Are you sabotaging your child's sleep?

As an expectant parent, I flicked through Mothercare catalogues, and browsed Argos for all of the beautiful sleep promoting products on the market for babies. I had a romantic notion that if I purchased a pretty cot mobile and a light show with music and white noise, that we would be set on the sleep front. All of these things help children to sleep, right?

Wrong !

I remember one day when the boys were really little, under 6months, the reason I remember is that we had a travel cot set up in the living room for the boys to use for naps as they had outgrown their moses baskets but weren’t in their own room. With absolute frustration, I watched my husband as he tried to create a rocking motion with the non-rock travel cot, whilst x2 separate cot mobiles twirled round the boys heads blaring out of tune nursery rhymes. Dave turned to me and said through the twins cries “Surely these things are going to keep them awake not put them to sleep?? How can they go to sleep when they have a colourful distraction in their face and this awful music??” I have recollections of agreeing with him and realising his logical line of thought. But these products are designed to help babies sleep, there must be something else wrong, maybe they’re hungry, maybe they’re not tired… and I looked for every explanation as to why the boys weren’t sleeping, but it COULDN’T be all of the things that we spent all that money on !!! That the marketing lead us to believe they would aid our precious children’s sleep???

When I did my Sleep training I felt like a fool. Of course these products are not designed to help your child sleep. It’s a marketing ploy. A lovely dream created by people that in actual fact, have no clue about the sleep needs of child. I feel awful for all of the expectant/new parents out there, as naive as I was, wrapped up in the joy of starting our family and filling the nursery with all of the things you would expect to include in the setup of a baby’s nursery.

So here’s what you need to know !! Don’t make the same mistake as me! The information I am about to share with you is evidence based, and proven. These are the rules I now follow for my own beautiful children, regardless how pretty the light projector looks, it’s a no go ! See the pic attached to this blog - that is my twin boys sleep space - empty of any distractions, ready for sleeping toddlers!

1. Your child needs a dark environment in which to sleep. Whatever you need to do to block out the light from any windows or doors. Black out blind is a must. Drawing pins are the curtain accessory in our house to keep the light from sneaking in the sides and through the top of the curtain pole! A dark environment will help your little one to understand that it is time for sleep. This helps with the development of circadian rhythms – the bit where we know the difference between night and day. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but the pretty light colour changing toy with shapes and ceiling projections are only likely to encourage your little one’s brain to release a stimulating hormone which helps them to stay awake. Let the bedtime battle commence !!

2. Your child also needs a quiet environment in which to sleep. My two have a tablet which plays 10 hours of white noise during each nap and throughout the night. We use white noise as the boys share a room so it helps to “drown out” any noise that they make which could potentially wake the other. Otherwise there are no cot mobiles, no music machines, no lullaby toys, just good old fashioned peace and quiet. Anything that requires “switching back on” has the potential to create a sleep crutch – something your child can end up relying on to get them back to sleep.

3. Night lights – research has shown that night lights can give off blue light associated with tv and tablets and smart phones, creating yet another stimulation to stand in the way of a good start to bed time ! Keep the room dark, and if the use of a night light is required, ensure that the light is red or amber in colour. Research has shown that red and amber lights do not have any impact on the sleep environment.

Alongside an appropriate daytime sleep schedule and the relevant responses to ensure your child’s sleep is optimised, these tips will help to create an effective sleep environment for your little one.

Keep the all singing and all dancing cot mobiles and light projectors and nursery rhymes for awake time, these things are all great for sensory play, fun, learning and development.

Sometimes things feel too good to be true…. Maybe that’s because they are !!