We were recently asked a question about how to support healthy sleep habits for babies and children who have parents that are separated. It is an important question, so here are some tips for any of you in this position.
1. Consistency with routine and response
Even though your child has two different environments for their sleep it is vital that you are both on the exact same page regarding your little one's routines and how you respond to them. This means respecting awake times, keeping the same bed time and nap routines and ensuring that you are 100% in agreement about how you respond to anomalies if your child is unsettled, struggling with sleep or going through night wakings.
Those of you who do our program get a very clear guideline for all sleep as well as so much evidence-based education and guidance which makes it much easier to be on the same page. Regardless of whether you have or have not done the program, have clear conversations about this and make sure you are both clear on what's been agreed and commit to being on the same page for your child.
2. Consistency with sleep environment
While we know you cannot create the exact same sleep space we encourage you to at least consider the ways you can make the sleep space as similar as possible. For example, if your child sleeps in a cot in one home then have a cot in the other home. Use the same white noise, make sure the room is dark, ensure they have the same lovey/cuddly and as much as possible create the same physical cues for sleep in that sleep environment.
3. Respect awake times
Ensure you're both on the same page for how long your child is awake between naps and ensure they you both respect this. If you're each doing things differently this can really throw out your child's rhythms.
4. Handover Information When it comes time for your child to transition between homes we encourage you to make sure there is clear communication about where your child is up to. For example, did they have an unsettled night before? Did they have their naps on the go today meaning they will be a bit over tired later today? Have they got a tooth pushing through that has caused a lot of discomfort and they woke early from their nap? Seems obvious but consider all the things that could affect your child's sleep as they transition between parents.
We know it can be hard for everyone involved but we also know following these tips will enable you all to be on the same page when it comes to sleep and providing your little one the smoothest journey possible.