Beddy-Bye Time! Getting Toddlers with the Program

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If you have young children around the house, then you know one of your greatest challenges is bedtime.

Recently, "The 700 Club" highlighted techniques to help newborns get a good night's sleep. But as it turns out, babies aren't the only ones causing trouble at bed time. Toddlers do, too.

Celebrated pediatrician Dr. Harvey Karp explained how to take the stress out of bed time in his new book, The Happiest Baby Guide To Great Sleep.

For example, newborns sleep better in an environment similar to the womb. So wrap the baby snugly and play "white noise" that's low and rumbly, as loud as a shower.

The next step: teach the infant to put himself back to sleep when he wakes up in the middle of the night.

How? When your baby falls asleep in your arms, wake him up a little when you place him in bed.

"I want his eyes open 10 seconds," Karp explained. "Because in that 10 seconds he'll learn to put himself to sleep at night."

Bedtime Toddlers

But newborns aren't the only ones who can keep late hours. A recent survey shows 50 percent of parents have problems putting their toddlers to bed and keeping them there.

Missy and Brandon Peters know about that firsthand.

"Since our son Lennox was born, our daughter, she's two and a half, and she's just really challenging to put to bed," Brandon said.

"And I'm trying to figure out the best way to get her to bed, and have her stay in bed, because she continues to get up every 30 minutes or so," he said. "It's really challenging and a bit frustrating."

Karp has heard this before.

"You know it happens all the time," he said. "That when a baby is born, it kind of messes up a toddler's sleep."

A Consistent Routine

He advised getting on a schedule and sticking to it. As strange as it may sound, one of the keys to getting your child to sleep at night is to start the bedtime routine first thing in the morning.

That means getting the toddler moving and keeping her active throughout the day to burn energy.

Missy described to Karp a specific concern she and Brandon have with their toddler's bed time routine.

"Typically, when we get Felice ready for bed, I usually sit and we read books and we kind of wind down for the evening," she explained. "But when dad does it, they're typically running around the house, kind of loud and jumping off the walls. And I don't know if that's confusing to her when it comes to bed time."

Karp said this is a problem in many households.

"You know it's very common for parents to have different bed time routines," he said. "Sometimes grandparents have a different routine than the parents do. It's best if you can be consistent."

"I like your way of reading stories and calming down before bedtime," he continued in response to Missy's concerns. "Sometimes that's hard for dads because they're so energetic and they just got home from work. But of course, kids get amped-up and it's harder for them to decrease their energy."

Beddy-Bye Time

Karp said an ideal bedtime routine for toddlers includes turning on "white noise" softly in the background about 30 minutes before bed time.

"Because that gives a cue to a child's brain that, 'Okay, sleep period is coming, now's the time to get ready for that,'" he explained.

Also, Karp stressed the importance of dimming the lights and turning off all electronics.

"Light actually goes into your eyes and it turns off melatonin, which is your brain's normal sleep hormone," he continued. "So looking at DVDs and television right before bed time actually disturbs a child's sleep and makes it harder for them to fall asleep."

Another great tip is to make a "beddy-bye book" that has actual pictures of your child's bedtime routine.

Karp described what the parents should say to the toddler while reading the "beddy-bye book:

"So, here you are eating your dinner, here you are playing after dinner, oh, now you're brushing your teeth, here you are putting on your pajamas," Karp said, explaining how it works. "And you practice that with her every day and so she knows what's coming. 'Here you are brushing your teeth. What comes next?'"

"So in her mind, she's preparing herself for going to bed," he said.

So whether you have an infant, a toddler, or both running around the house, a little know-how can help your entire family get more sleep and better enjoy this precious time of life.

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Lorie  Johnson

Lorie Johnson

CBN News Medical Reporter

Lorie Johnson reports on the latest information about health and wellness. Since medicine is constantly changing, she makes sure CBN News viewers are up-to-date on what they need to know in order to live a healthy life.  Follow Lorie on Twitter @LorieCBN and "like" her at Facebook.com/LorieJohnsonCBN.