Sweet Dreams and Bedtime Routines

From newborns to toddlers, there are things you can do to promote a better chance of a good night’s sleep for everyone


Published:

Shutterstock photo

As many new parents know, the phrase “sleep like a baby” can be misleading. The National Sleep Foundation recommends between 14 to 17 hours of sleep for newborns and 11 to 14 hours for toddlers, but how and when they get those precious hours of sleep varies from child to child and even between siblings.

“My daughter was born almost two weeks after her due date and the first night home she slept six hours,” says Dave Stewart who lives in the Madison Park neighborhood in Charlotte. “Our fortune did not make it to our second child. Our son was three weeks early and he slept a lot during the day but night time was a different story.”

After several weeks of pulling all nighters, Stewart and his wife went in search of a solution. They found it in a sleepsuit designed to give baby a secure “swaddled” feel when back sleeping. Stewart says it was a game changer and happily reports his son, who is 4 months old, now sleeps five to six hours at a stretch.

“We are still a little bleary eyed in the mornings but feel much more rested,” he says.

Most parents expect the first few months with baby to be challenging, especially in the sleep department, but there are things you can do to help everyone catch some much needed shut-eye.

Preparation and Routine Are Key

Even for the newest addition to the family, there are things parents can do to encourage good sleep habits right away. Dr. Rhonda Patt, a pediatrician at Charlotte Pediatric Clinic and Regional Medical Director of Atrium Health, encourages parents to promote daytime wakefulness and keep light and stimulation low at night.

“Nothing prepares new parents for the sleep deprivation they will experience when their bundle of joy arrives,” Patt says. “When a baby first comes into the world, her body does not know the difference between daytime and nighttime.” More activity during the day and a calmer night routine can help baby untangle days and nights.

Meg Hendery, owner of Queen City Newborn Care suggests stocking up on a few keys, including a white noise machine, blackout curtains and a great swaddle blanket at the ready. Parents may also want to consider sleepsuits like Stewart and his family used for their son.

“Sleep suits are totally fine until baby starts rolling,” Hendery says. “At that point, baby has to go to a sleep sack that typically has a zipper or Velcro.”

Of course, routine is the ultimate weapon in promoting healthy sleep habits, especially as children get older.

“It’s important to have a bedtime routine which subconsciously is a ‘yellow brick road’ to sleep,” says Dr. Lili Poon, a pediatric sleep specialist with Novant Health Pediatric Sleep Specialists. “Avoid letting your child spend lots of non-sleep time in bed. Keeping activities separate from the bed allows them to associate the bed with restful sleep.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends a bedtime routine of helping children brush their teeth, reading a favorite book or two, and getting to bed at a regular time each night.

When Sleep Is a Problem

Babies and toddlers go through good and more difficult sleep periods just like adults can. Lack of sleep, however, can lead to serious problems. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, adequate sleep on a regular basis leads to improved attention, behavior, learning, memory, emotional regulation, and mental and physical health, while over-tired children are at increased risk for injuries, obesity and depression.

Sleep and lack thereof should be part of the conversation at routine checkups with your child’s pediatrician.

“Because sleep is developmental, what is normal for a 3-month-old, would be different from that of a 9-month-old. If a toddler is still waking in the night and sleepy during the day these could be signs of a sleep disorder that may warrant further investigation,” Patt says. “The most common sleep disorders seen in toddlers are night terrors, sleepwalking, nightmares, sleep apnea and restless leg syndrome.”

Clues your child may be suffering from a sleeping disorder could include behavioral issues, delays in learning, long breathing pauses, loud snoring and growth issues, Poon says. Some of these disorders could be reversed with more restful sleep.

Whether your baby is a champion sleeper or prefers to howl at the moon, Patt says to keep things in perspective.

“These long nights may seem endless, but that time in your young baby’s life will pass like a blink of an eye. Try to treasure some of those precious moments.”

From Crib to the Big Bed

How did we get here so fast? One moment you were bringing baby home and now it’s time to think about transitioning to a big-boy or big-girl bed. Morgan Griffith, owner of Sleep Pea Consulting suggests these tips on making the milestone move easier.

Start talking with your child about the transition long before it happens and see how they respond. If they seem resistant or upset about the idea, wait a few more weeks before bringing it up again.

