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The importance of a good routine part 2- tips for 3-18 month olds

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As a mum of three I totally understand that its not always easy to strictly adhere to the children’s routine; but I always make sure food, naps and bedtimes are at the right time…I’m just not a fan of meltdowns.

Children of this age, and older toddlers, thrive on a routine. They crave the security of what is coming next and don’t have the emotional or intellectual maturity to have boundaries which can be moved and pushed.

There are some guidelines which may well help bedtime, and nap times, run more smoothly.

Tips for 3-18 month olds:

  1. A crucial element for teaching children to go to sleep, and stay asleep, is helping them develop self-soothing strategies (and, just to be clear, I don’t mean just leaving them to cry). We all have them; some of us have a certain pillow, some of us need the window open, some of us need socks on to fall asleep. Whatever it is, we all have ways that we sooth ourselves into sleep. If your child depends on a “prop” to fall asleep – such as breast/bottle feeding, rocking or a dummy then they will find it difficult to get back to sleep without their “prop.” It is important that we teach our children these skills so they can do it themselves and begin to sleep more peacefully.  If they rely on something external to fall asleep, something beyond their control (such as relying on somebody to rock them, feed them etc) this will increase their anxiety and stress levels and make it even harder for them to fall asleep by themselves.
  2. Consistency is key. As I mentioned above, children of this age thrive on boundaries and if those boundaries move, your little one will be confused and the boundaries will be pushed again and again. It is vital to be consistent with children so they know what is, and is not, going to happen. Consistency must be there 100% of the time, otherwise you are creating a confusing message for your little one, which is unfair for them.
  3. Try implementing a bedtime routine, which should be the same every night, and take around 20-30 minutes. Again, if it is longer, they may find their second wind and be very difficult to settle to sleep.
  4. Make bedtime the same time every night. If bedtime is too late, your little one might find their second wind; and not go to sleep until much later.
  5. Pay attention to naps! Some people may suggest that keeping your little one up for longer in the day will make them sleep at night – this really is not the case. Children of this age need 2-3 naps to be well rested and not overtired at bedtime. Good naps mean a better night’s sleep.
  6.  Like a newborn, keep an eye on their sleep cues. If you miss those yawns or the clear signs of tiredness you may well end up with an overtired and cranky little one on your hands.
  7. Finally, as this is around the time your little one will discover food, and grow substantially, it’s really important to structure their feeds (whether milk or solid food) to ensure they get enough in the day. It’s also important to ensure they have the right balance of milk and solid food once they are weaned. Once they are between 4-6 months, and especially once they are established on solid food, they are physiologically able to sleep through the night without needing a feed, especially if they have been given healthy sleep associations and are not having to rely on ‘props’.

As always, if you’re experiencing any problems with your little ones sleep, please do get in touch for a free 15 minute chat – We would love to help!


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