Just when you finally have your routine down and the kids on a great sleep schedule, along comes the end of Daylight Savings this weekend and the start of darker days (get it?). Plus, in general, sure you’ve got the steps down for getting your baby to sleep (or read them again by clicking here), but where are all the experts when it comes to continuing your toddler’s and preschooler’s naps? Or how do you get your big kid to go to bed when it’s time? From ages 3 months to 8 years old, Breezy Mama turned to Suzy Martyn, Parenting Consultant, Speaker and Author, Michelle LaRowe author and voted Nanny of the Year 2004, Rebecca Michi, Parenting Consultant, Angelita, Doula and Parenting Coach and Davis Ehrler, Infant Child Sleep Consultant (Yep, 5 experts! Not messing around on this topic, Mamas!), for their tips on how to start preparing your baby and kids NOW for when the clock “falls” back this weekend, best bedtime/naptime routines and more.
When the clocks change, how do parents get their kids to not wake at the crack of dawn?
Suzy: Seven to ten days before the actual change, begin to move your child’s bedtime 10-15 minutes later so that by the time Daylight Savings hits, they will be right on target.
Rebecca: It usually takes a few days for children to adjust to the time change. Try and keep them up the extra hour on Saturday night (the night the clocks go back). You may only be able to expect them to stay in bed 15 minutes later than the usual wake up time. Stretch the wake up by 15 minutes each or every couple of mornings.
Angelita: I usually advise parents to begin preparing children for clock changes by having them adjust the bedtime/waking times. For example, in the fall, when the clocks go back one hour, I ask them to fit the schedule by living as if the change has already happened. So, if the children go to bed at seven, start the baths, brushing teeth, stories, cuddles, etc. around 5 so they can be in bed by six.
What are your other tips for adjusting sleep schedules after Daylight Savings for:
Michelle: For all ages, room-darkening shades can help promote an environment that is conducive to sleep. For babies, it’s important to keep their routine and schedule as consistent as possible.
Rebecca: If your baby has a routine you can gradually (15 minutes a day) shift the routine.
Michelle: For toddlers scheduling and routine is again key. The time on the clock is less of an issue when the children’s nightly routine is consistent.
Rebecca: The hardest age. Again, go slow. Treat any waking before your acceptable wake up time as a night waking.
Michelle: Older children can be directed to stay in their rooms until a certain hour. Place a clock in the child’s room and tell the child he must stay in his room until the clock turns a certain hour. For this method to work, you have to teach the child how to recognize the time on a digital or traditional clock, you have to be sure their room is safe and you have to have books and quiet activities within reach for the child to quietly occupy himself until the set hour.
Angelita: By this time, the routines should have been established, including whether or not to disturb mum and dad in the morning. Again, with cheerfulness, patience, good humor, the routine is established: after school play, dinner, homework, bedtime routine, in bed for sleep, up in the morning for school or story time.
Breezy Mama Martha has been struggling to get her three-year-old daughter to take naps in general. Any advice?
Michelle: Between 3 to 6 years old, children give up naps all together. Around age three, about 1/4 of children are done napping. Having a set routine can help children transition to nap time. Using the potty, reading a book and going to bed can be a short nap routine. If your child is resistant to a nap, insist on quiet time. Have the child lay in her bed with a few books. Many parents are surprised that their children end up falling asleep on their own this way. It’s important that the child nap where she sleeps at night because she already has a sleep association with it.
Angelita: Naps for 3 year olds is a bit of a problem; at that time, they are establishing themselves and want to keep going until they fall out. Some mothers give in, but this usually results in [unruly] behavior and meltdowns. For the 3-6 set, downtime in the afternoon is best. At the designated naptime, pull down the shades, make the house quiet, no TV.
I noticed with my own three year old, if he naps, he doesn’t fall asleep until later at night. If he doesn’t nap, it’s meltdown city in the afternoon. What do you suggest?
Michelle: Naps naturally supplement a child’s nighttime sleeping. As daytime sleep decreases, nighttime sleep should increase. Many parents believe that when a child naps, he won’t fall asleep until later. Based on this belief, they skip the nap all together in hopes of getting their child to bed earlier in the evening. The reality is, as they quickly find out, that an overtired toddler is much more difficult to get to bed than a well-rested toddler. At age three, a child should be in bed no later than 7:30 (8:00 is pushing it). If the child doesn’t nap, he should wake up around 6:45 am. If he wakes up earlier than that, he’ll need a nap to supplement his sleep. Most 3 years olds who nap do so in the afternoon, usually between 1 and 2.
If he is melting down shortly after dinner, your best bet is to put him to bed early, but realize, he’ll likely wake up 11-12 hours after you put him to bed. The longer you keep an overtired child up, the more difficult he’ll be to put to bed.
A consistent bedtime routine can also help minimize meltdowns. The bedtime routine should essentially start right after dinner. Dinner should mark the beginning of the wind down time and should be followed by a bath, quiet activities, a book and bed.
