So it's not a surprise that I see parents driven to the brink, who have resorted to desperate measures. I heard of one parent recently who had scheduled a drive around the many road tunnels of Sydney on an e-tag because there would be no stopping at traffic lights and so no disturbing their child's sleep. It did however cost a hefty $1200 a month. Phew. I did point out that getting me to help was much cheaper than the e-tag bill!
Other things that I come across are 'drugging' children. This has been happening for many years. In Victorian times, opium was a favourite and I've often heard of a tot of whisky or guinness being given in a bottle. Children were often given Godfrey's Cordial (also called Mother's Friend), consisting of opium, water, treacle, to keep them quiet. I'm sure it still happens nowadays.
Many parents use Nurofen (ibuprofen) or Panadol (paracetamol) / Tylenol (acetaminophen) in the hope of a good night's sleep hoping it will help the teeth and help them.
The drug in vogue now is melatonin
However what they don't realise is that using melatonin can alter children’s circadian rhythms leading to longer-term sleeping issues. It really is a quick fix but it can impact on hormone levels and affect development. We really need to educate parents more on dietary tryptophan to produce a natural melatonin. Read my blogs on how you can modify diet to encourage baby sleep:
There are a few other things we can do to improve our little one's sleep
- No TV or electronic exposure in the 1-2 hours before bedtime. Letting your kids watch DVD bedtime stories in the hour leading up to bed, and then wonder why they wake up frequently overnight or in the first four-six hours after lights out. The electromagnetic frequency (EMF) exposure and blue lights are simply overload to a child’s brain. Even mums breastfeeding and checking their phones in the dark stimulate their baby’s brain. I had a 4 year old wake up 6 times a night purely as a reaction to ambient TV watching all day. The TV was on in his play room but he wasn't actually watching it much of the time.
- Avoiding night lights in the bedroom. Green and blue lights are more problematic but any night light can cause sleep disturbances. It interferes with melatonin, the neurotransmitter that helps us to get to sleep and stay asleep.
- Having a consistent bedtime and responding to tired signs. Not stretching out bedtime.
A good bedtime routine creates security and reduces stress. When children are overtired and stressed this can lead to frequent night waking. Some children like a bath to wind-down at bedtime whereas others find that a bath hypes them up and may benefit from a morning bath instead.
- Know your child's sleep cues. These change with age. A 6 month old baby may yawn or eye rub whereas a toddler may do naughty attention seeking behaviour or lose balance and co-ordination when tired.
Being warm enough and not too warm. Temperature control is so important. Layers in winter and a cool room are key to keep our core warm. Read my blog on how to dress baby for bed:
- Having a dark bedroom really helps children and babies get to sleep and sleep in in the mornings. Once daylight hits the brain that is low in melatonin at 5am the result is early morning waking. A solution is black out blinds and a cheap option is tinfoil. Wet the windowpane with a dishcloth, apply tinfoil and wipe over with same damp dishcloth and it sticks to the window pane by magic and voila! Watch this video to see me demonstate the application of tin foil: https://youtu.be/mBNyUpJrePU?t=49
Some further reading and resources for baby & toddler sleep
? FOODS that promote baby sleep
⏰ ROUTINE: easy, flexible, sleep-ready
? ENVIRONMENT: getting it right
?? DEVELOPMENT: changes, how these affect sleep
? SLEEP METHODS: secret tips that will change your life
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