Sleeping advice for kids
Advice on how to let sleeping babies lie
I can’t settle my six-week-old daughter after her night feeds. She seems uncomfortable and is often awake crying for hours at a time.
Look at your diet and ensure that you are having a late afternoon snack and getting enough calories, as this plays a key part in having a settled baby. Secondly, consider the routine you use, try a feed-bath-feed routine at bedtime, with very little stimulation as overtiredness can show the same symptoms as gas. At the feed commonly called the ‘dream feed’, ensure you anticipate this so she is not wide awake and keep her bed warm. A simple way to ensure this is to cover the mattress when you take baby out. Give her some colic medication too, just in case wind is causing her wakefulness.
My six-year-old son refuses to go to sleep with the main light off, even though he has a nightlight by his bed. He’s often awake past his bedtime and is cranky during the day.
Sit with him while the light’s off, but do not negotiate. You can talk to him, sit on the side of the bed and hold his hand, but do not lie down with him as this will encourage him to be needier of your presence. Remember to be kind but firm in your approach. It could take as long as 45 minutes before your son settles, and it may take a few nights before he gets used to the dark.
My four-year-old has started sleepwalking, and displays very bizarre behaviour during an episode. I’ve heard that it’s dangerous to wake up a sleepwalker – is this true?
Sleep walking is not common in children, but it usually does resolve itself unless there is an underlying cause. You may wish to have a doctor check your son over, especially if it’s associated with other abnormal behaviour. The most common reason for sleepwalking is overtiredness. During an episode, take your son back to bed gently and reassure him. It is a good idea to put a gate on the door to secure the room as he may hurt himself if you are not around.
My three-year-old keeps on waking up screaming in the middle of the night. He doesn’t seem to recognize me when I go in to comfort him. Why is this happening?
This is called a night terror, and generally it resolves itself with time. There is no known cause and no time limit in which it may improve. Your child is literally caught between sleep and wakefulness – rather like trying to drive the car with the brakes on. It is best not to wake them, only to reassure and gently guide them back into sleep.
We are still giving our 22-month-old son a bottle in the middle of the night. I’ve heard night feeds should really stop at around six-months, but my toddler just cries and cries for it. How can I break the habit?
It is difficult to stop this feed for boys especially, as they need the calories and water does not always meet their needs. However this feed also interferes with daytime feeds and reduces their calorie intake. Once they are on three good solid meals and have teeth it is important to stop this feed to prevent tooth decay and ensure that this wake up does not become a habit. The easiest way is to change to water and shrink the volume by 5ml every five nights.
Our daughter is four and keeps wetting the bed. We’re limiting drinks before bed and getting her up for a nighttime wee, but she’s still having accidents most nights. It’s disrupting all our sleep. What can I do?
This would be something that should be checked by a doctor as there may be an underlying problem. Some children do take longer to be dry through the night, but it’s normally resolved by around three years. Don’t put pressure on her; praise her on the good nights and a reward chart may help motivate her to be dry.
Our two-year-old has been a good sleeper, but is now waking up in the middle of the night and wanting to play. She sleeps for about two hours a day at her nursery and they say she needs it. Are they right?
Yes she does need the two hour nap in the day. If you cut this out too early it will affect her nights. She will wake more often and possibly earlier as she will be going to bed overtired. Each child has a different need for sleep but on average a two-year-old will require two hours per day. When she wakes up at night, don’t go to her. If you reward her with your company, the behaviour will continue. Parents can use variations of the ‘cry it out’ method, but this should be discussed on an individual basis as generalizing this advice could cause complications. The amount of time each child takes to get over night-time waking will vary according to the method used and how consistent you are. A child can show signs of improvement in four days or at the most a week. The key is doing the same thing consistently, and being persistent.
We are thinking of getting a proper bed for our toddler (she is almost two). Do you think this is too early?
There are benefits to both keeping them in the cot and moving them to a bed. Most children need to be in a bed by the time you want to toilet train them. They’re generally ready for a big bed when they can climb easily and start wanting to sleep on your bed, or an older sibling’s. Children also wake up earlier than we do and want to play. They will try to climb out of the cot and may fall. In the beginning put side-rails on their ‘big bed’ to prevent them falling out in the night. Make it an exciting process for your daughter: let her help in choosing her own bed, and make the bedroom her own with pictures and fun duvet sets.
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