FamilyLife

Parents at breaking point over children’s bedtime routine

Early years and parenting expert provides top tips on how to do bedtime stress-free as part of Sleeptember

  • Over two fifths (21%) of parents admit they find their child’s bedtime routine stressful with 16% even citing the process as ‘upsetting’.
  • 69% claim a warm bath can sometimes help, with 40% reliant on nightlights and a third having to use lullabies or calming music (22%)
  • Sophie Pickles (Parenting Coach and Early Years Expert) provides top tips as part of Sleeptember including a hairdryer hose down, consistency , taping up with tin foil and many more

Nightly bedtime battles can be an exhausting process for parents. What should be the most relaxing time of the day can actually be the most stressful for parents who want to do everything in their power to help their baby or toddler get the best sleep possible.

In fact, new research from baby and toddler brand, Munchkin reveals that almost a quarter (21%) of parents say they find their child’s bedtime routine stressful, with 16% even citing the process as ‘upsetting’. 

However, it appears that amongst the stress, parents do have a few rituals they rely on for a happy and peaceful bedtime. Almost three quarters (69%) of mums and dads researched by Munchkin say a warm bathis vital for helping their baby or toddler fall asleep quicker and for longer, whilst two fifths (40%) reveal nightlights, lullabies (33%) and calming music (22%) are nightly rituals they swear by. 

Sophie Pickles (Parenting Coach and Early Years Expert) –  in partnership with Munchkin – has given advice and tips to parents who may be struggling with the bedtime routine.

SOPHIE’S COMMENTARY AND TOP TIPS

Sophie says that no parent should worry about a routine until their baby is at least around four months old. She says: “Whilst a consistent bedtime routine is good for quality sleep, it’s often too much for parents to establish in the early months, especially if they’ve got other children. At around four months old, babies naturally fall into a pattern and it’ll be noticeable when they regularly become cranky and need to go down to sleep. Try not to put pressure on yourself and force this in the early days – instead, let this routine naturally happen as and when baby decides”.

  • The most important thing above all Sophie reiterates, is consistency. She adds; “It doesn’t matter so much what you do, as it does to make sure you keep things the same every night. Don’t get swayed by what your friend or mother-in-law tells you – follow your instincts, as well as your baby’s likes and dislikes”.

Other more unusual tips and advice from Sophie for conquering the bedtime battles include:

  1. A gentle hairdryer hose down  

Babies often cry after bath time – it’s usually because they don’t like the bath itself, or the aftermath of coming out of the warmth and into the cold. Either way, bath time can often disrupt a baby’s bedtime routine and can make it harder to settle them to sleep. One failsafe tip I often give parents is to dry their baby with a low heat hairdryer all over their body when they come out of the bath. The warmth counteracts the cold after the bath and the white noise settles them before they go to sleep. Just make sure you use a low heat and test it on your own skin first. 

2. Sing repetitive sweet lullabies 

Consider reading the same story or singing the same song to your baby every night. It might be boring to you, but it can be comforting to your child as they’ll come to recognise it, and it will become a tell-tale sign that bedtime is approaching. You don’t need to wait until your baby is a certain age to try this – you can sing or read to babies from newborn age as they’ll love the calming sound of your voice.

3.The ‘Shush Pat’ method

Babies are notoriously difficult to settle during the bedtime routine, especially if they are teething, experiencing separation anxiety or a sleep regression. There are many experts out there who will advise all sorts of sleep training methods, often involving leaving your baby to cry, but the ‘shush pat’ method is a specific and unusual way to help them settle before bed.

Firstly, hold baby close to you, with their stomach facing yours so you are cradling them. With your free arm, then pat them on their bottom to a rhythmic beat – as you do so, shush in time with the pats. Patting them on the bottom mimics the feeling of your heartbeat when they were in the womb, whilst the shushing reminds them of the sound of your rushing blood. These are both incredibly calming to your baby and will help to settle them and even send them off to sleep. You don’t need to hold your baby with this method either – you can lay them on their side in their cot or crib and apply the same method. When they are asleep, you can roll them safely onto their back.

As an alternative soother, Munchkin’s Shhh Sleep Machine calms little ones before bedtime with three different sounds; shushing, heartbeat and white noise, with a soft, glowing nightlight. 

4.  Tape up with tin foil 

The darker the room, the better when it comes to babies and sleep. This is particularly important in the summer when the evenings are lighter and especially at this time of year when the sun is low in the sky and hitting the windows just as we get to bedtime. Blackout blinds are a good option, but rarely cover the windows completely and even a small crack of light can seem too bright. Instead, tape tin foil-up to the frame to cover the entire window – it’s a cheap way of blocking out all outside light and really works.

If you’re looking to keep the room dark, but want to provide comfort to your baby and toddler throughout the night, using a night light such as the Lindam Nursery Night Light Set can be a good option. It provides a reassuring glow throughout the night, comforting little ones, whilst providing peace of mind for parents. 

5. Go with your gut!

You’ll often hear people tell you that you should allow your baby to self-settle at bedtime, but cuddling, feeding or rocking to sleep are all natural and instinctive ways of helping our babies drift off into a peaceful slumber. The best way to help your baby sleep is to follow your instinct as a parent and go with your gut. Just because a baby can settle themselves, it doesn’t always make them a better sleeper, so if you want to cuddle or feed your baby and rock them to sleep – do! Don’t worry, you won’t be making ‘a rod for your own back’, and this phase won’t last forever. You will both be happier and much less stressed in the process too. 

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