When raising a child, there are several ‘hot topics’ that new parents might agree or disagree on. One of the most common is whether co-sleeping or room-sharing is safe, and therefore right for your baby. Before we continue, it’s important that parents understand the difference between the two. Co-sleeping or bed-sharing is sharing a bed with or the same sleep surface as the baby. Room sharing is sleeping in the same room as your child but they are in their own sleep environment such as a cot and you are in a separate bed.
There are several advantages to co-sleeping. For example, both parents and babies often get more sleep and the night time routine tends to be much easier. Although babies will always stir and wake through the night for feeds, the close proximity to their parents may allow for a quicker feed. However, co-sleeping does not always mean better sleep for all!
However, I often hear from parents who may have chosen to co-sleep with their little one that the reality is that the parent's sleep is hugely disrupted due to the movement of their child and very often constant feeding demands during the night.
Room sharing is safe from any age as you and your child are in separate sleep environments but in the same room. In fact, room sharing is recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) from newborn babies and for at least the first six months to the full first year if possible. There is evidence to suggest that room-sharing decreases the risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) by up to 50%. SIDS is the unexplained death of a baby younger than one year.
Co-sleeping, on the other hand, is not safe. Although it can be tempting to snuggle up with your little one when they’re distressed, poorly or struggling to sleep, the risks are just too significant, especially for a newborn. There’s always the risk of parents rolling over in the night, baby falling off the bed or suffocation within heavy duvets or pillows.
There are a number of arguments for and against both of the above, but one of the strongest reasonings against bedsharing specifically is the increased risk of SIDS. If bed-sharing is unavoidable, there are steps you can take to make the space as safe as possible for your baby and reduce the risk factors. These include not drinking, smoking or taking any medication that impacts sleep before going to bed and ensuring that you’re not entirely sleep-deprived.
One of the possible adverse effects of co-sleeping is the impact it can have on the alone time and intimacy for parents. As with all areas of parenting, both co-sleeping parents should be on board and agree that it is the right path for your family unit. By agreeing, there is less chance of conflict or tension between partners.
Furthermore, parents who co-sleep for longer than recommended could struggle when it comes time for a change in sleeping arrangement, and the little one goes to their own room. There is also the risk of separation anxiety at this time.
Working on establishing more settled sleep while room-sharing may be more challenging if as technically the baby isn’t ‘alone’, but it’s not impossible.
Consider moving the cot away from your bed so that you are creating a little distance between you and baby. You can do this gradually so that there isn’t a bit jump to your baby no longer being beside your bed. By creating space, you will slowly get your baby more comfortable with settling independently of your physical presence. It may also give you the space to allow them to work through their light sleep phases, mooching and grumbles. You may be less likely to jump to every movement which could actually be interrupting your child's sleep phases rather than assisting them with maintaining their sleep.
New parents might find that the majority of the first year or so they are navigating the dos and don’ts of baby sleep. The best place to start is to learn and understand all the facts around safe infant sleep and the risks, including sudden infant death syndrome. Then, you can make an informed decision about co-sleeping or room sharing based on what’s best for your baby and you as a family. If you struggle with this decision, as all families are different, then consider consulting an expert for help.
You have just gotten on top of things with your child's sleep and then you have another curve ball thrown at you, the Clock Change!
Yes, the clocks will go back 1 hour on Sunday, October 25th at 2 am. We refer to this clock changes as the Fall Back. Out of the two clock changes that we have a year this is the one that is the one to watch out for & I do recommend that parents prepare for it in advance. A normal wake up time of 6.30 am can soon become 5.30 am without prep – which is no fun for anyone!
If you don’t manage to make this adjustment as outlined in advance of the clock change please don’t fret. You may find that your baby’s cycle is a little off-kilter in the days afterward but all is not lost. Our bodies thrive on consistency and routine. Simply stick to how you normally handle things with your child. Carry on as you would with their routine during the day and for bedtime and within a few short days things will have ironed themselves out.
From the day you bring your little one home, every aspect of life as you know it will change. This can be said especially for your sleep routine for the first few months. However, the sooner you get your baby into a sleep schedule, the sooner you can have a full night’s sleep for yourself. How do we define sleeping through the night? Where a baby is sleeping six to eight hours straight with no waking’s overnight.
From four to six months, your baby can transition closer to seven or eight hours sleep ‘through the night’. Although, it’s worth bearing in mind that if your baby goes to sleep at 8 pm, eight hours is only up to 4 am which is still the middle of the night for you!
