With many babies and toddlers the main reasons they find it hard to settle is due to over-tiredness or overstimulation. Also they may be hungry; so I would suggest you offer your baby a top up feed before each nap time and ensure toddlers eat well at mealtimes.
If your baby or toddler settles to sleep well, then you will know hunger is the reason why they haven't been settling to sleep, so continue to offer top up feeds, and increase the amount they take during their regular mealtimes so that top ups can be phased out.
The best tip I can offer parents is that your baby learns to settle themselves to sleep. Putting them in their cots awake and allowing them to self soothe is such an important skill for them to develop as they will quickly learn how to go to sleep by themselves. Once a baby learns to how to settle themselves, they become happier; more relaxed and so do parents! Always establish daytime naps first and you will the find night-time sleep will improve.
How to help your baby or toddler settle themselves to sleep:
If your baby falls asleep while feeding on the breast or bottle pop them on their changing mat or check their nappy, this should arouse them from their sleep, then put them in their cot while they are semi-awake.
If your baby falls asleep during feeding and is then put straight into their cot they will be more likely to have a disruptive sleep time, and will be less likely to settle themselves back to sleep without parents help.
This is a major cause of babies and toddlers not settling and sleeping well at nap-times. This is when you need to start to read the signs of your baby or toddler being tired, they may rub their eyes, yawn, go quiet or start to get irritable. As you get to know your baby you will start to know their cue"s for sleep.
This is a major cause of babies and toddlers not settling well. Babies should be allowed some quiet time before being put down to sleep, at least 20 minutes before they are being put down is advisable.
Babies over six months and toddlers should avoid games and activities that encourage them to get over excited! This is where a good calming night-routine comes into place.
Bath-time should be the start of the night-time routine as your baby or toddler will be more relaxed and is more likely to fall asleep quickly. Consistency and predictability is really important for babies and toddlers as they will develop a set pattern every night and this will help encourage good sleeping habits that will stand both you and baby in good stead for the future...
What to include in your routine?
This is really up to you and what works for you as a family, but I would suggest that whatever you decide you and the rest of the family need to continue to follow this routine.
Bath-time is a lovely time for you and your baby as it is encouraging your baby or toddler to relax. Once out of the bath it is advisable to limit your talking to them only using a soft quiet voice.
Before putting their sleep wear on try massaging your baby or toddler with massage oil as this completely relaxes your little one. You may need to start off with just their legs and arms till they get used to the sensation. Make sure you end the routine in your babies bedroom, so create a soothing environment by ensuring their room is dark, cool and quiet.
Giving your baby their last feed in their bedroom ensures they start to relax and settle, you can play some gentle music as this may drown out other household noises.
Once baby has finished their last feed and they have been winded, put them down in their cot, avoiding excessive talking; use a gentle quiet voice using simple phrases like "night, night"; give a kiss and leave the room. It is essential for a baby to go into their cot awake so that they settle themselves to sleep, babies will learn this skill within a few days.
An older baby or toddler who has already learned the wrong sleep associations will take longer to develop this and developing good sleep habits will be more challenging and will take patience and a few weeks to establish a good sleep routine.
If you have toddlers, after bath-time, encourage them to play quietly, again limiting talk time. You do not want to take your toddler out of a lively environment and suddenly expect them to go to sleep!
Before sleep time take them to their bedroom (remember bedrooms are for sleep so you do not want any stimulation in their room) create a calm space. Toddlers love a story with you, so reading a couple of stories as they snuggle down in their bed is a nice relaxing time, some toddlers also like lullabies. Be consistent, set a limit on how many stories they have, then after story time keep it simple and quiet, saying "night, night" and giving them a kiss and then leaving the room, closing the door after you, as you don't want them to be over stimulated by saying good night to all the family members.
Many babies and toddlers will kick off their bed covers so I would advise using sleeping bags, they are available in different togs depending on the weather. Sleeping bags allow babies and toddlers to move around without restricting them, so you wont worry about them getting cold or over-heated in the middle of the night. It is really important to choose a sleeping bag that is suitable for the time of year.
If you feel fraught and exhausted don't despair it will get easier if you continue to be consistent with your sleep routine, they will learn to settle quickly and easily on their own...
If a sleep routine is established early enough, most babies will develop good sleep patterns.