IT is advisable to start sooner rather than later when trying to establish a bedtime routine for your baby. Among other things, experts don't recommend that you co-sleep with your child, but many mothers still do this -- a habit that can continue into the child's school years.
And when the habit continues, then come the stories of monsters under the bed, and a dependency on sleeping with an adult that will be hard to break.
Here are some tips for establishing a proper sleep routine, and getting your child to sleep alone.
1. Note that, as paediatrician Dr Michelle Beckford said, it's not going to be an easy thing to get your child to start sleeping alone. "The child is going to resist sleeping alone and there will be a lot of crying late at nights. There will be a lot of waking up and coming to mommy and daddy's bed, so the parents will just have to be firm about it, but in a gentle and loving way."
2. Regardless of how old your child is, it is quite likely going to prove difficult to get them to sleep in their own beds, once they have grown accustomed to sleeping in yours. Ideally, children should start sleeping in their own beds by the age of two.
3. Just locking them in their room at nights and hoping that they will eventually go to sleep won't necessarily work for children who are afraid. Try to find out the reasons behind their fears and address them accordingly. Putting a night light in a dark room, for example, can help to make their sleeping environment less scary.
4. Make your child's room as comfortable as possible. Let them play a part in determining the decor of their room, since they will be the ones who have to sleep in it. If they are excited about the room, then chances are they may have no problem spending a lot of time there.
5. Be understanding, but be clear when children have to be moved to their own room. Be firm. Do not fall prey to their pleadings to sleep with you unless they have a justifiable cause.
6. From early on, institute a schedule and bedtime routine. This is possible even for little babies. Cut nap times during the day, feed the child just before bed and make bedtime enjoyable for your child by reading their favourite stories or playing a game.
7. Some babies can sleep through the night as early as six weeks old, but for many it won't happen until four to six months, or later. At this stage, the baby should be able to sleep for up to eight hours.
8. Don't allow the child to watch violent shows before going to bed.