from me several times, and she has even tried to break out of the gate at her day-care center. Now I’m afraid to take her places for fear she will dash off.” – A MOTHER IN DAVIDSON, N.C. Betsy Flagler is a syndicated writer specializing in family issues. If you have tips, or questions of your own, call the toll-free Child Life hotline any time at 800-827-1092. Or write to Betsy Flagler, P.O. Box 4270, Davidson, N.C., 28036. E-mail can be sent to [email protected] local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! Question: “I have a 27- month-old and a 9-month-old. The big sister moved to her big-girl bed about a month ago, then soon decided she wanted to start potty-training. Lately, the older one has been getting out of bed. One excuse is she needs to go potty. It is exhausting me every night, especially because the baby has started protesting bedtime too!” – A MOTHER IN ATLANTA Answer: The arrival of a sibling, the switch to a big-girl bed and potty-training add up to lots of changes at once for a child not yet 3. Even one developmental milestone such as a baby learning to walk can interfere with sleep habits, child development experts say. last_img read more