I have been hearing from parents that this abrupt change in life and schedule, with the Quarantine, has completely derailed their baby or toddler’s sleep. Their little one’s, once predictable and consistent routine, ceases to exist and their sleep is dramatically suffering.
I receive a lot of concerns along the lines:
- How do I get back on track with sleep?
- Should I still keep the same routine?
- Can I allow them to sleep in?
- Bedtimes are getting later and later.
- Waking throughout the night for long periods of time.
- My baby/child is skipping naps.
All of these are very frustrating but also understandable given the quick adjustment to “normal” life. We have stopped school, play dates, daycare, sports, activities, etc. We are limiting our exposure to interaction with others and now are trying to adapt to the new way of life.
Babies and toddlers CRAVE AND NEED routine. By no means am I saying that they are required to be on a regimented schedule down to the minute. However, they do need consistency and healthy boundaries. During this Pandemic, we are currently experiencing, our kiddos feel and are experiencing the shift. They may not fully understand or be able to successfully communicate their feelings and emotions but giving them consistency and boundaries is what gives them back their comfort. They need to have a safe place to express their discomfort, big emotions and feeling unsettled. Even though, babies and toddlers appear to want to make their own decisions or “sleep when they are tired”… THEY DO NOT WANT TO BE THE LEADER. They are ever so growing and testing boundaries and power struggles are what helps them to grow and learn what is right and what is wrong.
Structure, consistency and predictability is what allows our babies and toddlers to be able to grow and feel different emotions and experiences in a more inclusive way. They can be “all in”. Just like we wouldn’t wait for our babies to tell us they are hungry or need their diaper changed; they shouldn’t be making the decision to when it is bedtime. We, as their parents or caregivers, know what is an age appropriate bedtime and we need to stay consistent with it.
I understand that not every day is going to be perfect and there are appointments and activities… such is life. BUUUUUUTTTT… keeping the majority of your day to be routine is very important for your baby and toddlers development. Getting proper sleep positively impacts their eating, playing, thinking, concentration, memory, etc. Sleep is important as food and water. We NEED it to feel good, to be healthy and to be at our best!
Tips for transitioning through the Quarantine:
- Keep a normal wake up time! It doesn’t have to be at 6:00 am in the morning, like it may have been for daycare or school, but I would keep it around 7-8 am.
- Stay consistent with their daily eating schedule. Breakfast, lunch and dinner keep at pretty regular times. This will help their bodies to produce Melatonin at the appropriate times.
- GET ACTIVE! GET OUTSIDE AND PLAY! Take nature walks or hikes, find a creek and splash in the water, ride bikes or scooters, push your baby in a stroller, lay a blanket down outside and let your baby explore the grass and sunshine, scavenger hunts, plant flowers, etc.
- I know parents are concerned about their child’s learning and not being able to attend school. At this age, the best way of learning is through experience and nature. So, like previously stated above… get outside!!!!
- Limit screen time. I KNOW this is extremely hard!!!! I UNDERSTAND! However, set specific times of day for screen time. You will see a MAJOR change in your little one’s behavior. Their attitude, attention span and imagination really will start to flourish!
- NO SCREEN TIME before bed. The blue light from electronics tricks our brains into thinking it is time to be awake and stops producing Melatonin and starts producing Serotonin= second wind!
- Age appropriate bedtime!!!!! I recommend anywhere between 6:30-7:30 pm.
- If you are having trouble with an early bedtime with it staying light longer… BLACKOUT SHADES WITH BLACKOUT CURTAINS. Works like a charm!
- Earlier dinner, between 5:00-6:00 pm. Babies and toddlers get H.A.N.G.R.Y. at the end of the day and will end up snacking too much if dinner is too late. Dinner rolls around and they are running on fumes, their attention space ceases to exist and they filled up snacks and drinks.
- Get outside or have free play after dinner. Like mentioned above, your kiddos are running on fumes and their lack of focus and impulse control is dwindling faster and faster. Evening hours is not the best time for educational/academic lessons. Let you kiddos release their tension, pent up emotions and last sillies out before bedtime!
- Consistent bedtime and bedtime routine. I cannot stress enough how important a bedtime routine is!!!! It doesn’t have to be an hour long with 50 different steps. It should be around 20-30 minutes long (including bath time) with a progression leading up to bedtime. This will help your little one’s bodies wind down and relax to get ready for the transition into sleep.
Remember… life is every changing and evolving. These are not normal times and we need to give ourselves Grace and know we are doing the best we possibly can. Every day is not going to be perfect but everyday will be a blessing!
Stay Healthy and Stay Safe!