Mother cuddling her sleeping baby By Gina Mosch ~ Townsville Bulletin

For many parents, getting kids to go to bed - and stay there - can be frustrating

Townsville child psychologist Nicole Pierotti is a sleep and behaviour expert and has just written a new book, called Baby Care, advising parents on how to look after newborns.

"Educating yourself with the right information from the start will help you build a confident foundation," she said.

With three children of her own, Ms Pierotti is well-accustomed to the struggles that frequently drive parents crazy.

She said managing sleep for babies and children is one of the most common concerns for mums and dads.

"Basically I focus on sleeping and feeding - if those two are right then everything else falls into place," she said.

"The hard bit is those first six weeks and making sure you have the right strategies in place."

Ms Pierotti said getting it right early paid off down the track. "But after those six weeks, it then just flows on - you get to 12 weeks, you get to six months, you get years down the track and sleeping is just not an issue."

Most sleep experts agree that not getting enough sleep can have severe consequences for children.

Sleep deprivation impacts learning and has been implicated as a cause of everything from behaviour problems to childhood obesity.

"If babies don't get enough sleep they can cry for hours at a time and are fairly inconsolable. For older children, the more tired they get the less they can sit still and concentrate," Ms Pierotti said.

"If a child misses out on just half an hour sleep a night, research has shown that the next day at school they perform at a whole grade lower - so if they are in grade three they perform at a grade two level."

"A lot of children with attention deficit disorder don't get enough sleep."

She said studies have also shown that teenagers don't get enough sleep at night and go to school tired. "If parents are going in to wake up them up at 7 o'clock for school, then they're not getting enough sleep - they need to go to bed earlier."

Ms Pierotti said there are many relatively simple things parents can do to encourage healthy sleep.

Here are her top tips:

Set a regular bedtime and wake time, even weekends.

Make the bedroom a dark, cool and quiet zone for sleep. No homework in bed.

Create a calming bedtime ritual. For young kids, that could mean reading stories, taking a bath and singing songs. For older kids, try reading or listening to mellow music.

Ban technology (TV, internet, texting) in the hour before bed. The light from computers and TVs can actually suppress the body's production of melatonin, a hormone that promotes sleep.

More more information on pre-baby or parenting workshops and consults why not make a face-to-face appointment or Skype appointment today.  Email shop@babysmiles.com.au or call 07 47 24 2600

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