Research shows it takes the average person 15-20 minutes to fall asleep. What do YOU do during this time? Some parents read, take a both, meditate, or watch TV. Children, too, need to find something to help put themselves to sleep – playing with stuffed animals, sucking their thumb, looking at books, twirling their hair, rubbing their blanket, humming, rocking, or babbling. We need to give our children the opportunity to find what relaxes them and helps them fall asleep; sleep is a learned skill.
When you put a sleeping child to bed, you are interfering with the development of their natural sleep triggers. Children need opportunity to experiment and find what out works for them. Remember with sleep, it is not what we do for our children, but what they learn to do for themselves. Learning to not jump in too quickly to rescue our children from frustration is difficult, but necessary. As with any taught lesson in childhood, from potty training to good manners, gentle guidance, praise, support and love are the keys to success.
After following your normal nighttime routine, continually offer your child the same blanket, stuffed animal, soft music, or books to quietly be with while in his crib or bed. Encouraging this habit will become relaxing for your child as he learns to use these items to help him to fall asleep on his own. Often times just the sight or smell of these objects can have a soporific effect on the child, making him relax and mentally prepare for good night’s sleep. Just as a cup of chamomile tea may be your solution to peaceful sleep, remember how long this habit took for you to develop. Offering your child the opportunity to develop his own sleep triggers will become a tool he will use for the rest of his life!