Sleep Problems: Prevention (6 Months to 2 Years)
Your 6 month-old baby should be sleeping through the night. Hopefully he's been doing it for several months. Sleep is very important for children. Well-rested children behave better and learn faster.
- Continue to place your baby in the crib when drowsy but partially awake.
The ability to go to sleep by themselves is very important for children to learn.
- Provide a friendly soft toy for your child to hold in her crib.
At the age of 6 months, children start to be aware and sometimes fearful of separation from their parents. A stuffed animal, doll, or blanket can comfort your child when he wakes up during the night. Exception: if your baby can't easily roll over both ways, don't place any soft objects in the crib until he can.
- During the day, respond to any separation fears by holding and reassuring your child.
This lessens nighttime fears and is especially important for children who have limited hours with their mother because she has to return to work.
- For middle-of-the-night fears, make contacts prompt and reassuring.
For mild nighttime fears, check on your child promptly. Reassure the child, but do not stay very long. If your child panics when you leave, or vomits with crying, stay in your child's room until she is either calm or goes to sleep. Do not take her out of the crib. Keep the light off and do not talk too much. You may sit next to the crib with your hand on her. These measures will calm even a severely upset infant.
- Establish a pleasant and predictable bedtime routine.
Bedtime routines, which can start in the early months, become very important to a child by 1 year of age. Children need a familiar routine. This could include reading or making up stories, as well as kissing and hugging the child "goodnight." Make sure that your child's security objects are nearby. Finish the bedtime routine before your child falls asleep.
- Encourage naps.
Naps are important to young children. It is best to keep naps less than 2 hours long. Children stop having morning naps between 18 months and 2 years of age and give up their afternoon naps between 3 and 6 years of age.
- Don't worry about noises or movements during your child's sleep.
During dreams, children often display face-twitching, fist-clenching, or even eye-rolling. This does not mean the child is having a bad dream. Many children also have muscle jerks while dozing off to sleep. Overall, anything short of not breathing is probably normal sleep behavior.
- Switch from a crib to a bed at age 2 or 2 1/2.
Climbing out of a crib could result in a serious head injury. It is not possible to climb-proof a crib. Change to a bed if your child learns how to climb out of a crib with the springs at the lowest setting. Until you find a bed, put the mattress on the floor, use a sleeping bag, or keep the crib railing down and place a chair next to the crib so your child can descend safely. Do not buy bunk beds. They have a terrible injury rate with children of all ages.
- Once put to bed, your child should stay there.
Some toddlers have temper tantrums at bedtime. They may protest about bedtime or even refuse to lie down. You should ignore these protests and leave the room. You can ignore any ongoing questions or demands your child makes. Once your child is in a regular bed, you must enforce the rule that your child can't leave the bedroom. If your child comes out, return her quickly to the bedroom and avoid any conversation. If you respond to her protests in this way every time, she will learn not to try to prolong bedtime.
- If your child has nightmares or bedtime fears, reassure him.
Never ignore your child's fears or punish him for having fears. Everyone has 4 or 5 dreams a night. Some of these are bad dreams. If nightmares become frequent, try to determine what might be causing them, such as something your child might have seen on TV. R-rated movies (especially horror movies) are a high risk factor at any age.
- Don't worry about the amount of sleep your child is getting.
Different children need different amounts of sleep at different ages. If your child is not tired upon awakening or during the day, she is probably getting enough sleep.
Written by B.D. Schmitt, MD, author of "Your Child's Health," Bantam Books.
Published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2009-06-19
Last reviewed: 2010-06-02
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes
available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical
evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a health care professional.