Archive for the Sleep and Calming Category
“Zachary, time for bed.” “NO!” Two year old Zachary responds, running toward the playroom. Mother follows close behind, pleading, “It’s time for bed, honey. C’mon, now.”
“No, Mommy, no!” squeals Zachary as Mother swoops down to pick him up. Zachary’s body stiffens, his back arches, and he begins kicking his feet in order to free himself of her tightening grip. Wildly, Zachary kicks his Mother as he struggles to get loose.
“Stop it! You’re going to bed, NOW!” Mother declares, not to be outdone by her child’s resistant behavior. Zachary begins to cry loudly as Mother, somewhat beaten and greatly exasperated, pulls off his clothes for his impending bath. This emotional and physical power struggle continues through Zachary’s bath, pajamas, tooth brushing, and abruptly ends with a token kiss.
Exhausted and frustrated, Mother proceeds down the stairs hopeful for some solitude, only to hear, “Mommmmy, I want a drink. Me go potty!” Feeling guilty and yet, still angry, Mother hurriedly responds with the requested water and a brisk trip to the bathroom. Mother sets him on the bed and says evenly, “Don’t let me hear another word. Good night!” Mother stomps down the stairs after slamming his door. Zachary is left huddled on his bed, crying into his pillow and Mother feels guilty and frustrated in front of the television.
Now, look at this same scene through the eyes of the child – in this case Zachary. We parents get accustomed to looking at this scene through our “adult eyes” and miss the opportunity to understand from our child’s perspective.
Imagine that you are in the middle of a good book and your spouse says, “It’s time for bed.” In spite of your response, “No, I’m not ready just yet,” you are helped unwillingly up the stairs, your clothes are removed and you are forced into taking a bath. Consider how you are feeling. Are you feeling disrespected, violated, angry, devalued or controlled? You may be thinking, “Yes, but a two-year-old doesn’t feel this way – it’s not the same, he’s not an adult, besides, I’m the parent.”
True, the child is not yet an adult. However he IS a person, has feelings and is at an important growth stage of wanting independence and experimenting with how to have his choices be known and honored. This is the beginning of his being an individual – he is establishing his separateness from his parents and is exploring his competence and capabilities.
Many times going to bed is not the issue, he may be tired and ready. Yet the command of being told what to do and when to do it brings up a feeling of being controlled. Isn’t it true that this is often our reaction as adults when we are “commanded” in the same way? The issue becomes one of wanting control over ourselves and what happens to us. In this scene with Zachary and Mother, Zachary does not feel understood and it causes the struggle to escalate. Also, as Mother continues to overpower Zachary, he feels unloved and rejected and Mother is left feeling pretty much the same way.
Bedtime can be a special time between children and parents as it is natural for us to desire closeness or connectedness before going to sleep. Often times, however, parents have over-burdened themselves during the day and so they are eager to get the child in bed as soon as possible so they can have some quiet time for themselves. This can cause the child to feel that his parents are trying to “get rid of him.” In our bedtime struggle story, Zachary’s desire for more closeness is expressed through wanting a drink and “going potty” which results in more tension between he and his mom and both feeling hurt and rejected.
So, consider these questions: What did Zachary want in our story? More importantly, what does your child want?
- To declare his independence or sense of self.
- To feel close or connected with his parent.
- To feel a sense of control over what happens to him.
- To feel respected and heard.
How can you, as a parent, give your child what he wants and needs and still have him go to bed in a timely manner?
- Respect your needs. Take care of yourself during the day so you are not feeling hassled and frazzled at your child’s bedtime. Set your child’s bedtime at an hour that allows you some solitude and/or “couple time”with your partner after your child goes to bed.
- Whenever possible, have both parents be a part of the bedtime ritual. Bedtime is more fun and less of a burden when both parents participate.
- Start your bedtime ritual forty-five minutes to one hour before your child’s actual bedtime hour to avoid unnecessary stress and struggle. This process should be a winding down time, in other words, eliminate activities that would excite the child such as rough-housing or tickling.
- Respect his sense of time by telling him that bedtime is in 15 minutes, allowing him to complete a particular activity before his actual bedtime hour.
- Offer choices instead of orders. Your child will have a feeling of control over what happens to him when given choices. For example, you might say, “Do you want your dad to help you with your bath or me?” Or “Do you want to wear your red pajamas or your blue ones?” Or “Do you want to sleep with your gorilla or your kitty?”
- Create a bedtime ritual with your child’s help and advice. For example, read a story, snuggle, give three stuffed animals to kiss, give a hug and two kisses and leave the room singing a song. Routine is particularly important from at least 12 months of age through age two. The routine needs to have a quality of sameness or routine — the same order or the same song — to provide a sense of security.
- Create closeness. For example:
- Talk about “Remember When,” such as “Remember when we went camping and that raccoon got into our food?” Or “I remember when you were a baby and loved to have your tummy rubbed.”
- Listen to your child’s feeling about the day.
- Say three things that you love about eachother. Start each statement with, “What I love about you is…” and complete it with a specific thing that you love. For instance, “What I love about you is the way you helped put your books away today,” or “What I love about you is the way your singing can lift my spirits.”
- Ask the following questions that allow your child to share more about himself:
- “What was the best thing that happened to you today?”