Babies, like adults, will wake up or stir through the night. If you rush in at the first sigh or whimper, you will likely disrupt your baby more and stop them from being able to fall back to sleep. Allow them time to settle themselves back to sleep before you intervene. If by 6 months old, your baby is unable to self soothe, then you may wish to consider looking at the overall sleep picture and identify any sleep issues or challenges that you may be experiencing and work on them. This can be referred to as sleep training, however, I much prefer sleep shaping, sleep learning or moulding sleep. Most often babies are not born with the skill of sleeping and need their parents to lead them on a path to natural sleep habits.
By establishing a bedtime routine, and sticking to it, babies start to learn what’s coming next, the bedtime cues. A warm bath can help calm and soothe a baby, followed by a full feed. I recommend that this last feed of the day is approx. 45 mins before bedtime in a brightly lit living space not associated with sleep. About 20 mins prior to bedtime go to your little ones sleep environment, pull the blinds and curtains & dim the lights. These again will become bedtime cues. Read two age-appropriate books to them and change their nappy. Bedtime routines can be comforting and signal bedtime. It can be challenging to stick to a routine when members of your household have a different sleep schedule, but consistency is critical.
Related Article: Ideal Baby Bedtime Routine
Experts, including the American Academy of Paediatrics (AAP), recommend that babies start by sleeping in a room with their parents until they’re at least six months old. To start with having them beside your bed is helpful and necessary for overnight feeding, comfort and safety. However, as they grow and develop moving their sleep environment a little away from your bed may result in them sleeping longer stretches and you hear less of the mooching that we all do in our sleep. When you are ready you then may have the confidence and feel comfortable in your little one sleeping in their own room.
By making sure your little one is having all their day time nutritional needs meet in the day it is less likely that they will feed excessively through the night. This may bring the outcome of your little one sleeping through as they are less likely to require overnight feeding.
You will find that breastfed babies may have different schedules as breast milk digests quicker, leading to your breastfed little one being hungry more often. This may result in breastfed babies requiring feeding at night for a longer period than a typical bottle-fed baby.
If you are ready to move away from overnight feeding and you feel that your little one is too then reducing down feeds can be a route to take. Start by reducing by an ounce every 3 nights if a bottle-fed baby of by minutes if a breastfed baby.
Eventually, your baby will get used to less and less each feed and eventually stop expecting to be fed through the night. If your baby continues to wake during the night despite taking this route then having a plan to help them with resettling would be advisable. My Sleep Series programs can help you with establishing such a plan. Before you start trying to wean away from night-time feedings consult with your family doctor or public health nurse.
Often the introduction of a dream feed can assist with the night time weaning process. Wake your baby before you go to bed for one last feed. Remember to wake them up just enough so that they’re not entirely asleep and never feed them fully lying down. They will generally take a really good full feed and easily get their wind up as they are so sleepy. Only change their nappy if you feel it is necessary and I recommend that you do this at the beginning of their feed. Once they have finished their feed then you can return them to their sleep environment.
Related Article: Dream Feeds – Should I be using them?
While it’s important to learn how best to get your baby sleeping through the night, it’s also critical that you keep in mind there are some factors entirely out of your hands that may keep your baby awake. These include the following.
While you’re busy plotting a baby sleep schedule and bedtime routine, your baby is busy growing and developing.
Furthermore, sickness such as colds can disrupt your baby’s sleep habits temporarily, but once they’re feeling better, they should be able to get back to sleep for longer through the night.
Related Article: Dealing with Sickness & Sleep
Even the best sleepy baby will likely experience sleep regression around 4 months. The dreaded 4 month sleep regression. This is a huge progression for your child as it is the formation of circadian rhythms that govern our wake-sleep cycles. Try not to feel too frustrated, even if it feels like you’ve only just cracked some sort of routine and thought your little one was becoming a good sleeper, you can get it back. Keep in mind all the points in this article and you will be able to recover more settled sleep.
From very early on, it’s essential that you prepare a suitable sleep environment for your baby. That’s not to say you should be avoiding all loud noises as it can be useful to get your baby used to these, and sometimes repetitive sounds will help them get to sleep. However, the right temperature and a dark room are of the utmost importance in getting your baby to sleep well.
It’s also essential to develop good sleep habits from an early age, such as trying to avoid sleeping in arms, feeding to sleep or motion to sleep. Not only will this help your baby, and you as parents, avoid sleep problems, it will hopefully reduce the possibility of separation anxiety and increase the chances of them being able to fall asleep more independently.
