Calm and Gentle Ways to Help Your Baby Sleep
Bedtime Battles don’t really go away. The past few months I have made a sensory discovery to our two year old’s problem. She had started a new annoying bedtime habit a few months ago and searching for the solution led me to discover a whole new outlook towards parenting positively and baby sleep.
Usually the reason why a child has trouble falling asleep is because there is something bothering them. It is possible that some need hasn’t been met. When we take an empathetic approach to their bedtime issues, we can see that there are a variety of things that can be troubling them and it is possible to find a simple solution.
I came across this article a few months ago and it made me curious to know more about Sensory Perception Disorder. Our daughter is normal. She doesn’t have any psychological issues and she has been evaluated by her doctor to rule out any disabilities. At first, I felt like I was labelling my child because what I read about sensory perception made me feel like my daughter had some sensory issue that was making her behave the way she was. I knew she was not SPD but I was sure it was something similar that we were dealing with.
My daughter’s problem is that she is very clingy at bedtime. She wasn’t always like this and I used to call her my perfect baby but then this behaviour started a few months ago. She likes to hold on to our arm at bedtime. She will run her fingers up and down our arm, tug at us and would get up repeatedly through the night calling for us. We were forced to bring her to our bed because of repeatedly waking up every night. Sometimes, she would also sway her arms in the air or sleep holding the rails on her cot.
October is Sensory Awareness Month. To help spread the awareness and educate parents, caregivers and educators all around, I have joined Dayna of Lemon Lime Adventures with Decoding Everyday Kids behaviour. Everyday, starting October 1st to 7th November, 40+ bloggers have been focusing on normal behaviours and finding simple do-able solutions that can help you become a positive parent.
In September, I read about Dayna’s Project Sensory and instantly felt a connection to what her message to the world was. We all have sensory needs. It is how our body interprets those signals that governs our behavior. Sometimes those senses don’t work well. It isn’t about being sick… think of it as being irritated by something and behaving as a result of that irritation. When this happens, it can be called as a sensory reaction.
Sensory perception disorder or sensory integration is when one or more of our senses are over or underacting and we are unable to integrate those senses within ourselves.
It made me think of my daughter’s case in that light. I found that if I grasped her hand when she was tickling me and held it tight, she would stop wiggling. She was more relaxed and fell asleep easily too. I also found that she hated hugs and body touch at bedtime. She also hated blankets and shawls but she loved to hold something hard in her hand. Something that was like an anchor to her. It made me think about Proprioceptive sensory. I like to describe it as being misplaced in space… like you are flying about in space and falling. Like we are trying to reach out to hold on to something to steady ourselves. That, is what I felt, our little girl was feeling. We made a few changes and she was able to sleep well.
What can Sensory methods mean for Baby Sleep.
Using sensory methods to solve your child’s bedtime problem will mean addressing your child’s sensory needs. We all want our baby to sleep but we often are overwhelmed with how to help them sleep naturally. Using sensory methods mean that you are thinking of what your child needs or is seeking and giving him that. I am not experienced with sensory issues but I have been a mom to four little ones and I have solved our bed time issues using sensory methods. My approach has always been to ask ‘why are they doing this’. Here are 15 things that we have tried and worked with my normal children. (Please note: For your convenience, some of the links below are affiliate links.)
1. Nature sounds: Sometimes, a calm environment is all that is needed. You can create that kind of environment by playing soft soothing nature sounds. Music boxes that play such kind of sounds with water trickling, birds chirping and wind blowing are available. (We have this one.
2. Soothing massage and a bath: A massage can ease those tense muscles while providing a reassuring touch too. A bath always helps to relax, be it adults or kids!
3. Weighted blankets. Some children benefit greatly with a heavy blanket. These are especially helpful when a child has a Proprioceptive Sensory need. It helps to put a little weight on the body giving them a sense of security and belonging. MaryAnne from Mama Smiles -Joyful Parenting has a fantastic tutorial to help you make your own.
4. Rocking to sleep: Some children benefit from rocking themselves to sleep. I am not talking about the parent rocking them but the child rocking them self. I grew up with Proprioceptive need and rocking myself in my dad’s chair for half an hour every night really helped me sleep better.
