The need then decreases by 15 minutes in average per year until they reach 8hours around 16-18 years old.
There are some big sleepers and small ones, respect the nature of your child. They also usually sleep more during the winter than during summer.
It is good to put in place this ritual at the youngest age as it allows a better notion of night and day for the child. Indeed the bedtime ritual will allow him to make a difference with the naptime during the day.
As the child grows up the ritual changes, or adapts. It plays different roles throughout time; a mark, a soothing moment, a pleasant moment…
From the rocking to the bedtime story during childhood, we still as adults have our own ritual : shower, soft pillow, total darkness and the idea of the sweet feeling of Morpheus’s arms.
The content of the bedtime ritual is something very personal in the way that it depends on what your child appreciates or not and what sooths him.
You can of course use a variety of ideas but keep in mind you do not what to get involved in an endless ritual in which the anxiety of your child emerges as soon as you leave him.
1. Rock him ;
2. Give him a hug ;
3. Give him his blanket (object rendered reassuring as it marks the transition when the parent leaves the child and he grabs on to it very tight);
4. Caress his back ;
5. Read him a bedtime story, preferably one ending by « …and the child fell asleep » ;
6. Sing him a lullaby ;
7. Put on a little music but only once ;
8. Show him where everyone will be asleep or is already sleeping;
9. Put his toys and teddy bear to bed and say goodnight to them ☺ ;
10. Turn off the light in his room while talking hence reassuring him
11. Turn on the night light ;
12. If he has a pacifier make sure he knows where it is and show him (of course keep it in the bed…)
Make sure that in whichever order you choose to do this ritual that you stick to it for the sake of child who will make his marks.
NB : Remember it is advised to create a favorable environment 1 hour prior to bedtime.
The creation of an environment favorable to bedtime starts about 1h prior to putting the child asleep.
The bedtime itself lasts ideally 15 to 20 minutes but depending on the level of anxiety of the child it may take more or less time.
It is important to take the time necessary to reassure your child in order for him to fall asleep quietly without getting enrolled in the game where he demands more hugs, more water, more kisses, more reading…otherwise he might call upon you too often for trouble sleeping and that is not what you are aiming for.
1. Lower the light intensity 30min to 1h before bedtime. This helps for the secretion of melatonin; the sleeping hormone that all human beings possess but in this case will cause your child to get tired.
2. Insert the bath time in your nighttime ritual, if the bath is a moment of calm exchange give your baby his just before going to bed or at the beginning of the evening.
3. The bath, and supper (diner or snack/bottle if diner is early) must take place in a peaceful room, your child should feel bedtime is approaching ;
4. Massage your child with the help of an oil suitable for his skin to promote relaxation ;
5. Put him in his pyjamas and sleeping bag at the same place (your bed for example) in order for him to mark the passage from day to night.
6. Make sure that sure child has eaten enough ; he will usually sleep better.
7. Promote a calm activity 30 min prior to bedtime : book, hug…
The advices can be put in place as soon as birth in order to instore this calm atomosphere in which the child can find his marks and understand that bedtime is coming in order to prepare for it in the best way possible.
Remember the convenience of adopting a 2 phase bedtime ritual:
1. A favorable environment prior to the bedtime
2. The bedtime / by the bed ritual
Bath, rocking, singing, music box, bottle or breast feeding, what is the bedtime ritual and what is its purpose ?
It constitutes a routine for which you get to pick the content with your child, it provides a reassuring and calm atmosphere for your child which allows him to understand it is time for bed therefore falling asleep with serenity allowing him to recover as long as possible.
What we spontaneously associate with this ritual are the hugs and the rocking, the singing and feeding which usually occur next to the crib. However, in order for that part of the ritual to be effective, having created a calm environment beforehand is a paramount item.
The ritual is therefore made up of 2 parts of equal importance:
1. A favorable environment prior to the bedtime
2. The bedtime / by the bed ritual
It is essential to respect the same order each day in order for the child to create his own marks. And thus at his youngest age.
It is completely and utterly normal, for certain children more than others but the first 3 months your baby needs to be held, to be rocked, to hear that life goes on all around him and often has a great need for suction in order to feel reassured and safe.
Obviously, depending on one’s rhythm, we cannot spend our entire time with our baby in our arms and I’ve heard it was hardly doable at night…
3 pieces of advice to meet your child’s need during his sleep :
1. Wrap him up appropriatly with an adapted blanket hence making him feel as if he were in your arms and thus throughout his sleep.
2. Turn on a “white noise” reminding him what he felt in-utero: shower, vacuum cleaner, hair-dryer…The noise should cover up any other environmental sounds.
3. Invest in a swing chair which streches or a hanging crib: some babies have a strong need to be rocked, some even during their entire sleep !
Will he become dependant ? Yes but no ! So now you’re wondering what I’m talking about …of course he will grow accustomed to this but as he grows up you will replace some habits by new ones and his needs will defer. Let’s put it this way: with a child it’s better to think day by day and answer his needs depending on his age then ajust depending on his behavior.
How long am I bound to proceed this way, How do I accustom him to fall asleep on his own?
This is utterly normal, every child, at least during the first three months, does not know how to calm themselves down in order to fall asleep and the arms of a parent procure warmth and security that they do not find in a crib.
If you fear your baby might develop a dependency, which is probable although not highly dramatic, you can, as of now, apply a little trick suggested by Dr Harvey KARP to teach your baby to calm itself down and fall asleep in his first few months.
« The Wake and Sleep technique »
1. Feed your baby ;
2. Turn on a « white noise » ;
3. Wrap him up ;
4. Make him fall asleep in your arms just the way he likes it ;
5. Once asleep, put him delicately in his crib ;
6. Wake him up just enough for him to open his eyes by gently shaking him;
7. Wait a few seconds for him to fall back asleep on his own;
8. Otherwise rock him with your hand a brief moment or pat on his belly
9. The trick is not about letting him cry. If he does not calm down take him back;
10. Make him fall back asleep in your arms;
11. Start again from step 5 until the baby falls asleep on its own;
As all matters of education it may take some time and practice and demand patience on your end.
To my dear friend Anaïs and her son Corentin.
You must know as parents, although it might be hard for you to persuade yourself to do so, that at this age if the growth curve of your baby is normal he no longer needs a bottle at night for his physical development. Be aware of the sense of need here that refers to a biological need and not the sense given when someone expresses a strong desire for something. The trick here is to diminish the desire of the baby who has grown used to having a bottle every night although he does not need it.
How to stop this habit ?
1. Progressively reduce the amount of milk compensating it with water or reduce the time length of breast feeding. In time he will no longer associate going to sleep with having a bottle or the contact of his mother’s breast.
2. Have the father intervene : If the association of bottle feeding (and obviously breast feeding) and sleep holds only with the mother then the intervention of the father is truly effective to discourage the baby to claim a drink and incites him to go back to sleep on his own. He can also explain that the mother sleeps at night and the she will not come for this particular reason. He can then follow the first advice if need be.
3. Do not feed him the bottle when laying him down in bed : avoiding this will cause him to stop associating that particular time to feeding as one single event.
This was one of the hardest things for me and honestly I would not say I succeeded. I continued to wake up every night and eventhough it was tiring, I thought it was easier than “teaching” my baby otherwise. Maybe I was not wise…