If getting your baby to sleep is proving difficult, then you may wish to consider using some techniques around sleep shaping, learning or moulding. There are many many techniques out there that parents can adopt. Everything from low to high parental involvement. My top tips here are to respect your parenting style, do what feels okay to you and be consistent.
My Sleep Series programs have been designed around my 7 Steps to Better Sleep and have proven very successful in helping parents achieve their family sleep goals.
Related Article: What does a Sleep Consultant do?
Although it can be hard not to compare to your friends, or even your own, experiences, and the internet is full of information, you must remember that every baby is different. There are scientifically recommendations around sleep that I would advise you to make yourself familiar with. Like, that melatonin (the sleepy hormone) needs darkness to help us get to sleep and stay asleep. You are going to get lots of tips and tricks on ways of doing things from friends, family, well-wishers and the internet which can influence your decisions. But at the end of the day, you’ll know what’s best for your baby and for you.
Every family is different so respecting each other’s parenting journey is very important.
As your baby grows and develops, their sleep patterns change and evolve. Over time, the amount of day time sleeps your child needs will decrease until eventually, they will stop napping altogether. Each child and family will be different in this respect. However, there will be signs that your toddler is ready to drop their nap that you can look out for. Let's face it, naps are life. It's time for parents to have a break, drink a hot cup of coffee, or catch up on Netflix! To ensure you don’t lose that timeout completely, consider swapping nap time for ‘quiet time’, allowing yourself and your child some downtime.
By now, you will be used to nap transitions, which are the phases a baby goes through from newborn until napping drops off totally. For the first year to 18 months, a baby will transition rather quickly through naps, going from up to six naps a day to just one. From 14 months to toddler age, your child will transition from two to one and then, eventually none.
The older your toddler gets, the more you’ll find yourself questioning whether they need a nap or not and, if so, how long for. Nap times will vary depending on the child, their environment, their sleep need, as well as how long they tend to sleep at night.
If you’re struggling to work out how often your child should be asleep throughout the day and what time they should go to bed, try consulting a Bedtime or Sleep Chart. Bedtime Charts outline the average number of hours a child should be asleep for depending on their age, as well as a recommended bedtime by age. A bedtime chart will allow you to plan ahead for the next nap transition.
One of the first, most obvious signs to indicate that your child isn’t ready to nap or doesn't need to nap, is that they take a long time to fall asleep at nap time. Previously you may have found they’ve gotten comfy and nodded off, but now if nap time is feeling too forced and they’re fighting it, it may be time to adjust the time of the nap or stop completely. As your child grows, their need for daytime sleep drops off naturally, and often retaining napping at that point will start to negatively impact their night's sleep.
Similar to this, if your toddler is skipping naps entirely without showing any negative repercussions, then that’s a sure sign that they’re ready to stop. However, if they don’t go down at naptime but are super sleepy or irritable for the rest of the day, then you will need to put them to bed to compensate. How early? As early as 6 pm if necessary. By putting them to bed earlier you will allow them to replace the sleep that they have lost napping with overnight, restorative sleep. This will help them avoid overtiredness which could result in further sleep issues or the dreaded early morning waking, which is a common problem in toddler sleep.
It’s important to remember that this process won’t necessarily be instant. It will take time and consistency for your child to transition to no naps. Some toddlers stop napping straight away, and others will transition over an extended period. You may find that one day your child needs a nap, but the next day they appear ready to stop napping, just to fall asleep at nap time again the following day. If their nights are remaining settled then follow their lead somewhat.
On the days that your child isn’t tired enough for naptime or any daytime sleep at all, consider introducing some quiet time to ease the transition. If kids suddenly go from a daily nap to nothing at all, you may find they’re incredibly worn out by the end of the day, or even fall asleep when they shouldn’t. We have all experienced that sneaky couch nap at 5 pm that results in a super late bedtime! Quiet time will allow them to transition past the napping stage but stay reasonably rested and still being able to get to sleep at night.
I would consider a toddler, a toddler, from about 18 months to 3-3.5 years of age. After 3.5 years I would start to consider children shifting into the preschool stage. So, we are talking about a short enough time frame with your little one between 18 months and 3.5 years. An awful lot of developmental change can happen in that time. Your baby will shift from the baby stage through to being a walking, talking little ball of personality. They start to seek more independence from you but still look for the security that a parent brings.
Through a solid daily routine, you can provide them with the day to day stability of knowing what is coming next. Plus, the structure of learning opportunities that they will thrive on during this time. Children thrive on routine. Doing the same thing day in day out may seem boring to adults however for children it gives them predictability that they love. It increases their confidence and security which reinforces bonds plus helps them feel smarter. It also gives them time.
