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Child Won’t Sleep? Not sure where to start?

by: Erin McCormick - Pediatric Sleep Specialist
Are you exhausted?
Is your child not sleeping?
Confused about where to start?
My guess is that if you’re reading this, it’s because you are exhausted. Maybe your baby refuses to sleep outside of your arms, or your toddler was up countless times last night.
Whatever the age of your Night Owl, we are here to help! Despite his stellar performance trying to convince you otherwise, we promise that your child does, in fact, need to sleep at night. And the best part? We can walk you through how to solve your child’s sleepless nights so that he (and you!) can get the rest you need.
5 reasons your child didn’t sleep last night
Before we can talk about how to get your child to sleep better at night, we first need to identify why he isn’t sleeping in the first place. Most behavioral sleep problems stem from one of the following five reasons.
1 BEDTIME IS TOO LATE
Yes, it sounds counter-intuitive, but a too-late bedtime can cause poor quality sleep and increased night wakings. Remember, the average child needs 10-11 hours of sleep at night for the first nine years of their lives!
2 NAPS ARE TOO SHORT (OR SKIPPED ENTIRELY)
Again, you might think the opposite is more logical - fewer naps must equal better nighttime sleep, right? Nope! Have you heard Dr. Marc Weissbluth’s mantra, “sleep begets sleep”? It’s true! Short or non-existent naps mean your child will face bedtime even more overtired. And as we mentioned above this means more of those alerting hormones will be secreted causing bedtime battles and night wakings! Late bedtimes and short naps create overtired children, and overtired children just don’t sleep well.
3 YOUR CHILD WAS ALREADY ASLEEP WHEN PUT INTO HIS OR HER CRIB/BED
If you’re waiting until your child is fully asleep before laying them down in their crib or bed, your child is dependent on you to fall asleep. This means if you’re nursing, walking, rocking, or bouncing your child to sleep at bedtime, each time he wakes up during the night he will need you to nurse, walk, rock, or bounce him back to sleep again. Learning to put oneself to sleep is a vital life skill that all children need to learn, and we can help them learn it! Because of the circadian rhythm, which we talked about briefly above, bedtime is the easiest time to fall asleep. If a child has not mastered falling asleep independently at this time, they will not be able to apply that skill to middle-of-the-night wakings, early wakings, or naptimes!
4 YOUR CHILD DOESN’T KNOW WHAT TO EXPECT AT NIGHT WAKINGS
Children need consistency - in sleep as well as most other aspects of parenting. When your child wakes at night, if you sometimes immediately go in and nurse her but other times let her cry, you’re sending her mixed messages which will just frustrate her even more...and more importantly, create more crying! Having a sleep plan on how to address night wakings (and ideally a plan that you created during the day) will set you up for success! Consistency in sleep coaching is the key to that success!
5 YOUR CHILD MAY HAVE AN UNDERLYING MEDICAL CONDITION
Sometimes persistent sleep trouble is due to an underlying medical condition, such as asthma, allergies, acid reflux, or sleep apnea. These situations might require medical evaluation and treatment prior to or in conjunction with sleep coaching. Please talk to your doctor about your sleep struggles and ask them to rule out any underlying medical problems that may be contributing to your child’s disturbed sleep. (more about this in the free download)
To better support you, I created a free guide “Child Won’t Sleep? Start Here!!”, so you can start healthy sleep habits. Click here to download the free guide
Erin McCormick
Your Pediatric Sleep Specialist. I have helped hundreds of parents teach their children to sleep independently. My goal is to improve your child’s sleep and provide you with all the knowledge needed to achieve this. I will give you honest information about why sleep is so important for your child and your family, which will give you even more motivation and confidence to be successful.