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We know, there are nights when you can’t wait for your tiny tot to crash, and then there are some when you just don’t want the fun to end. While there’s certainly no reason why your child has to go to bed at an exact time every night, both parents and kids of nearly every age can benefit greatly from a repeated practice of winding down each evening. This month, we are dedicating our newsletter to some suggestions for healthy bedtime rituals for you and your family.
A warm bath is a great way to start an evening bedtime ritual. But just because you are beginning the process of calming down for the day doesn’t mean it can’t be fun. Singing songs and splashing around while you wash your tot makes for a great one-on-one bonding time, as well as helping your child to go to bed comfy and clean.
We strongly advise parents to avoid giving their children bubble baths. Bubble solutions are notorious for drying the skin which can lead to irritation, especially in girls. The last thing anyone wants at the end of a soothing bedtime ritual is an itchy tot who can’t sleep. So, while bubbles are fun, we suggest bathtub toys instead.
At Tribeca Pediatrics, we believe that caring for a child’s teeth begins when there are teeth to care for, usually around twelve to fifteen months of age. At this time, get your child a fun, soft toothbrush, children’s formula non-fluoride toothpaste, and let them brush their own teeth while you brush yours. Of course, you may want to get in there afterwards to make sure you’ve polished off the day’s foodstuffs, but allowing your child to practice brushing on their own creates an enjoyable ritual and will help them to become expert toothbrushers in the future.
To avoid tooth rot, it is important not to give your child milk throughout the night, breastmilk or otherwise. A last bottle or breastfeeding before going to sleep shouldn’t cause rot, but continuing to give your child milk beyond that may put their teeth at risk. If you are worried that your child will be hungry during the night if you deny these feedings, fear not. An adequate dinner, especially with the addition of milk before bed, is perfectly sufficient to get your little one through the night. And believe it or not, depriving them of that midnight “snack” will actually help them sleep better in the long run.
Reading to your child is one of the greatest gifts you can give them. It stimulates their imagination and curiosity, while providing what has been proven to be one of the most important bonding activities there is. Add to that the incredible powers of relaxation hearing a story possesses, and you have the perfect end to a lovely evening, and the beginning of a very promising night’s sleep for your little one.
Keeping the lights dim and the mood mellow during this time will help greatly in readying your child for bed. And, while picture books are great, they aren’t necessary. The sound of your voice as you tell your child a story can be just as transporting as a picture, so if you’ve always wanted to read “Catcher in the Rye” or the original “Jungle Book”, here’s your chance. Reading a book you love to your child, pictures or not, will help instill a love of reading in them as well.
Lullabies have been around forever, and for good reason. Singing or playing lullabies has been proven time and time again to reduce stress, fears and discomfort in people of all ages, especially children. So, if your little one hasn’t already drifted off to sleep during reading time, a song or two could be the perfect finishing touch to a healthy bedtime ritual.
Stick to It
Whatever you decide is the best combination of elements to prepare your child for a great night’s sleep, stick to it. Predictability equals comfort, and comfort equals a happy, well-rested tot. And more often than not, that means a healthy well-rested you.