Sleeping woes, the night before Christmas

We all want a good night’s sleep before the long awaited day arrives. Read on for tips on how to get a new baby, a frightened toddler or an excitable child, sleeping more over the festive season.

Kate Barlow
Parenting Consultant

Kate Barlow, a Parenting Consultant and founder of The Parent Consultancy, has a 100% success rate with helping families with parenting issues. Kate’s aim is to equip parents with techniques and the confidence to overcome their everyday parenting issues such as eating, sleeping, behaviour and toilet training. By offering parents help, support and advice, Kate gives them the confidence to deal successfully with their child’s issue. Techniques and methods are tailored to suit differing parenting styles and children. For individual advice you can contact Kate Barlow direct at:
Speak to me on 0905 675 4705, £1.23/min from a BT landline; calls from mobiles and other networks may vary.

How do I get my three-month-old baby to sleep before Christmas?

Although your baby will still need at least one feed during the night, you can achieve more sleep by establishing good habits and teaching them to self soothe. The aim at this age is not to make your baby sleep through the night, but to make the night wakings as short as possible, with a quick feed and then back to bed.

Ensure your baby has the correct cues for sleep and doesn’t rely on you to rock or feed them to sleep. If a baby has the ability to fall asleep unaided, they will wake because they are hungry and settle back to sleep again quickly. Babies’ bedtime should be predictable and follow the same sequence of events each night. Don’t expect your baby to fall into a routine straight away; establishing a good routine takes time. If they cry when you put them down; reassure by “sshhing”, stroking or patting until they are soothed into a sleepy state and then leave them to fall asleep on their own.

The room should be warm, dark and quiet – don’t turn on lights or take them out of the bedroom for night feeds. Using the same method for nap and bedtimes will provide baby with the correct cues for sleep. Introducing dream feed can help baby to sleep for longer, as baby doesn’t need to wake-up for this feed, which is usually given between 10pm and 11pm. If your baby is breastfed, offer the breast. If baby is too tired, a bottle of expressed milk can be easier for this feed.

My seven-year-old is beside himself with excitement about Christmas, this has disrupted his sleep. He finds it hard to settle, gets out of his bed and doesn’t fall asleep until really late. He is so tired the next day. How can I ensure he gets a good night’s sleep?

Christmas is so exciting. He is not being naughty; it’s just that the excitement is not conducive to sleep. Children are bombarded with Christmas from early December, so it’s not surprising that the excitement builds. However, it’s important to be consistent and to have some ground rules. Try to keep bedtimes at the same time, with the same routine and allow him to wind down sufficiently. TV, computer games and rough play are not conducive to sleep as they can all act as stimulants.

Once he is in bed, he should not get out again; he can read, but must not get up until morning. Give him a set time to get up. His routine should include going to the toilet, and leave a drink of water by the bed; as these are all excuses for getting out of bed. Children thrive on praise so introduce a reward system where he can earn verbal praise as well as stickers, marbles or treats for staying in bed. Finding the right incentive and sticking to the rules is key to the success. If he knows you will give in after a few nights or will get the privileges for bad behaviour, it simply won’t work. You may have to be creative with incentives in time when they lose their appeal. Don’t give any attention to undesired behaviour. If he gets out of bed don’t get drawn into a conversation; just take him straight back again. Interacting with him or giving drinks and cuddles will encourage him to stay awake.

My three-year-old is terrified of Father Christmas coming and doesn’t want to go to sleep on her own on Christmas Eve. How can I calm her down?

The concept of Santa is rather strange. We encourage our children to be cautious of strangers, but then expect them to accept Santa visiting and leaving presents in their bedroom during the night. It’s not surprising that young children are unsure and in some cases, frightened. Some parents are happy to explain to their children that Santa doesn’t exist, but I advise parents to reassure their child as much as possible before taking away the magic of Christmas.

It’s important not to dismiss anxiety or to laugh. Reassure her by reading stories, and if she is willing, take her to see Santa in a grotto. Some children don’t mind Santa during the day, it’s the thought of him visiting during the night they find scary. Leave a note for Santa asking him to put the presents under the tree or outside her bedroom door. Stick to the regular bedtime routine; and don’t remind her of Santa’s visit just before bed. When the gifts are left on Christmas Day, the anxiety soon disappears.