5. Holding hands or weights in hands: Some times holding something heavy like small dumbbells or a heavy toy helps children who have a tactile and proprioceptive need. We have a small duckling with beads sewn in it.
6. Have a routine. One thing that all parents who have better sleepers agree on is routines. A consistent time table with appropriately set nap and feeding times assures that a child will only be fed when hungry and sleep when tired. It also ensures that the child is not having too much sleep or too much energy at bedtime. Having a definite routine can help not only your normal child but also special ones!
7. Sensory play: Playing with items that can help them use their senses helps all children. Play dough, sand, slime, light tables, making noise and just plain messy play can really help children and not just those with sensory needs. Our toddler benefited in so many ways with sensory play.
8. Soft shawl or cuddlies. Children who don’t benefit from weighted blankets do well with light soft shawls or cuddlies. My toddler doesn’t like blankets or babyGro but she likes to sleep holding her cuddlie or shawl. Some babies sleep better when they hold onto their mum’s scarf. It smells like their mum!
9. Sucking need. Some breastfeeding mums complain about their child feeding all night even though their baby has long outgrown the need to be fed at night. The reason is usually because the child either has not had enough proteins through the day and is genuinely hungry or he or she has a oral need to suck. If your baby has been taking his or her proteins and you think the latter is the case then, introducing a sippy can help. We faced this problem with our toddler after I weaned her off the breast shortly after her first birthday. Introducing a sippy helped her overcome her need to suck. We found that she was more comfortable to sleep at bedtime without a feed.
10. High protein meal before bedtime not good. Although having a good protein meal is necessary for any child but having it close to bedtime isn’t right. Protein takes some time to digest and gives off longer lasting energy for the child. Children need this kind of energy half way through the day. This is also the time when your child is more eager to have all of his meal rather than at bedtime when he is tired and cranky.
11. Limit screen time before bedtime. Too much screen time will cause your child’s mind to be very active. When that screen time is at bedtime, it becomes even more difficult for your child to shut off his mind and retire. This means, the child is more likely to have nightmares too.
12. Cream and oil massages. Massaging with oils and creams helps with sleep too. Some oils like lavender is known for its calming and sleep inducing properties.
13. Regular relaxing activity. It is so important to keep the bedtime environment light and relaxing. Our children always cooperate and sleep better after a fun story and a good laugh. Our older though, likes to draw something before bedtime. Whatever goes… Just make sure it is relaxing and you don’t let them get too excited.
14. Get some good exercise after dinner. What do you do with a child who is always very active… to the extent of being hyperactive at bedtime? Know what I mean? You need to let them burn off that energy before they can sleep. Take them outside for a good run or if you can let them jump or have some heavy exercise. This trick was taught to me by my Psychotherapist sister who works with special needs children. Some nights… I swear by this for my full of energy son!
15. Night light or projector lights. Some babies sleep better when they have something like this to make them sleepy. Like we adults counts sheep only this is more visual!
I have since become an affiliate to Project Sensory and proud of it. Dayna has started this project to put tools into the hands of parents, care givers and educators to spread awareness and help for those with sensory needs. Project sensory is full of information on what sensory perception is and how it can help not only those with special needs but also those children who are absolutely normal but need some help with their behaviour. The products that are available are:
|Click to learn more…|
Sensory Fix™: A kit that contains a backpack full of 15 tools to help not only children with special needs buts also those who are normal. It empowers parents and educators while also giving the child access to positive solutions for their own need. These are tools that Dayna had put together for her special child but has used for her normal kids too. I especially love how each tool comes with the instructions as to who it can help and how!
Printables: The Membership comes with a years subscription to free printable that can help parents and children to have structure as well as creative positive activities that can help their sensory needs.
The one thing that I like best about Project Sensory is that it gives ideas as well as education to the parent. It gives them control in helping their sensory child.
Whats more is that for every 20 kits sold, one will be donated to a school for free!
I highly recommend that you check out Project Sensory… if not for the products, then atleast, for free information and education it provides. You can follow them on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram.
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Are you that parent who is troubled by your little one’s sleeping habits every night?