- “What was the worst thing that happened to you today?”
- “What was the silliest thing that happened to you today?”
- Some children may talk more freely with the lights out. Try to discover what is most encouraging to your child in enhancing your communication together.
- After you have completed your bedtime routine, leave your child’s room. Explain to to your child ONCE when you start this new routine, “If you come out of the room for any reason other than emergency, I will lovingly guide or carry you back to your room.” “I will not talk to you after saying goodnight and closin
g the bedroom door.”
It is essential that you do not talk to your child after the bedtime routine is complete. Your child will pay more attention to your actions than your words. Further, if you continue to talk to your child, you are more likely to get into a verbal power struggle about going to bed. If you discover yourself saying, “Didn’t you hear what I said? I told you to go to bed and I wasn’t going to talk anymore!” Stop talking and take loving action by guiding your child back to bed. You may have to guide your child back to his room several times, particularly at the beginning because children will test their parents. However, as the week progresses, bedtime will become more pleasant for both you and your child.
You can make bedtime a time of nurturing, closeness, shared communication and fun. By involving your children in the decision-making process and spending this special time with them, they will feel valued and respected. By setting limits, you will gain the respect of your children and build their self-esteem.
When your baby is a newborn, she might not sleep in her cot because it is far from mom and dad who are her primary comfort sources during the night. And, it might seem too big compared to the womb, especially if she is not swaddled. In this case, you may have chosen to have your baby sleep in your room for her first few months. Your intentions were to then transition her to a cot once she is sleeping through the night.
Months later, now your baby won’t sleep in the cot because, to her, it is the equivalent of you going to sleep in the guest room. It is only her bed because you are telling her it is her bed. She has no real sense that her cot or her room is a place actually for her. She does not know the cot as her bed or as a place for sleep.
This is where sleep associations come into play how you are putting baby to sleep and with the way she knows how to fall asleep. Does she need to move to sleep (via rocking chair, bouncing ball, or bouncy seat)? Does she need to suck to sleep (via pacifier, nursing, or bottle)? And, is she in a comfortable place to sleep? Up until now she has not slept in her cot, so why would that be a comfortable place today just because she turned 5 or 6 months old?
The primary goal in helping your baby sleep in the cot is to make it feel like HER room and HER bed. Here are a few tips you might consider:
* Consider putting your bed in baby’s room for a few days.
* Make sure you spend non-sleep time in baby’s room
* Have him sleep on his own cot sheet for a few days, so it has his scent
* You sleep on his cot sheet for a few days, so it has YOUR scent
* Give it time. Do not expect it to go perfectly the first day. It might take a few days to a couple of weeks, but the first few nights will most likely be the most difficult. Expect it to be rough and he might just surprise you, but do expect it to take work. Only some will have an easy transition.
Before transitioning your baby to sleep in his cot, be sure your baby knows how to fall asleep on his own. Otherwise, you are simply going back and forth from your room to his all night, instead of reaching over a foot or two. Even if your baby is sleeping great in your room, if she has trouble adjusting to sleeping in her cot, make sure you are sensitive to the fact that this is a new place for her and do not just let her cry it out. Some babies actually sleep better once they are in their own space, not smelling Mommy’s milk or hearing Daddy’s snoring all night long.
Are you expecting a newborn? Are you stocking up on items for your nursery? Dummies are a common item parents buy for their newborns. Dummies are used to soothe a baby when it is fussy. The sucking action can calm the baby. Some parents use them to discourage thumb and finger sucking. Safety is always an issue with a newborn or young child. If your baby uses a dummy, you want to consider purchasing a dummy clip to keep it attached to your child’s clothing.
Dummies are one piece and have a guard or shield attached to the base. The materials used to manufacture dummies include latex, molded silicone or a combination of plastic and silicone. Siliconedummies are sturdy, do not retain odors, and are easy to clean. Those made of latex are softer than silicone and retain odors. If you are concerned about your baby developing an allergy or sensitivity to latex, you should consider purchasing silicone dummies.
A study by the American Academy of Pediatrics on sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) shows that dummies at nap time and bedtime may reduce this threat. There is also concern that dummies interfere with breast feeding. You may want to wait one month to six weeks before you introduce the dummy to your newborn.
Other concerns are that by using a dummy, your baby will develop dental problems such as protruding front teeth, an overbite, or improper jaw formation as they age. For these reasons, you should consider stopping the use of a dummy for your child between the ages of one and two.
Here are some tips for purchasing dummies:
Check to make sure the nipple is firmly attached to the base. If you can pull it off, your baby may be able to pull it apart. Purchase an orthodontic and a rounded dummy. Make sure the dummy has vent holes in the guard or shield to guard against skin rash. Read the package label to determine how the dummy can be sanitized after its use or after it has been dropped. Check for recalls. Not all babies like dummies. There are two types of dummies: orthodontic, which has a rounded top and a flat bottom and rounded ones. By purchasing both types you can determine which one your baby prefers.
Babies drop dummies. For safety reasons, you do not want to tie the dummy around the baby’s neck with ribbon or string. Instead, purchase a clip-on holder which will attach to the baby to the baby’s clothing. Make sure the dummy clips do not have beads or other objects which can cause choking.