As we are in the midst of a global pandemic, there are so many questions surrounding our day to day. How long will this last? When will I go back to work? How will my child continue progressing in school without actually being at school? How will I balance working at home and taking care of my kids? Is it safe to go to the grocery store? Will I find what I need? When can I have friends over again? Or schedule a play date? Will this wedding be cancelled? What about the baby shower? I could go on and on with the questions we’re all wondering right now, and I don’t think anyone has an answer.
Although I’m not a pro in survival grocery lists, meal prepping, or the best kid activities by age, I do have several years of experience teaching elementary and I’m a certified sleep consultant, so I know kids. And I know the effect that poor sleep and unpredictable days have on them. So here are a few tips, per your child’s age, to help you feel better equipped to navigate such a time.
- Awake windows– An awake window is the amount of time your child is awake between sleeps (including eating and playing). Your baby may not be on a fixed schedule according to the clock, but his or her little body is still craving a schedule! By following your baby’s awake windows + tired cues, you can ensure you will not be fighting overtiredness when approaching naps or bedtime. Because when a baby (or anyone, for that matter) is overtired, it makes it so much harder to fall and stay asleep. Here are some general awake window “norms”:
0-6 weeks: 45-60 minutes
6-12 weeks: 60-90 minutes
4-6 months: 1.5-2.5 hours
6-12 months: 2-3.5 hours
12-18 months: 3-4 hours
18 months-3 years: 4-5 hours
- Feeding times– Try to avoid feeding your baby within about 10 minutes of sleep, on either side, as that creates and promotes a feed-to-sleep association. In order to promote independent sleep skills, we want to make sure that we are not feeding our child at least 10 minutes before sleep, and that we’re waiting at least 10 minutes after sleep to feed, as feeding to sleep is one of the quickest and easiest sleep props to get stuck on.
- Screen time– I am not going to tell you how much screen time your child should have and when your child should or should not have screen time, because that is a choice each family makes. But as a teacher, I want to remind you that there are millions of ways to engage kids and to help nurture their creative and independent thinking that does not involve screens. And as a sleep consultant, I want to encourage you to turn screens off at least an hour before bedtime, to help your child best prepare for sleep. We all have natural melatonin that starts releasing in the evening to help us fall asleep at bedtime, however the blue light emitted from screens can actually block that release of melatonin, making it really difficult to fall asleep (for kids and adults!).
- One-on-one time– If you are now finding yourself responsible for homeschooling your child the remainder of the year, I first want to remind you: YOU ARE ENOUGH. You may not be a trained teacher or have any idea how to do the crazy math your child is learning, but you are absolutely enough! And although these days can feel long, I want to encourage you to try to find space, even just 10 minutes, where you can have one-on-one time with your child, doing something your child enjoys. That may be reading, coloring, baking, playing a game, going for a walk, or chatting over a snack, but make it a priority to engage with your children during this time. Not only will that be a space your child looks forward to each day, but that special mom or dad time aids in sleep, too. Older kids, especially, tend to have more anxieties and fears around bedtime, and we’ve found that having more one-on-one time with parents during the day can actually relieve some of those anxieties and help our kids get a better night’s sleep.
- Routines– I’m not going to give you the “perfect daily schedule” here, because I’ve seen hundreds flying around the internet for you to choose from, and you can also make your own. Some of you will want each 30 minute block of your day scheduled, and that makes others cringe. Whatever your preference is, having a few touch points during the your child can predict and expect are key to helping them feel grounded. Teachers always have some sort of daily schedule up for students to see, and it’s helpful for everybody to stay on track. Maybe your meal times are set so your child knows when they’re coming, or maybe everyone has an afternoon nap/rest built in. It could be a breakfast then morning chores, a lunch time TV show, or a post-dinner walk; anything to help your child feel some sense of predictability. And of course, a nap time and bedtime routine! Routines are so crucial in helping your child’s body and mind register what’s coming, and being prepared to transition to sleep is just as important.
- Time outside– We all need a fresh air and a vitamin D pick-me-up during the day, so remember to get outside! As teachers, we know how important recess is for our kiddos, and it never seems to be enough. But when we’re home, it can be so easy to forget we still need recess! Finding time to get outside in the morning and afternoon is not only good for our bodies and minds, but again, it’s good for our sleep! The sunlight helps keep our body clocks on track, and we all know how much better we sleep when we’ve had some fresh air.
Do you know why I chose Via Graces as my business name? Not only did Olivia’s sleep stump me for far too many sleepless months, but becoming a parent immediately taught me how much GRACE we all need! We need to give ourselves and each other so much grace! If reading this makes you more overwhelmed and extends your to do list, that is okay. Keep doing what you need to do to keep yourself and your family above water during such an uncertain time, and remember, you are enough! If you’re reading this and still feeling lost in your child’s sleep patterns and habits and would like some more help, please reach out! I always start with a FREE discovery call so I can hear more about what sleep currently looks like and what your ideal would be, and then I can share more about how we can work together. Book your call now so we can chat!
We will all get through this together, even though we feel so far apart.