Author of the best-selling book “Baby Secrets” Jo Tantum answers your questions on baby sleep.
The only way my daughter (almost one) will sleep is if I rock her or lie on the bed with her. She also wakes several times during the night. It’s exhausting – What can I do?
Having a baby that doesn’t sleep is very exhausting. Your little girl thinks that the only way she can fall asleep is with your help and with each night that you do this, it just reinforces that thought. She needs to have the confidence in herself that she can fall asleep on her own and you need to help her achieve this. The easiest way to do this is to start at her daytime nap. This means that has one or two chances at learning to fall asleep alone before bedtime.
Wait until she is tired but not overtired. Then take her upstairs, have some soothing music playing in the room and place her in her cot. Say, “Have a good nap!” Then leave the room.
Now you can start my “Spaced Soothing” technique. This will reassure that when she is upset you will always go into soothe her but it will also give her the confidence that she can go to sleep by herself. Wait for 5 minutes before you go in, listening for quiet gaps. (If there is you can leave it longer as this is your baby’s way of saying she is trying to go to sleep on her own.)
When you go in gently say “Sssh”, stroke her head, and put your hand firmly on her chest. Do this for one to two minutes and then leave the room. Continue this every five minutes (This is the time for a one year old.). Please remember your baby is only upset because she is tired and frustrated and just wants to go to sleep, not because she is hurt. Some Mums actually leave it longer before they go in as it sometimes makes your baby more cross if you go in too often.
I recommend that your baby is not left any longer than 10 minutes before going in to soothe them. If your baby doesn’t settle after 30 minutes then get her up and try again later. When you wake your little girl, make a big fuss of her and make her feel happy when she is in her cot. This means she will soon love going to sleep in her cot.
My two year old sleeps well at night (about 12 hours) but refuses to sleep during the day and is often tired and cranky by late afternoon. How can I persuade her to have an afternoon nap?
It is very difficult to get an active toddler to have an afternoon nap. Giving your toddler an incentive to have a nap is the key. Set up a reward system for them. Each day they have a nap they get a sticker on their chart if they do it four days out of five they get a small gift. When it’s time to have a nap sit on the bed, next to the cot with them and read a story then snuggle them down and remind them about the sticker or present. Tell them that you are just going to do something and that you will be back in five minutes to see if they are doing well. Then return to the bedroom after five minutes for a peek.
Try not to have a nap too late, after lunch is always a good time. Also always wake them after two hours or it will start to impact their nights sleep. Please continue this reward system for at least two weeks and you will soon be reaping the rewards.
My 14 month old boy has a bath then comes downstairs to have his milk in front of the TV. He then runs around and doesn’t seem tired at all. When he wears himself out he has a cuddle with us on the sofa and falls asleep. When we go to bed we put him in his cot, he then wakes at 2am and won’t go back to sleep. Help!!
Your little boy is overtired and over stimulated by the TV. This is why he runs around the room; it’s not that he isn’t tired he just doesn’t know how to switch off. Starting a bedtime routine with your little boy will help him wind down and understand its time to go to sleep. Start at the same time every night. Give him a bath and get him ready for bed in his room, with low lights and soothing music. Then give him his milk while reading him a story and settle him in his cot. He will soon start to enjoy his story and bedtime routine.
If he wakes up during the night, go in and reassure him all is ok, then give him time to re settle himself. As he is now falling asleep in his cot he won’t be startled at his new surrounds (as he would have done when he fell asleep in your arms!) You will find that he sleeps very deeply as he learns to fall asleep by himself and night time wakes will be a thing of the past.
My three week old baby used to be such a brilliant sleeper that she would sleep anywhere. Now she doesn’t seem to sleep at all and when I try and get her to sleep at night she just seems to scream for hours. I am so tired and feel like a rubbish Mum.
When your baby was firstborn she was very tired and was happy to sleep all the time. After two weeks your baby has now started to wake up which is very normal. She is starting to take an interest in the world around her and doesn’t want to miss a thing. So you will need to put her down for her naps somewhere where she can switch off and have some quiet. Using her Nursery for daytime naps is a great idea, as it will get her used to it. Close the blinds/curtains so that she isn’t stimulated by light, swaddle her to stop the “startle” reflex and leave the room.
Small babies still sleep a lot, so she can only stay awake for about an hour before she starts getting tired. Make sure that you put her down before she gets overtired. Signs of tiredness are a short cry, staring into space and yawning. When you see her do these things, if you take her to her nursery straight away she will learn how to settle herself very quickly. When she screams at night it is because she is overtired and over stimulated. To stop her getting distressed have her night time feed with low lights and no talking or noise. You will soon find that she will settle more easily in the day and night and you will soon start to enjoy your baby more as you come to understand your baby better.
My little boy who is 11 weeks old goes to sleep okay at 7.30 pm but then wakes at 2.30am and doesn’t really go back to sleep. I have now resorted to going to bed at 8.30 but that means that I don’t see my husband at all.
All babies can sleep for one long slot in 24 hours. So of course it makes sense that he sleeps that long slot when you are having your long sleep. The best way to do this is to put him to bed as usual but then at 11pm have dad change his nappy and wake him from his deep sleep and feed him a bottle (previously expressed if you are breast feeding), This is called a ‘Dream Feed’ and is a perfect time for dad to have some bonding time with his baby. He will probably not even open his eyes while drinking his bottle. As he is so relaxed he won’t be taking in much air with his milk so there is no need to burp him at intervals as you would during the day, in fact it is better to give him the full bottle otherwise he is likely to fall back to sleep before finishing it! This also means that you can stay up a little later to spend time with your husband as you will be able to have your long sleep with his long sleep until he wakes next after the dream feed. This way everyone is happy!
To speak with Jo for individual expert baby sleep advice call her on 0906 400 6222 or view her profile.
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