The earlier you introduce good sleep habits, the better for you and your baby. But if you have a toddler who still wakes up several times a night, or a pre-school child who simply won't go to bed, don't despair! It is never too late to reclaim your nights for sleeping.
Not surprisingly, as your child grows his sleep needs change. Most significantly, you can expect him to cut out his daytime nap as his overall sleep requirements fall.
Dropping daytime naps
Your child will let you know when he is ready to reduce his daytime sleeps.
From two to one: When he is ready to cut back from two naps to one, you can expect him no longer to show signs of tiredness in the morning, but to fall asleep in the afternoon.
- - You may need to move your lunchtime forward a little, otherwise there is a danger of him falling asleep at the table!
- From one to none: Dropping his last nap can be a bit more of a problem. Your child may push his nap back later and later, until it begins to interfere with his bedtime. At this stage you may need to take the initiative to eliminate it.
- - Create gentle playing time to stimulate him, but don't embark on anything too boisterous - he is liable to be grumpy by late afternoon as his body adapts to life without a siesta, and rough and tumble games may well end in tears.
- - You may find it difficult to keep your child awake if you take him out in the car or pushchair at his normal nap time - for example, if you have to pick up older children from school. If possible, try to alter your routine slightly for a couple of weeks while he gets used to his new sleep-free days. Perhaps you could ask someone else to pick up his older sibling. If this isn't possible, try to keep him awake by telling him stories or singing songs and playing observation games together.
- - Finally, be prepared to start your child's bedtime routine earlier as he drops his daytime nap. Don't worry that this will mean he is up at the crack of dawn: although his total sleep requirement has fallen, he will still need to add some of his former day-sleep time to his night sleep in order to compensate for his lost nap, so he should in fact sleep for longer at night.