One of the most frequented topics I see on parenting forums and groups is sleep. Questions, mainly, about how we can free up our arms and go about establishing the perfect sleep and nap time routine; so that we too can catch some much needed Zzz. Many parents are, understandably, desperate to help their little ones into a position whereby they’re able to have a decent amount of undisturbed sleep per night. How to get your baby/toddler to sleep better is the million dollar question on pretty much every parents’ mind.
I have to be honest, I’m extremely lucky that Reuben is a fantastic sleeper who gets a whopping 14 hours sleep a night and has slept through since he was 10 months old. However, prior to this his sleep left a lot to be desired and in a desperate attempt to restore some much needed sleep in our lives we called upon the help of a sleep consultant.
We took on board the offered help, support & advice and were thankful to see a quick improvement in the length and quality of Reuben’s sleep. It is something you have to work at and gently reinforce – but the outcome is well worth it.
With that in mind I’m working with Sam Saunders from The Baby Guru to answer some of your sleep questions. Sam is a mum of 4 who has worked with babies in the NHS and Private Sector for several years. Sam’s experience includes helping babies with an array of issues from reflux and colic to refusing sleep. Sam has helped thousands of parents to reclaim their lives and tackle new routines with confidence. She has a passion for helping to enhance parenthood for the families which she helps.
If you have any specific questions in relation to your child you can contact Sam directly via The Baby Guru’s website and/or her instagram page. Thanks again to Sam for answering the below FAQs from parents and parents-to-be.
My newborn will only sleep on me. How do I get them to sleep in their own space?
Its normal for newborns to want constant contact especially at night for the first couple of weeks, it normally settles down around the 2-week mark. If they will settle in the daytime in their cribs then build on this, putting them down between feeds when sleeping, then catch up yourself! After that period, you can try safe swaddling to help.
Is controlled crying safe? Is it beneficial?
The methods I teach are gentle & responsive to your little one, yes there will be tears as you’re changing the way you do things now, but you will give still lots of cuddles and reassurance. Teaching little ones to settle to sleep themselves after 4-6 months helps with regular naps, longer naps & less frequent wake ups in the night. I do not use or recommend “cry it out” methods but controlling their tears to a minimum is what all us parents want, so yes sleep coaching is safe.
Should I go in and try to settle my baby each time they wake and cry? How do I train them to self settle?
When using some gentle sleep coaching to help with teaching little ones to self-settle, I do suggest that you give them a chance to re settle themselves. The amount of time is dependent on the method you feel most comfortable with as you may choose a gradual retreat approach. This method starts with you remaining in the room with them until they have fallen asleep and then gradually extending the distance between you & them until you are going in and out at regular intervals. With one of my methods the longest one off period I will ever recommend of leaving them is 10 minutes.
Can I break the cycle of feeding to sleep?
Adjusting your feeding routine may be needed so there is a little break between the feed due and nap or bedtime. I would then recommend you start with rocking to sleep and then gradually start to rock less and put them down sooner.
My baby wants feeding every time they wake in the night. Surely they’re not hungry as they don’t feed as frequently in the day. What’s going on here?
It maybe that your little one feeds to sleep at the start of the night? So understandably when they come into light sleep in the night and not needing a feed they need that sucking to go back to sleep . When helping parents I always look at how they go to sleep as this is often the crux of it all.
What sleep aides are effective/most effective?
Sleep aids such as blackout blinds, consistent white noise and a safe comfort blanket or muslin can help little ones settle to sleep easier, take longer day naps and have less frequent night wake ups.
How do you know when your child is ready for their own room and how do I transition my them?
I always recommend following The Lullaby Trust guidelines of keeping your little ones in with you for the first 6 months, following that there is no wrong or right time. I do think you all sleep so much better once they are in their own rooms, as much as they disturb us, we disturb them. To transition them when ready to move, having some playtime in their room & use for nap time if possible before moving them for the whole night.
How many naps should my little one have?
It all depends on their age, so they roughly over the first 18 months transition from 4-5 naps down to just the one. the early months it’s basically a nap between every feed, around 6 months they are needing 3 naps a day, 8 months 2 naps a day and then between 15-18 months down to 1 nap a day.
How much sleep should my little one get per night?
This all again depends on their age but once 6 months its around 11-12 hrs at night.
What makes a good bedtime routine?
This is a great question. The total time bedtime routine I suggest is 45 mins but this also depends on how long it takes them to feed. I would suggest:
*Some quiet time eg, no screen time an hour before a bedtime routine
*Upstairs and maybe 10-15 nappy off time, they love a kick about
*Short story time
What are sleep regressions? Do all babies have them?
Sleep regressions are generally in conjunction with their development leaps. It’s also important to look at nap times then as they maybe need adjusting.
*4 months – sleep cycles maturing and becoming aware of how and where they fall asleep
*8-10 months – on the move, so crawling, standing or even walking
*18 months – language development
Why is my baby/toddler frequently waking in the night?
It’s normal for little ones to need a feed in the night until weaning is established. Night waking’s are often after that based on how they go to sleep at the start of the night or for naps. If they feed or are rocked to sleep, they then naturally when wake in the night, which all little ones do, need that repeated to go back to sleep. This is why settling to sleep themselves is so important.
How do I encourage my little one to sleep through the night?
Regular appropriate length day naps, regular feeds in the day, weaning established if over 6 months, regular bedtime routine, able to settle to sleep themselves.
My baby wakes super early in the morning. How do I get them to sleep past the break of dawn?
Try using blackout blinds, you can buy great stick on blinds “grow blinds” from amazon. These can be used when travelling also as have suckers which stick to the window. White noise is also great to stop the dawn chorus waking them or any other outside sounds maybe waking them.