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Happy bedtimes

Struggles around bedtime are one of the most common challenges of daily life with young children. Establishing consistent and effective bedtime routines can help both parents and children. Very young babies usually spend most of the time sleeping and often fall asleep while feeding or being held. Once a baby is a bit older, helping them fall asleep independently will set the scene for sleeping well later on.

Each family will develop their own routine, but parents find that the following ideas help to make bedtimes easier.

Top tips for settling babies

  • Avoid feeding or cuddling your baby to sleep – instead look out for signs that your baby is sleepy and put them down to sleep when they are drowsy but still awake. These signs might include becoming less active, making fewer noises, sucking more slowly, eyelids drooping, becoming quieter and less interested in their surroundings

  • Try warming the cot before putting your baby down to sleep

  • Give older babies a toy, blanket or something that smells of you to take to bed with them (although it is best not to put objects in the cot if a baby is under 6 months to avoid the risk of suffocation)

  • Make night time boring by keeping the room dark and talking quietly and as little as possible

  • White noise can help a baby to settle – DVDs and downloads are available that have been specially designed to provide soothing background sounds

Top tips for settling toddlers

  • Start the bedtime routine at the same time each day, about 30-40 minutes before sleep time

  • Repeat a sequence of ‘wind-down’ activities to help children relax:

    • having a bath

    • breastfeeding or having a drink of milk (babies and younger children)

    • brushing teeth

    • having a bedtime story or looking at a book together

    • cuddling

    • singing songs or playing relaxing music

  • Stick to an agreed number of songs and stories (probably one or two) before firmly and gently saying goodnight

  • Turn off TV and any other screens at least 30 minutes before bedtime

  • Have objects that are linked with sleep and bedtimes, such as a particular blanket or cuddly toy (depending on age – it is safest not to put cuddly toys in the cot with babies under 6 months)

sleeping baby

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