Blowing the lid on Bath, Bottle and Bed
For many years experts have been promoting the concept of the B’s..that is Bath, Bottle and Bed. However, this ideal may only be suitable for a certain percentage of families and for the rest of us-in fact the majority of us, this approach could be one of the largest contributory factors to the sleep issues that you experience. If your child is 6 months of age or older, then what you do before they actually go to sleep, could stop them from developing their own sleep ability at bedtime which in turn increases the risk of their inability to cycle through their natural sleep phases without more parental input from you = night waking. This is not about unrealistic expectations or trying to make your child to sleep through the night before they are developmentally ready but it is about fostering positive sleep practises that decrease the exposure to unnecessary night time activity.
The reason behind many sleep difficulties is that there is a level of co-dependency on either the parent or the bottle or even a combination of both at bedtime specifically. If your child has a bottle within the last 30 minutes before bedtime and is either entirely asleep or even drowsy after the feed, then it is highly likely that your child will not be able to stitch their night time sleep phases together. Many families report that bedtime is an easy process with the bottle close to sleep time but if the same family report then that the trouble is maintaining consolidated night time sleep, among other contributory factors, the bottle is likely to be playing a part. I m not entirely sure who started the rumour of the Bath Bottle and Bed, it can work for some, but for most it is the root cause of night waking, long wake periods and early rising not to mention resistance to day time sleep.
To make sure that your child is not bottle dependent, and then I would suggest changing the order of your bedtime routine. I would encourage you to provide the final bottle at least 45 minutes before your anticipate your child will need to be asleep. It is helpful to take the bottle completely out of the process of sleep and start to think of it as a beverage before bedtime rather than a sleepy feed.. Offer your child the bottle 45m – 1 hour before bedtime, this can mean that it is close to dinner time and if you are concerned then move dinner earlier slightly to accommodate. Allow your child to have this drink, in the living space, with their day clothes with the lights on. Don’t encourage your child to relax with this drink, encourage them to actively drink it and then you can move on with the rest of the bedtime process.
The next B is the bath and for me this is not a pre-requisite for sleep. There are merits to providing a bath to some children-especially if you are treating eczema and of course some children are relaxed by it and can help promote a smooth bedtime routine but of course it can be a huge undertaking, especially if you are working parents or indeed parents to more than one child. It may also mean that some children get wired after the bath specifically if they are having their bath when in fact they should already be asleep. Also, if you are doing a bath then make sure that there is at least 30 minutes to allow for the body temperature to regulate. Of course another idea is to have baths entirely separate to sleep, either in the morning or during the day when it may be used as an activity and everyone can enjoy it. Even if you do provide a bath, remember it doesn’t need to be every day either.
The most important B is the bedtime routine: the corner stone of healthy sleep practises. Provide a pre- sleep ritual in the bedroom that your child will sleep in, for at least 20 minutes before they will sleep, in a dimly lit environment, with plenty of physical and eye and low impact games and then encourage your child to start to develop their own ability to go to sleep which will potentially open up the skill-set to stay asleep overnight.
I wonder would it be acceptable to introduce a new B, the bottle of wine for the parents for all their hard work-used responsibly of course!
Lucy Wolfe, CGSC, MAPSC, is a paediatric sleep consultant, Author of The baby Sleep Solution and mum of four young children. She runs a private sleep consulting practice with her 98%-effective formula for sleep she provides knowledge, expertise and valuable support to families across the country. See www.sleepmatters.ie <http://www.sleepmatters.ie>, t: 087 2683584 or e: email@example.com