Time-tested sleep solutions

Views on parenting have changed over the years. Here's how three generations of parents have handled their kids' sleep issues.

Photo: 4774344sean/iStockphoto

Today’s Parent Executive Editor Kerrie Lee Brown shares sleep solutions for her kids, as well as the sleep secrets her mother and grandma relied upon in their day.

Scenario #1: You bring your baby home from the hospital. Where does she sleep?

My grandma on my mom’s side (we call her Nanny) raised six children (three girls and three boys) in a small three-bedroom, semi-detached house in South Wales, Great Britain. When a newborn was brought home she would place a crib or wooden cradle (that my grandfather made by hand) beside their master bed. The other kids in the house shared beds — three kids to a bed. Crowded? Yes, but that’s all they knew, and it worked.

When I was born, my mom and dad lived in a one-bedroom apartment in Toronto. I slept in a top-of-the-line, frilly bassinet beside their bed. We had moved to the suburbs by the time my sister arrived three years later. In that small bungalow, I slept in my own room; the baby went straight into a crib in a room of her own.

My boys are five years apart. When we brought home our first, Connor, he slept in a bassinet that I borrowed from a friend (who knew much more about babies than me). He slept in our room for only three weeks then we moved him to a crib in his own room. By the time our second son, Brock, was born, my husband and I were used to our eldest sleeping all night. So when baby No. 2 came, we put him straight into a crib in his own room — close enough that we didn’t even need a baby monitor to hear him.

Scenario #2: As your kids got older, what did their bedtime routine look like?

The youngest would always go to bed earlier than the rest of the children. There were 15 years between the oldest and the youngest. The older brothers, who were ready to enter the air force at the time, weren’t around a lot so when they came home they would help put the little ones to bed while Nanny tended to the other children. They would tell stories by the fire until the youngest fell asleep. By this time, the boys shared one bedroom, and the girls shared another. The younger siblings would sleep in a smaller bed in the corner of each bedroom. When the girls got older, all three would sleep in the same bed until the eldest went off to get married at 22.

My mom had a set routine for my sister and I at bedtime. She would let me stay up a little later than my younger sister so I could have some alone time with my parents. My mom would give us a bath, then my sister would be put to bed. I would then have a snack, and we’d read stories or have quiet time. However, my mom would make sure I didn’t eat right before bed because it would “sit on my stomach.”

My boys go to bed at the same time. After hockey practice, there’s homework, dinner, bath and then reading. Usually my husband will put the older one to bed, while I settle my youngest down. If he won’t go to sleep right away, I sit beside him and stoke his head or lay down beside him until he falls asleep. Before the little one came into the picture, I used to sit on the floor beside the door so he could see me, until he fell asleep, then I crept out.

Scenario #3: What if your child wakes in the night, and wants you to sleep with him?

My nanny would always come up the stairs and check on the children who were not sleeping to make sure they didn’t have a fever. With so many kids in the house, she couldn’t stay in the bedroom to soothe anyone for fear of waking the others up. So she would take the child downstairs to cuddle and maybe give her some warm milk until she fell asleep, and then carry her back up.

Mom would check on us to make sure the covers were still on and we were nice and cozy, and that we weren’t sick. She would sing a lullaby or stroke our heads or backs until we fell back asleep — or get us a drink of water if we were thirsty. But if we kept giving her excuses not to turn in, she would put her foot down and tell us to go to sleep. The lights were turned off, and she’d say she would see us in the morning. It usually worked.

If my kids yell for me from upstairs, I usually walk to the bottom of the stairs, and tell them to go to sleep right off the bat. But if they persist, or come downstairs, I will check their temperature to make sure they’re all right then I’ll tell them to go back upstairs. If they want a glass of water or need to go to the bathroom, that’s OK, we’ll do it quickly. Then I’ll rub their backs, and sit beside their bed on the floor so they can see me with the lights off. I’ve often fallen asleep on the floor beside them.

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