Rebecca: It sounds as if he’s in a transition stage and getting ready to drop the nap. Always insist on a quiet time (in the time where he would have had a nap), read books, puzzles, playing quietly, etc. Use rewards (stickers?) to encourage the quiet time. Having a quiet time will let him recharge his batteries a little and should make the late afternoon tired and grumpiness a bit easier. It could take a couple of weeks to get really used to having dropped that nap. Some children need to have a 45-minute nap every few days. See what works best.
For those of us Mamas that got through the baby stage and successfully created sleepers, we were in for a rude awakening (get it?) when suddenly our kids could walk, talk and get out of bed. How do we keep kids aged 2-5 in bed?
Michelle: With two to five year olds, it almost seems like the goal is keeping them in their room, rather than their beds. Be sure to have a gate at their door and create an environment that is conducive to sleep. This can include room darkening shades, a white noise machine and a room temp between 68-69 degrees. For two year olds who are still in a crib, a crib tent can come in handy. Crib tents are dome shaped tents that fit over the crib (click here to purchase).
Breezy Note: I can’t say enough wonderful things about the crib tent! It’s a great solution when your child is dangerously jumping out of the crib but too small to have the freedom of a big boy/girl bed and be wandering the halls and waking you alllll night long. To purchase, click here.
When dealing with a child that gets out of bed, it’s important to stay non-emotional. When you notice your child is out of bed, enter the room, don’t say a word and escort him back to bed. The second time, a simple “It’s bedtime. Stay in bed” and escort him back to his bed. Resist the urge to engage in conversation. Keep the boundaries clear and enforce them. Don’t buy into the one more drink routine. When you say it’s bedtime, mean it.
Rebecca: Decide as a family on your acceptable wake up time. Have a night light on a timer (normal night light plugged into a timer, from any hardware store) set to your wake up time. Any waking before the light comes on means your little one needs to stay in bed and treat a wake up as a night waking (even if 20 minutes before the light comes on). If your child wakes when the light is on then they can get up. They will learn over time (depends on their age) to stay in bed. Stickers are also a great reward for staying in bed. But, I think the light works great as your child has a visual cue, not just guessing.
What about older kids?
Suzy: We have a rule for our older kids (ages 7, 11, 13) that they must stay in bed (even if awake) until 7am in the morning and then if they get up and others are still asleep they should go downstairs and read quietly until everyone in the family is up. No TV and no playing. If more than one child is up early then they go to separate rooms in the house to read alone…because you know what happens when more than one child tries to quietly read in the same location…not quiet reading anymore!
Rebecca: You can get an alarm clock (doesn’t need to be set if your child can tell the time). Keep a record of how they have done. If they have managed to stay in bed until get up time for a whole week, have a reward — movie night or choosing a park to play.
Describe the ideal bedtime routine?
Suzy: Bath, tooth brushing, reading, bed: all should happen within 45 minutes-1 hour max.
-5 p.m.: Dinner
-Then: Bath or PJs.
-5:45 p.m.: Last bottle or Breastfeed for the night; For children over 12 months, 5:45 p.m. will be story time.
What time should babies go to bed? What about toddlers? What about three and up?
Davis: Babies: Between 5 and 6 pm; Toddlers: Between 6:00 and 6:30 p.m; 3 and up: Between 6 and 7 p.m.
Suzy: Anytime after that and they are apt to get a second wind or just not settle enough to get into enough REM sleep for the night.
Michelle: Many people put their kids to bed way too late. Even up until age 6, children should be in bed no later than 8 pm.
For varying circumstance, like two working parents, where kids stay up later, what are the ideal hours of sleep each child should get so they can breath easy for wanting to bond with their kids as long as they sleep in?
Michelle: While it’s definitely hard news to hear, parents need to keep their children’s needs first. While it can be tempting to keep a child up later to spend time with a working parent, the end result is usually no fun for anyone. The dream of quality time usually
ends up with a parent dealing with an overtired and frustrated child. For school aged children, or children who have to get off to day care, staying up late also usually results in having to be woken up in the morning, which can set the day off to a real rocky start.
Instead, I advise working parents try to make it home before bedtime and make a commitment to being the one to put the child to bed. This consistent, predictable routine promotes quality time and helps to build a trusting relationship with the working parent. Reading together is a wonderful activity that naturally promotes bonding and will help both parent and child connect at the end of the day.
Richard Ferber’s typical sleep averages: http://www.childrenshospital.org/az/Site989/mainpageS989P0.html says:
Newborns 16 hour total, 3 months 13 hours total, 6 months 12.5 hours total, 1 year, 11.75 total
Suzy: Ages 2-4: Children this age need from 10-12 hours of continuous sleep at night. Two and three year olds need a nap of 1 or 2 hours in addition to this.
Rebecca: 2 years. 13 hrs sleep in every 24 hrs. Including 1 nap.
3 years. 12 hrs sleep in every 24hrs. Including 1 nap
4 years. 11 1/2 hrs sleep in every 24 hrs. No nap.
