Ensuring that where your baby sleeps is supportive of healthy sleep is very important and it's an easy change to make. A dark room is key when it comes to success on the sleep front. This will support melatonin production – the sleepy hormone – and help your baby initiate and maintain sleep better & for longer.
It's also important that your baby is sleeping in a safe sleep environment. Under safe sleep guidelines, your baby should sleep on their backs, in an independent flat sleep surface with no loose blankets or bedding. As such I recommend Moses baskets, cribs & cots for all sleep and promote the use of swaddling and age-appropriate sleeping bags.
Ensure the room your baby is sleeping is in a quiet location in your room. It is impossible to expect your baby to nap well and for long periods in a busy kitchen. As such choose somewhere you can easily check on them & use a video monitor. I support the use of white noise to 4 months of age but beyond that, I feel it's important for your child to get used to general household noise while sleeping!
I refer to these constantly when working directly with parents. Those following me on Instagram will have seen me refer to wake periods or timings to sleep during
This is where getting to know your baby and understanding their sleep pattern is important. Having the timings right will bring better naps & a better nights sleep. They will be less overtired, will find it easier to settle & generally sleep for longer periods.
Watch their sleep cues and catch them so as not to miss the window. In doing this you will experience better sleep all round.
Even a child who has super sleep skills will not sleep if they are hungry. So it's important to ensure you are getting the right balance of milk & solids (when they are weaning) into their days.
I very much promote waking newborn & small babies from naps when a feed is due. That way you are ensuring that nutritional needs are being met during the day and as such, they will be less likely to wake
due to excessive hunger at night.
Practising a feed, play, sleep cycle will help you put structure on this from birth. I also recommend that once the supply is established, breastfeeding mums move from demand-led feeding to structured
From 6 months onwards the introduction of solids is very important. Get the balance right by offer 3 meals a day once they are ready. Ensure a protein meal is offered at lunchtime so that your baby is full going down for their long nap of the day. When they are older & the long nap is established that protein meal can be alternated through the day.
Many consultants feel that protein offered at the evening meal is essential however i prefer that this happens once baby is 10 older as protein is harder to digest you don’t want little stomach issues cropping up at bedtime or during the night!
When I work directly with clients I provide them with a routine that helps them get this balance right.
This can be underestimated in terms of its importance in improving sleep. Children can get very stimulated in the evening time even though their drive for sleep can be high. This second wind style behaviour can also be a sign of over-tiredness.
I recommend starting the bedtime routine just after your child has had their tea at approx 5 pm. Start with a bath if necessary. The head back into a brightly lit living space for the last milk feed of the day – this needs to be 1 hour prior to bedtime.
In the hour prior to sleep times avoid stimulating activities and look to quiet ones. Turn off the television in the hour prior to sleep being desired (this also applies to iPads, Tablets & Phones). Blue light technology is in EVERYTHING with a screen. It is highly stimulating to the brain and as yet the impact it has on sleep is not fully understood. Best to avoid it to ensure your little one gets the best quality sleep possible.
Once you get to approx 20 mins prior to bed head to your child’s bedroom. Dim down the lights & draw the curtains. Read a few nice books & start quietly chatting. Then get them into their sleeping bag, turn off the light, kiss them good night & pop them into their cot and leave their room.
Use the same routine day in day out when it comes to winding down for bedtime & naps. This will give your child all the signals that bedtime is coming and act as a cue to sleep. Read books, have quiet storytime or floor play – just ensure that it is something that doesn’t give your child that second wind you want to avoid!
So many parents tell me that their baby was a super sleeper prior to 4 months. Then the dreaded 4 months sleep regression hits and boom, no sleep for anyone. Really what is happening is that your baby’s circadian rhythms are forming. These are their sleep cycles and are not present in babies prior to this time. As such it is the perfect time to help your baby learn how to self soothe & grasp the skills to independently. Start them on the path of the gift to sleep.
By continuing to have a big input into your child getting to sleep it is very likely that you will have to continue to do this at every sleep cycle as they will be dependent on you, rather than being able to settle themselves.
This is perhaps why your child wakes after 45 minutes every nap & every 2-4 hours at night. These are their cycles of sleep & if you are having this huge input into their sleep they will continue to need that input every time they come into light sleep and wake.
If they gain some self-soothing skills they are more capable of going through the sleep cycles & should maintain sleep for longer.
I very much promote structure when it comes to getting the most out of your baby’s sleep. Babies thrive on a routine day to day. It supports their growth and development and ensures they are getting the right balance of sleep and food they need to thrive.
