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Health and Wellness: How do I help my child establish healthy sleeping habits? | News, Sports, Jobs

Nothing is more precious than a sweet newborn baby sleeping soundly in their parents’ arms. But what happens when that peaceful period of sweet dreams turns to not-so-sweet nights — when babies or toddlers wake up frequently crying — and neither the child nor parents seem to be getting the rest they need?

If your baby is struggling to get a good night’s sleep, or if you want to ensure you are applying best practices for your child’s development, here are a pediatrician’s tips for helping children establish healthy sleeping habits. Following these practices will help you and your baby get better rest — we know you need it.

Where should my baby sleep?

The number one thing to consider when putting a baby to sleep is ensuring they have a safe sleep environment. The safest place for babies to sleep is alone on their backs on a flat surface. Usually, a crib or bassinet close to their parents’ bed is the best way to go. It’s also important to avoid pillows, extra blankets, or stuffed animals that could get near the baby’s face.

It’s so easy to accidentally or intentionally fall asleep while holding your baby (I am guilty of this too!), but it is safest to have your baby sleep alone. If you currently have a habit of sleeping with your baby — don’t panic. You can start now to implement these guidelines until you reach the ideal. Habits are not the concern here; the real concern is safety.

What should I do if my baby isn’t sleeping well?

If your baby isn’t sleeping well at night, the first step is to talk to your pediatrician. There may be something they can help with. Perhaps there is something in your baby’s diet that is irritating, or perhaps your baby is sick. Talking to the doctor will help identify any of these factors that could be playing a part.

A common reason for a baby not sleeping well is their days and nights are reversed: They sleep well during the day and are up all night. The good news is that parents can help adjust this over just a couple of weeks. Try to create an atmosphere that helps your baby distinguish between day (when the lights are on and things are happening) and night (when lights are off and things are calm). During the day, have your baby in the middle of the hustle and bustle of the house. They will sleep right through it, but a little less soundly. Then, have nights be calm, dark and quiet. This will help your baby orient correctly toward day and night gradually.

How do I establish the best sleeping habits for my children?

For anyone — children and adults — the key to healthy sleeping habits is telling your brain it is time to go to bed. The best ways to do this are to establish a routine and avoid things that awaken the brain. For example, consider trying the four Bs: bath, brush teeth, book and bed. Do the same things in the same order and at the same time every day — even on weekends if you can. 

To avoid unintentionally awakening the brain, one hour before bed, start calming things down: dim the lights, limit electronics and keep the house cool, dark and quiet. For young kids, it can also help them to have some of their favorite toys in bed with them or things that help them feel safe, such as a small flashlight for fear of the dark.

At Utah Valley Pediatrics, we applaud all parents for their loving efforts to care for their children. We trust you to do the right thing for your kids, and this additional advice will help keep your baby safe and the whole family rested. If we can ever assist in any way, we are here and ready to help. Happy ZZZs!

Dr. Aaron McCoy is a pediatrician at Utah Valley Pediatrics, which serves Utah families in nine locations throughout Utah Valley.


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