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How to help your child sleep in their cot


Your child will nod off in the car, in the shopping trolley, the buggy and always during a baby class, right?! So, why won’t they sleep in their cot? 

Whether you have a newborn who likes to be held, or a toddler who prefers your bed…I can help.

Let me start by saying this, if you and your child are getting some really good sleep – wherever that may be, then I’d like to send you a virtual high five and ask you to please take the pressure off yourself. You’re doing an amazing job.

If you have a young child and you are both happy to sleep with baby safely in arms, pram or anywhere you see fit – then there is no judgement here!

However, there are some advantages to napping and sleeping in a cot. 

One being that your child is likely to nap during the day until they are at least three years old, so the cot might be the safest and most practical place for them and you. 

And secondly, if your child is only used to napping in your arms, it may cause an issue when you can’t be around – at nursery for example.

And so, for many parents, establishing a good relationship between baby and cot early on, proves successful in terms of association and routine.

But that can be easier said than done!

Napping, and in particular refusal to nap in a cot, is a very common challenge with my families. And like most sleep issues, there are lots of different reasons why this happens, and often, some very simple solutions

As a Paediatric Sleep Consultant, I know that every child and every family is different – and each will have different needs and wishes. But, for the purpose of this article, here are five helpful, hints to helping your child sleep in their cot. 

1. Transfer your technique - For daytime naps, mirror whatever works at night time. So, if your child has a feed, a nappy change, goes into a sleeping bag and then lies in their cot drowsy and awake - repeat this at nap time. 

2. Read your child’s sleep cues – Yawning, slow movement, eyes not focused, rubbing of eyes. Try using this as your own cue to place your child in their cot. Some children nap longer than others, so it’s not always possible to schedule and time naps. Letting your child tell you when they need to nap might be more effective. 

3. The wind down ritual - Between naps, keep lighting bright, ensure your child is stimulated and well fed and then wind things down when they start to show signs of being tired. Perhaps dim the light slightly and read a story with some chatting and hugs. 

4. Set the scene – Ensure your child’s sleeping space is ready. If a dark, quiet room is preferred – prepare this in advance if you can. If white or pink noise is used – make sure you’re set up and ready to go. 

5. Ignore the clock – Don’t worry about the length of the nap to start with. If your child is getting to sleep in their cot at all, that’s fantastic! Well done you. Longer naps in the cot will come over time. Or maybe not! You may be anticipating fewer, longer naps for your child when in fact the need is for shorter naps. All naps are restorative, so if your little one needs several shorts nap, that’s absolutely fine. 

Please give these suggestions a go and see how you get on. Try to be patient and consistent. And please, please do not pressure yourself.

For your baby, sleeping alone in a cot is a really big deal so when you crack it, give yourself a big pat on the pat. It’s not always natural and easy. 

And finally, always, always do what works best for you. 

If you’d like to learn more or chat about your little one’s sleep, please get in touch for a no-obligation initial consultation.

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