“HOW IS YOUR BABY SLEEPING…??
It doesn’t take long for those dreaded little words “How is your baby Sleeping?” to come up in any given parent-to-parent conversation. Some parents dodge the question by saying everything is fine and some dive into a long story of their child’s sleep habits and their ultimate frustration.
I am a mum of three beautiful daughters and have a wealth of firsthand experience of what it is like to endure months on end of sleep deprivation. With my eldest, it went on for years instead of months, my second was slightly better, and by the time daughter number three came along anyone would have thought I’d have known exactly what I was doing and have a dream sleeper on my hands, right…? Wrong!
The sad fact is I didn’t know what to do because no-body had ever really told me anything about how to get my babies to sleep through the night! When pregnant, I avidly read the books given to me by the doctor about pregnancy and birth, when my children were born I put into practice everything in the booklets the health visitor gave me about nutrition and health – I knew how many teeth they would end up with and when they should sit up, walk, talk,…. you name it, I read it! The thing severely lacking in everything I was given was any information about something so incredibly important to all of our health, well being and happiness as simply getting a good night’s sleep.
I had a dreadful sleeper in daughter number three. I was exhausted, depressed and literally at breaking point, I felt like a terrible mum and snappy, irritable wife, it’s no surprise to me that recent research shows that mums are far more likely to suffer from post-natal depression if their children sleep badly! I remember so well one night I lay under a blanket, on my daughter’s bedroom floor. For 5 hours I lay there, getting any rest I could, with my arm through the bars of the cot rested on her back to ‘help’ her sleep. The next day I was so exhausted that I almost crashed my car, putting my whole family in danger, I decided there and then that something had to change!
After much scouring the internet, the next day, I found a sleep expert and got help. Within literally four nights my daughter, who for nine months had never slept more than 2 hours at a time, was sleeping 7pm – 7am straight! This transformation had such a massive impact on my life that it made me passionate about educating other parents and giving them the tools and support they need to achieve the same wonderful nights of sleep that we still enjoy four years on. I was lucky enough to be able to train, in Canada with a world renowned sleep expert, to become an Infant and Child Sleep Consultant, and now help local families achieve real results, fast.
I would like to share with you the 7 biggest tips to getting your baby to sleep well.
1. Babies need to learn to fall asleep on their own without any external props. Props come in MANY forms, from dummies to feeding, to patting, rocking , music, cuddles and many more. If your baby is reliant on one or more to fall asleep then they will need it each and every time they wake in the night (which we all do at least several times a night briefly!)
2. Be consistent. Whatever is happening at one sleep situation needs to be happening at all sleep situations to send a clear message about what is expected, and that includes every time your baby or toddler wakes in the night.
3. Early bedtime. This is vital to ensure that children do not become overtired. When a person is overtired, it becomes more difficult to settle down and fall asleep. When sleep does come, a person is a lot more restless with more tossing and turning and more night time waking. Try to pick a bedtime somewhere between 6 and 8pm based on last nap of the day and your babies age. Bedtimes do not have to be set in stone, you can always move bedtime a bit earlier if your child seems tired or cranky – just try not to make it later.
4. Routine. A bedtime routine is something you can start at a very early age and is an excellent cue to the body and mind that it is time to settle down and get ready for sleep. Routines should last from 20 – 30 minutes and at least some of it should take place in the child’s room. Your routine might include a bath, pyjamas, feed and maybe a song or book.
5.Naptime routines. A short nap routine can help cue your baby’s body and brain that it is time for a nap. It need only take 5 minutes or so and might involve pulling the curtains in baby’s room together or saying goodnight to some toys in the room, then a short cuddle and a song.
6. Exhausting your child will not make them sleep any better! Skipping naps or late bedtime will affect the next 24 hour cycle. Do not let anyone tell you that naps are not important, or that skipping them will help your baby sleep longer at night.
7. Keep baby awake whilst feeding If you are feeding your infant in the night try not to let him/her fall asleep at the breast or bottle. Keep feedings low key and quiet.
The latest research shows that 84% of children who are experiencing sleep problems will continue to have them for up to 5 years. This is a very long time for a family to function on a reduction of sleep and a long time to fight bedtime battles. It is never too late to start changing your child’s sleep situation. It can be hard but there is definitely light at the end of the tunnel and in the long run making changes will make everyone feel better and well rested and, in my experience, a whole lot happier!
If you need support on your journey to great sleep then I can help you develop a customized sleep plan for solving your child’s sleep problems and help you step by step whilst you implement it so if you have any questions about what you’ve just read, please feel free to get in touch. For more information please go to www.babysleepthenight.com , or you can always call me directly on 01794 341172 for a FREE 15 minute consultation, to discuss how I can help you achieve real results, really fast.”
This is an edited version of an article which has previously appeared in Baby Hampshire Magazine. Thank you to the editors of that publication for allowing us to reproduce the article in this form.