Sleeping is not something you can really teach a baby or a toddler, but it is definitely something you can facilitate as the parent. It’s all about creating a schedule and an environment that is conducive to sleep. Remember the famous line, “make him an offer he can’t refuse”? That is exactly what you have to do when it comes to getting your baby to sleep. You have to create that desire for sleep. You have to make it easy for your baby to fall asleep as well. These are things you do for yourself and take for granted. You put on your most comfortable pajamas. You relax with a good book. You might unwind with a cup of hot herbal tea. While your baby may not care to read a novel or drink tea, comfortable pajamas, a bed time story and a bed time snack might be just what it takes for a good night’s rest.
Before the bed time routine begins, I always ensure that my toddler is tired by wearing him out. The best way to do this is to run around the house, or if it is nice, take him outside after dinner. Never underestimate the power of physically tiring your baby or toddler. I call it “getting the wiggles out.” Young children and even babies have a lot of energy to burn. They are not going to want to go to sleep if they still have the need to wiggle and move.
Once my toddler is clearly exhausted, which usually involves him giggling on the floor because he is tired of playing tag around the living room, we move on to relaxing activities. For some babies this might mean bath time. For others, it might mean reading a story or looking out the window. I always make sure to turn all the lights off except for one lamp. It is a signal that bed time is close.
The key to bed time itself is a predictable routine. It doesn’t have to be elaborate. In fact, the routine at our house is very short and to the point. I pick him up so he can reach his pacifier on the shelf, I walk him to the light switch so he can flip off the light by himself, and finally we go to his bed and I tuck him in. I kiss him on the cheek, say “night night,” and leave the room, shutting the door behind me. Sometimes we hear him “talking” for a few minutes, but he always falls asleep on his own without any tears.
It wasn’t always so easy, but as we developed our routine of wearing him out, winding him down, and putting him to bed, things got smoother and smoother every night until we reached the point we are at now.