Scout out the room before the first night. Get on your toddler’s level and see what the room looks like at bedtime. Is the ceiling fan casting scary shadows on the wall? Is too much light coming in from a window or does a dark corner look frightening?

Set expectations for your toddler before the transition. In all the excitement it can be easy to forget discussing the rules. Talk with your toddler about when he or she can get up and and what they can and can’t do in their room during sleeping hours.

Reward elements of the bedtime routine, but not sleeping. Give your toddler positive reinforcement for brushing teeth, picking out books, selecting pajamas and other tasks. Sleeping and a good bedtime routine should be expected, not treated as a chore that warrants a reward.

For the first few weeks, consider an earlier bedtime. Moving to a big bed is exciting but might also include protest about going to sleep or endless requests for water. Getting started earlier hopefully mean more sleep for everyone.

Use a toddler clock. Tell your child the time he or she can get out of bed and teach them how to read the numbers on the clock. Some clocks come with a nightlight that toddlers may find comforting.


Courtney McLaughlin is a freelance writer who had her now 12-year-old daughter sleeping through the night at 7 weeks old. Her luck ran out when her daughter turned 3.

 

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July 2020

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Cost: $6-$15, children 4 and younger free

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Cost: $6-$15, children 4 and younger free

Where:
Mint Museum Randolph
2730 Randolph Road
, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Multiplied: Edition MAT and the Transformable Work of Art examines the rise of three-dimensional objects issued in editions, which emerged as an international phenomenon in the 1960s and 1970s.

Cost: $5-$9, children younger than 10 free

Where:
Bechtler Museum of Modern Art
420 S. Tryon St.
, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

The Things Come Apart exhibit reveals the inner workings of common, everyday items. Images explore how things are designed and how technology has evolved over time.

Cost: $6-$7, children 3 and younger free, included with admission

Where:
Schiele Museum
1500 E. Garrison Blvd.
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View map »


Website »

More information

This exhibit explores the various aspects of walls, which includes the artistic, social, political and historical aspects, as well as the physical barriers like fences or sand berms. The space is...

Cost: $6-$15, children 4 and younger free, included with admission

Where:
Mint Museum Uptown
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View map »


Website »

More information

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Cost: $15

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Sponsor: Pinkyswear Foundation
Contact Name: Valorie Liggett
Website »

More information

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View map »


Website »

More information

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View map »


Website »

More information

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Cost: Free

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View map »


Sponsor: The Billy Graham Library
Website »

More information

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Website »

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Website »

More information

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Cost: 250

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View map »


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Telephone: 980-292-1593
Contact Name: AerialCLT
Website »

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More information

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Cost: $6 for parking

Where:
USNWC
5000 Whitewater Center Pkwy.
, NC
View map »


Sponsor: USNWC
Website »

More information

This exhibition is the first to focus exclusively on the black basalt sculpture made by Josiah Wedgwood and other Staffordshire potters in late eighteenth-century England. 

Cost: $6-$15, children 4 and younger free

Where:
Mint Museum Randolph
2730 Randolph Road
, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Multiplied: Edition MAT and the Transformable Work of Art examines the rise of three-dimensional objects issued in editions, which emerged as an international phenomenon in the 1960s and 1970s.

Cost: $5-$9, children younger than 10 free

Where:
Bechtler Museum of Modern Art
420 S. Tryon St.
, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

The Things Come Apart exhibit reveals the inner workings of common, everyday items. Images explore how things are designed and how technology has evolved over time.

Cost: $6-$7, children 3 and younger free, included with admission

Where:
Schiele Museum
1500 E. Garrison Blvd.
Gastonia, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

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NarroWay Theatre
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View map »


Sponsor: NarroWay Productions
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Website »

More information

This exhibit explores the various aspects of walls, which includes the artistic, social, political and historical aspects, as well as the physical barriers like fences or sand berms. The space is...

Cost: $6-$15, children 4 and younger free, included with admission

Where:
Mint Museum Uptown
500 S. Tryon St.
, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Join us for our Pinkyswear Virtual Kids Triathlon event. This virtual event which kicks off formally on June 1st for all ages and abilities, and the triathlon can be completed anywhere! The...

