Toddler Sleep

Better Baby and Toddler Sleep

15 February 2023
Posted by: Chelsea

Virtually all new mothers and some fathers are physically and emotionally exhausted by the time their new baby comes home.

This will very quickly focus their attention on trying to secure the most sleep they can at night and that in turn causes questions about how to achieve better baby and toddler sleep!

Better baby and toddler sleep – no mysteries are involved

At least in theory, baby and toddler sleep and its approximate average durations are well understood.  However, as all new parents quickly discover, babies and toddlers don’t know or care about what the books say they should do but instead will operate to their schedules rather than the author’s.

Your baby will need to sleep a lot in any 24 hours, with the durations decreasing as they age. The precise amount of sleep they take may vary considerably from one to another and also will be influenced by things like whether or not they’re feeling comfortable, contentedly fed, safe and in good health.

Another major factor is environmental consistency. That essentially means keeping their sleeping environment as constant as possible, notably in two main areas:

  • light;
  • noise.

These are sometimes overlooked by parents worrying why their baby or toddler isn’t a predictable sleeper.

Light

Most babies and toddlers prefer to settle down for their sleep in a cosily-lit and very subdued lighting environment. That probably shouldn’t be pitch-black and it means that if they do stir to half-awake, they can see around their reassuring environment.

There are plenty of baby night-light systems around that can be purchased for very modest sums. They’ll provide just the right amount of low-level lighting a baby will find most comforting.

Once you’ve achieved that, it’s important to avoid sudden changes that could instantly awaken the child and cause distress. Some of those would include:

  • someone entering the room and in a moment of forgetfulness, switching on the main light by instinct (a very easy thing to do). Some parents use a ‘baby asleep’ sign on the bedroom door as a reminder;
  • street lights outside the bedroom window suddenly switching on or off (or worse, flickering due to a fault). You can reduce these risks by using heavy-grade curtains to keep external light out;
  • dawn sunlight streaming into the room. It might be nature’s signal but if you’re not an early riser or have been up in the night feeding your baby, you might appreciate a little longer in bed. Once again, heavier curtains are the answer here;
  • if the nursery door is transparent or has panels above it that are, remember that your baby may be very sensitive to someone constantly switching on and off hall and stair lights.

Noise

Although quiet conditions are often regarded as ideal, a deathly silence can be very unsettling for a baby. Many babies in urban areas with relatively extensive external background noise levels quickly adjust to them and have no problem sleeping.

Some parents opt for things such as white noise generators or natural sound players to provide a very slight audible reassurance. Many babies are also comforted by a gentle background noise level of sounds around the house. They’re noises they’re familiar with and that adds comfort and helps them sleep.

There should though be a level of reasonableness. Someone in an adjacent room suddenly playing loud music, raucous laughter from older siblings or car alarms outside will badly disturb a baby’s sleep.

Controlling such inside the house is perfectly possible with the cooperation of other family members. There may be little that can be done about outside noises but installing double-glazing in the nursery’s windows and again, using floor-length heavy curtains, may help to reduce outside noise disturbances.

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