When it comes to naps balance is key. I recommend that you keep a morning nap shortest to support a longer afternoon nap as this is when the drive to sleep is higher in their sleep-wake cycles. This balance will also help avoid early morning waking and promote consolidated sleep throughout the night.
Balance in naps will also help avoid over-tiredness which is a killer when it comes to sleep. An overtired baby will find it hard to get to & remain asleep. A rested baby will sleep for longer & have more restorative sleep.
The old wives tale of keeping them up for longer and keep all naps short is a total myth! Working on landing naps & keeping your baby as rested as possible is one of the keys to success.
Don’t fret if you are finding this step hard. I tell my clients all the time that naps can be the last piece of the jigsaw to come together.
If you are experiencing what you feel are issues around your child’s sleep and wish to solve them then consistency from you is key. In order to see positive change you will need to give things a constructive period of time to see the benefit – I use 2 weeks as a rule of thumb on the short scale but 4 weeks for ingrained issues.
Sleep also needs to be taken with a long term view. Nothing is a quick fix. You will need to be consistent in the messages you give your child around sleep in the long term, that way you safeguard it.
In making sleep a priority in your home you are giving yourself The Gift of Sleep.
This can be a very daunting milestone for many parents and one that should be met with caution! I have some top tips to help this transition go as smoothly as possible for both parents & toddler!
1. I advise parents to purchase a cot bed when they are preparing for the arrival of a new baby. They tend to be slightly larger & when it comes time to transition your child to a bed style sleeping environment you can start with taking the side off their cot. This way you are retaining a familiar sleeping environment for your child with simply the side removed. Often taking things in small steps rather than big chunks will be easier for everyone to manage.
2. I recommend purchasing a portable bed rail that can be put on the side of the cot bed when the cot side is taken off. This gives the security that they will not fall out of the bed during the night but also allows them to be able to get in and out of the bed safely too. It also will give your child that sense of security and boundaries that the cot gave while they slept.
3. My top tip to all toddler parents is to leave your child in their cot until they are 3 or older. A child of 3 will be better able to manage the lack of boundaries that moving out of a full cot brings. If you will be more likely to have a smooth transition with the change in sleep environment with a 3-year-old than you would with a younger child.
4. If you are experiencing difficulties with your baby or toddlers sleep, a move to a cot is unlikely to solve them, in fact, they are likely to make them worse. I would advise working on the issues at hand and ironing them out while your child is still in a full cot. Once you have things nice and settled and your child is 3 or older then I would consider moving things on as I have described above.
5. If you have made the decision to make the change start talking to your child about it a few weeks beforehand. Nothing too heavy, just simple chat. I suggest to parents to avoid referring to ‘staying in bed all night’, ‘sleeping all night long’ and ‘getting up during the night’. Simply talk about them being a big boy or girl now and soon they will have a bed that is more like Mum and Dads (or their older sibling if they have one!). If you are taking the side off the cot talk about that with them. By gently preparing them it won’t be as big a shock to them when it comes.
6. Be prepared on the night that you are making the transition – I suggest a Friday night! Have your little ones bed ready and everything you need in place. Ward off any visitors and focus in on keeping things nice and settled at bedtime.
7. I suggest bringing bedtime forward by 15 minutes on the night you are making and allow your child some time to get to know their new sleep space. Read books, have some quiet playtime.
8. Go through your bedtime routine as you normally do. Again, this is to make things as familiar and settled as possible. Read your usual books, tell your normal stories, sing the songs you love!
9. When it comes time to leave your child’s room and turn out the light proceed as you normally would when they were tucked up in their cot. If demands start coming to reassure your child and continue as you would to leave the room. The important thing to remember is that you are setting boundaries for the future and if you now allow new habits to sneak in around your child’s bedtime and settling to sleep they could be around for a long time.
10. In the early days if your child is getting out of bed and coming out of their room I would advise using a technique called Silent Return. This technique is highly effective at setting the boundaries around a new sleeping arrangement like this one. Reassurance your child the first time they leave the room that it is bedtime and that the need to go back to bed. Return them to their bed silently and keep repeating this until your child goes to sleep. Repeat this for any night time wandering! On the first few nights, this can take some time, particularly with a child who is younger than 3, however with consistency sleep will come.
Best of luck with the transition and check out @babogue_sleep on Instagram for how this went for me with my son Patrick when he was 3. You’ll find it in the Big Bed section of my highlights.