Sleep, sweet sleep. Is there anything more important when you’re a parent?
Great sleep expectations
Spare a thought for this tired mum of three kids, aged one, three and four who are all waking for different reasons throughout the night.
She wrote on the Babyology Facebook page:
“#HELP! My husband and I often have arguments over sleep expectations of our three boys, ages 1yo, 3yo & 4yo. The older two especially go through stages where they wake up constantly. I’m exhausted, but I believe that the sleep expectations we place on young children are unreasonable. As an adult, I don’t sleep through the night half the time. My husband, however, believes they should sleep through the night, every night & that we should take them to a doctor to get some help. I’m interested in seeing how many children actually sleep through, compared to how many don’t.”
#HELP! My husband and I often have arguments over sleep expectations of our three boys, ages 1yo, 3yo & 4yo. The older…
There’s more to a good night’s sleep than meets the eye
Sleep is a huge issue for us parents. And while eventually, the problem tends to recede a bit, when you have several children with several different sleeping patterns and behaviours, life can get really tricky.
Mothercraft nurse Chris Minogue said that while ‘normal’ is a hard thing to define, on average if you have strong sleeping associations, then nine out of ten children will sleep well and all through the night.
“A one and a three and a four-year-old all have different sleep habits and any disruptions in the night are down to different factors,” says Chris.
Read more on sleep:
- Researchers pinpoint when parents sleep hits an all-time low
- Dear daycare, please don’t pat my little on to sleep!
- Baby not sleeping through the night? Science says don’t worry!
A wakeful one-year-old
According to Chris, generally speaking, one-year-olds sleep through the night more often than not.
“If they’re waking up frequently, then we need to look at the way we, as the adults, are handling the wake ups and how we are teaching them to go back to sleep,” says Chris.
“Pay attention to your actions. Are you breastfeeding or cuddling them back to sleep because it’s quicker? That is what will be creating the problem, and that is the first thing to address.”
A wakeful three-year-old
Chris says the average three-year-old would probably wake on average once or twice a week, and be easy enough to re-settle. When they are waking more than that, the reasons can become a bit more complicated.
“Three-year-olds actually require more soothing than a one-year-old. Are they going to daycare? If so, look at how quickly you are moving them through the transitions of the day. Did they get time to wind down, did they get time to talk to you,” says Chris.
“Also be aware of how much sleep they are having during the day. If a three-year-old has 40 minutes or an hour in the day, that might be just too much for them to sleep through the night.”
A wakeful four-year-old
According to Chris, anxiety is often the reason your four-year-old will wake in the night.
“It could indicate that they need more of your attention. They probably want to talk to you about their day and be close to you,” says Chris.
“The other thing about four-year-olds is that because they are a physically bigger than younger kids, you just feel less open to them coming into your bed in the middle of the night. So, you can be a bit firmer with the boundaries. For example, if they are waking and coming into your bed, gently take them back to their own room.”
Some kids are just bad sleepers
With so many different opinions around about children’s sleep, it can be easy to get lost and overwhelmed in the fray.
Chris says it’s important for parents to accept that just like some adults, some children are bad sleepers.
“It is important for everyone in the household to try and be on the same page to get this to work right for the children. They need sleep to have energy, stability and brain power to get through the day.”