Cost: $15

Where:
, NC


Sponsor: Pinkyswear Foundation
Contact Name: Valorie Liggett
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Adults and kids ages 10 years and older can swim, bike and run. A Kids' Tri and a Preschool Tri are offered as well. All finishers will receive a medal after crossing the bubble-filled finish...

Cost: $25-$55

Where:
Morrison Family YMCA
9405 Bryant Farms Road
, NC
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Various living history displays and reenactors will be present to interact with the museum guests telling of the US military involvement in the European Theater of Operations.

Cost: Free

Where:
Kings Mountain Historical Museum
100 East Mountain St.
Kings Mountain, NC
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Car owners and enthusiasts gather to celebrate their passion for cars and showcase their prized classics, customs and hot rods. Occurs the third Saturday of the month, excluding May and October.

Cost: Free

Where:
Charlotte Motor Speedway
5555 Concord Pkwy. S.
Concord, NC
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George Beverly Shea and Cliff Barrows presented faith of Jesus Christ in song. Come discover the ways the Lord used their efforts and their music to open hearts around the world. Read inspiring...

Cost: Free

Where:
The Billy Graham Library
4330 Westmont Drive
, NC
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Sponsor: The Billy Graham Library
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On Saturdays and Sundays from noon-5pm, the arcade bar opens to all ages with a parent or guardian present.

Cost: Cost for games

Where:
Abari Game Bar
1721 N. Davidson St.
, NC
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Telephone: 980-430-4587
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Live the story of Stephen and the Apostles. Experience the rousing power of ANNO DOMINI: the year of our Lord while enjoying a Greek dinner.

Cost: $10-$40

Where:
NarroWay Theater
3327 Highway 51
Fort Mill, SC  29715
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Bring the family to hear live music in Davidson this summer! Dates: April 18, May 16, June 20, July 18, Aug. 15, Sept. 19 and Oct. 17.

Cost: Free

Where:
Circles at 30
Jetton Street
Davidson, NC
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River Jam brings live music outdoors, right in the middle of the world’s largest man-made whitewater river. Hear music on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, as well as during each of...

Cost: $6 for parking

Where:
USNWC
5000 Whitewater Center Pkwy.
, NC
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Sponsor: USNWC
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This exhibition is the first to focus exclusively on the black basalt sculpture made by Josiah Wedgwood and other Staffordshire potters in late eighteenth-century England. 

Cost: $6-$15, children 4 and younger free

Where:
Mint Museum Randolph
2730 Randolph Road
, NC
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Multiplied: Edition MAT and the Transformable Work of Art examines the rise of three-dimensional objects issued in editions, which emerged as an international phenomenon in the 1960s and 1970s.

Cost: $5-$9, children younger than 10 free

Where:
Bechtler Museum of Modern Art
420 S. Tryon St.
, NC
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The Things Come Apart exhibit reveals the inner workings of common, everyday items. Images explore how things are designed and how technology has evolved over time.

Cost: $6-$7, children 3 and younger free, included with admission

Where:
Schiele Museum
1500 E. Garrison Blvd.
Gastonia, NC
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See the original, Broadway-style dinner show, and experience the story of Stephen and the Apostles. See website for showtimes.

Cost: $10-$40

Where:
NarroWay Theatre
3327 Hwy 51
Fort Mill, SC
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Sponsor: NarroWay Productions
Telephone: 803-802-2300
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This exhibit explores the various aspects of walls, which includes the artistic, social, political and historical aspects, as well as the physical barriers like fences or sand berms. The space is...

Cost: $6-$15, children 4 and younger free, included with admission

Where:
Mint Museum Uptown
500 S. Tryon St.
, NC
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Join us for our Pinkyswear Virtual Kids Triathlon event. This virtual event which kicks off formally on June 1st for all ages and abilities, and the triathlon can be completed anywhere! The...

Cost: $15

Where:
, NC


Sponsor: Pinkyswear Foundation
Contact Name: Valorie Liggett
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Annual Guides

G.P.S. [Go.Play.See]

Your guide to raising kids in the Queen City, plus our 2019 Readers' Favorites for places to play, explore and learn with the kids.

Education Guide

A comprehensive guide to independent, private, charter and public schools in Cabarrus, Gaston, Iredell, Lincoln, Mecklenburg, Union and York counties.
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