Another big year comes to an end and I find myself reflecting on the many consultations I have had with mums (and dads) when seeking expert help and support to help babies and toddlers improve their sleep routines. The feelings of anxiety and exhaustion were abundantly apparent but often the sense of personal “failure” was overwhelming.

The question most often posed is how to help your babies and toddlers settle to sleep with less resistance…and eventually self-settle calmly and contentedly.

At Mothercraft for Babies, about 75% of the customers we help with home visits or telephone/Skype consultations are about sleep issues. And mostly the reasons are overtiredness or unsuitable sleep associations due to missed “cues” when our little ones are trying to communicate that they need to rest their minds and bodies.

As new parents you will probably really struggle to make confident decisions for a while, overwhelmed with the amount of advice and research available to you and doubting your choices when different strategies don’t work. And when they arrive at the state of overtiredness all day, it’s pretty hard to work out when they need to be in bed!

Evidence will suggest that each baby has a different temperament and the parent child relationship evolves uniquely. It is a learning process as you each begin to get to know one another and find that groove for easy teamwork. It takes time for you as the parent or caregiver to suitably “read” baby’s cues and respond appropriately to those needs. And to develop the skills to best meet those needs with desirable results.

No two babies sleep the same way. You will know how much sleep your baby or toddler needs by reading the cues that tell you they are coping with their “awake” time comfortably and happily. When your child needs to sleep after a feed and play during the day, they will usually give you one or more cues.

So in turn, you need to give your baby and toddler your “cues” that it’s time to go to sleep. Reduce the surrounding stimulus and start the bedtime wind down mentally and physically. This ritual needs to be consistent so as there are no confusing “cues” if you are to have any success. Nothing elaborate or complicated and whatever you are comfortable doing to reassure and soothe your child to prepare for sleep.

There is no right or wrong way, it’s what works for you and your child and helps your child to self-regulate and manage their simple emotional needs.

Lastly be gentle on yourself. I have recently completed a parenting program called Circle of Security which is the latest evidence based research into developing a secure and loving attachment and relationship between the caregiver/parent and child.

There is no such thing as perfect parenting and neither is it desirable or healthy for the child.

It’s about understanding and responding to your child’s needs wherever possible, but taking charge when necessary. It’s about the parent being bigger, wiser, stronger and kind and responding to the feelings behind the behaviour not the behaviour itself.

The latest research says “good enough” parenting is all your child needs to feel secure, safe and loved.

The parents we work with every day, week and year, without exception, are all giving their kids 110% effort, love and support and doing their very best. This is good enough and your child is lucky to have you!

Research reference:
Circle of Security – Cooper, Hoffman, Marvin & Powell 2000

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