Suzy: Children this age are not napping but still need between 10-12 hours of continuous sleep at night.
Angelita: Of course, like all this advice, these are the recommendations. Each child is unique and has his/her own requirements, but for well-rested children, these are the parameters.
Any other advice for tired parents?
Suzy: Take the time to train your children to sleep on their own and then get your own rest!
Michelle: Kids need more sleep than most parents think. It’s important to put the kids to bed early so you can have time to take care of yourself and recharge. Many parents also respond to their child’s every whimper. Just like adults, kids make noises throughout the night. Even when they wake up crying, in most cases, in a few minutes they’ll fall back to sleep on their own. Having a fan in the room is also important to circulate the air and to provide background noise. Don’t get your kids in the habit of sleeping in complete silence. You’ll regret it if you do!
Rebecca: When trying to change sleep habits, it’s always going to take time. You can’t change a habit instantly. Imagine trying to get to sleep without your pillow, it would take you a few nights to get used to it. Be constant and dedicated to seeing any changes through. It will be worth it in the end.
Angelita: Keep well nourished and well-rested. Children take a lot of energy and it is easier the better in shape you are and the better for the family.
Keep yourself healthy and moving. Move with your children, play with them, do yoga, tai chi, checkers, etc. with them. This strengthens your family’s bonds while keeping everyone on the go; Take time for quiet — build an oases of quiet into the day. The whole family can sit quietly in a group, with no TV, listening to the radio or discussing the newspaper. This shows you and your children that quiet reflection is an important part of growing up.
Share with your children. Tell them what you learned each day, have them do the same. this shows that sharing is caring and encourages problem-solving.
Cherish these moments of teaching, learning and laughing. They will pass by so quickly that you will scarcely know where the time went.
Good night and good luck!
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About the Experts
Author, Speaker, Educator, and Parenting Consultant Suzy Martyn has over 25 years experience caring for children.
Serving as a mentor mom and keynote speaker for parenting groups, schools, and churches, Suzy shares her knowledge and experience with parents all over southern California and across the country. Suzy’s specialty is working with parents one-on-one in a supportive and encouraging atmosphere that focuses on equipping parents to manage all the toughest aspects of parenting.
Suzy is a credentialed teacher with a Masters in Education. She resides in Orange County, California with her husband Dave and their three daughters. For more information, visit: www.mothersfriendsos.com
Michelle LaRowe is the 2004 International Nanny Association Nanny of the Year and is the author of the Nanny to the Rescue! parenting series, Working Mom’s 411: How to Manage Kids, Career and Home and A Mom’s Ultimate Book of Lists: 100+ Lists to Save You Time, Money and Sanity. She holds a Bachelor’s of Science degree in chemistry, a certificate in pastoral studies from Global University and has spent more than a decade as a professional nanny and parenting consultant. Michelle is an active member of the nanny community and currently serves as the Executive Director of the International Nanny Association. She and her husband, Jeff, live on Cape Cod with their daughter, Abigail. To learn more about Michelle visit www.michellelarowe.com.
Rebecca Michi NNEB grew up in The Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead, England, UK. She received one of the most recognizable Childcare qualifications in the world, the National Nursery Examining Board (The qualification has since been renamed CACHE level 3. ), at East Berkshire College, England, UK. The qualification gives students hands on experience in addition to the academic curriculum which covers the physical, educational, social, emotional and intellectual needs of different ages. Other areas of study include health and hygiene, play, and first aid.
After achieving her qualifications, Rebecca worked in a number of different childcare settings with children between the ages of 6 weeks and 8 years. She quickly advanced from Nursery Nurse to Officer in Charge (Manager). By the age of 23 she had become the youngest Childcare Manager in the United Kingdom for a national childcare chain. To contact Rebecca, visit www.rebeccamichi.com
Doula Angelita is a trident doula, parenting coach, nutrition guide, and women’s advocate. With more than five years of experience, she constantly strives to learn more about the entire birth process so that she may provide platinum-quality service to all her clients.
She lives and works in beautiful, sunny San Jose, CA where she lives, learns and grows with her husband and children. Doula Angelita writes articles for the San Jose Examiner, along with her blogs, and she is a contract researcher focusing on birth and birth topics. To visit her site, click here.
Twenty-two years ago Davis developed her fascination with childhood sleep behavior when she co-parented her premature nephew with her single sister. After obtaining degrees in Law Enforcement and Elementary Education, her real education began when her third daughter faced sleep challenges. “I came to realize it was me who was creating these issue for her,” Davis has said and she has continued to fine-tune her program as a postpartum doula. Through in-home and phone consultations, leading workshops and long-term assignments across the country, Davis’s knowledge and wisdom have been finely honed. Getting babies to sleep and helping parents develop the skills they need to ensure a good night’s sleep for the entire family is her gift.
Davis Ehrler is a resident of San Diego County and the mother of three daughters: Henley (15); Eliot (13) and Scout (9) – they are all wonderful sleepers! To learn more, click here.
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