The bedtime ritual and other actions that help children understand the rules
Finding and adopting a regular sleep pattern is important for your child's healthy growth and physical and emotional development.
To help your baby sleep through the night, it is first of all essential to know the sleep patterns of children and some habits they display. In fact, unlike adults, children do not have a 7 or 12 hour sleep pattern like adults but develop their own as they grow during the first 3 years of life. After birth, only from the age of 6 months do children usually manage to sleep for 5 to 7 hours straight without waking up. With all due respect to the parents.
During early childhood, nocturnal awakenings accompanied by crying are quite frequent and are to be considered not as sleep disturbances but as an expression of discomfort and the need to draw attention to oneself. The cry of the baby must never be ignored, but interpreted: sometimes it is a question of physiological needs such as hunger, thirst, a wet diaper, a stuffy nose, or annoying environmental situations such as an environment that is too hot or cold. Sometimes he just needs reassurance and physical contact with his mother; each parent is generally able to develop a method of interpreting the child's needs, subsequently helping him to go back to sleep after solving the need.
By implementing some suggestions, it is possible to favor the conditions so that the child can sleep better and longer during the night; in this way sleep is more restorative even for new parents who may have already resumed work after the happy event and need to rest.
During the day, for example, it is necessary for the child to be able to sleep and rest, but it is equally important to stimulate moments of activity and relationship even when the baby is very small. A good sleep-wake rhythm makes the child grow well and also makes the mother feel good, as well as creating the conditions for the so-called "rituals". Rituals are "daily routine" actions, gestures that are performed every day more or less at the same time of day and that mark the times of feeding, playing, sleeping, bathing. They help the child to orient himself over time and provide him with the psychological security necessary for his development.
The bedtime ritual is one of the important moments at the end of the child's day and continues to have its importance up to almost 8-9 years of age.
Very young children, up to 7-8 months, will need more "physical" rituals: a warm but not too hot bath, a massage with moisturizing cream or oil from the mother, feeding, a stroll around the house in the mother's arms. Then to sleep in the cradle and in the cot in the supine position (belly up). It may happen that the baby cries for a few minutes: in these cases, after making sure that he has eaten enough and digested, that he has been changed and that his nose is free, before picking him up you can try to stroke him gently making him feel your warmth and reassuring him with your voice. Often these small gestures are enough to calm him down and put him to sleep. It is essential to dim the lights and muffle all sounds around the room to create a relaxing atmosphere that facilitates sleep. Normally if the baby is in good health he will sleep peacefully until the night feed.
On the other hand, when the child reaches 8-9 months he will no longer ask for a night feed but his memory, in fact in this period he begins to "remember"; he becomes aware that by making himself heard with insistence he can get what he wants, such as going to sleep with mum and dad or playing. The winning strategy in these cases will be to maintain the rituals of preparing for sleep at night and, in case of awakening at night, do not run to him at the first cry but wait a few minutes. He will easily fall asleep on his own, but if this doesn't happen, it is advisable to approach him to make him feel our presence by staying next to him without speaking, caressing him. If you suspect that he is wet, change his diaper silently without playing with him. This will help him not wake up completely and resume interrupted sleep.
When children are older, rituals are even more important because they give security and help them understand the rules.
There is a time for every activity and "for every time you do things": you wash your hands before eating, you take a bath before going to sleep, you say goodbye to games when it's time to stop playing...
Establishing routines is essential and thanks to these you can create very intimate moments between children and parents; especially before bedtime.
Small habits that make the child feel safe and get him used to accepting even situations that are not pleasant for him or her, such as interrupting the game to go to sleep or drying his hair with a hairdryer after the bath... It may be useful to invent stories related to the actions that take place to involve the child and feed his imagination.
If every evening, when the day ends and it's time to go to bed, the mother tells or reads a story, or sings a song, this will be a special moment that the child will look for and perceive as "time to sleep" and that he will gladly accept without making a fuss.
The important thing is to link certain habits and rituals always and only to that part of the day, so that the child considers it a "special moment" in which things are done that are linked only to that action.