Toddlers want to feel like the centre of their universe, who doesn’t want to feel like that, right? So by giving them a stable routine day to day you are giving them that sense of importance that they are craving.
To make a shift towards routine firstly establish a regular starting to your day. Nobody likes to wake a sleeping child however by starting your little ones day at a regular time every day you are helping to regulate their internal body clock, their circadian rhythm. I suggest that this is between 7 & 7.30 each morning. This will give you a start point to the day on which you can build the rest of their daily stepping stones.
Very important! By offering meal times at regular times each day you again are regulating appetite and their body clock. I suggest offering breakfast within 30 to 60 minutes of waking each morning. I also like to steer parents away from TV or screen time upon waking. Instead, bring your toddler to a brightly lit living space and allow them to play. Get their imagination working straight away. Play is their work and that is how they learn and use new skills. Generally, I would see toddlers have main meals a day plus 2 snacks.
Most will probably still have two milk feeds a day up to 2 or 2.5 years of age however their main nutrition would be more beneficial to them from solid meals at this stage. I like to see little ones that are still napping having a protein-based meal prior to going down for their nap and their evening meal falling at approx. 5 pm.
This is the age range dependent. I would generally see the drive for day time sleep start to diminish with toddlers from 2.5 years. With most no longer requiring formal napping by 3 years of age. Where I see naps still present after 3 years of age I would generally see that this napping is taking from the night's sleep and would suggest adjustment, where necessary. To establish napping balance I like to see naps falling in the middle of the day. Generally between 12.30 pm & 1 pm with little one awake from all napping by 3 pm.
This can vary between toddlers and is very much dependent on their sleep needs. However, I would guide that toddlers need to be in bed 4.5-5 hours from when they woke from their formal nap. For example, if napping ended at 3 pm then bedtime would be approx. 7.30 pm. However, if napping is no longer part of your toddler's sleep picture I would suggest bedtime no later than 7 pm and even earlier where your little one is showing that they are tired.
As much outside time as possible! Toddlers love to be out and about seeing the world around them. I suggest factoring in 2 stages of activity with your toddler in the day. A morning session and an afternoon session. The morning session takes place after breakfast and incorporates a fruit-based morning snack while out and about at the playground or park. Or if it’s a rainy day a home activity that your toddler enjoys. After they have had their restorative cot nap engage in something else while factoring in another snack time if this doesn’t impact your child’s appetite for their evening meal at approx. 5 pm. Remember it's important to stimulate but not exhaust toddlers. Children that are overtired will not sleep as well as a child that is rested but well stimulated.
Remember it's important to stimulate but not exhaust toddlers. Children that are overtired will not sleep as well as a child that is rested but well stimulated.
If you are experiencing sleep issues with your Toddler establishing or tweaking routine may well help to resolve things. It honestly depends on what is happening and how long the issues have been going on. If they have transferred from the baby stage then perhaps working with a sleep consultant 1:1, like my Virtual Sleep Solution, or perhaps a Sleep Program, like The Sleep Series, may benefit you in terms of identifying the issues and having a plan to work with to resolve things. Either of these options may also give you the toolkit to understand how to recognize when tweaks to routine are needed to settle sleep blips down.
Sure – this handy graphic will help you map out a daily routine that works for your little one and the stage that they are at!
Night Terrors are a form of sleep disruption that occurs during non-Rapid Eye Movement (non-REM) sleep or the deeper phases of sleep. Unlike, nightmares, which occur during Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep or lighter phases of sleep.
Night Terrors are more likely to occur in the earlier phases of sleep. Parents often report that the terror will occur before the parent goes to bed themselves. So, prior to midnight.
Night terrors can be really distressing for parents. Your child is likely to present with screaming, very distressed, thrashing about. They may sweat and have rapid breathing and heart rate. Generally, they will sit bolt upright, with eyes wide open. They appear to be awake rather than asleep. Your child is somewhere between being asleep and awake.
The exact causes of night terrors are not known but continually studied. It is thought that too little sleep or overtiredness can contribute to night terrors in children.
If your child is having regular terrors, I would recommend that you start to keep a log and track them. Take notes on how they present, the time of the terror, and the duration. Coupled with that start keeping a food and activity diary for your child to see if you can find any correlation between something that is happening in the daytime with when a terror presents itself.
Ultimately, if you are experiencing regular night terrors with your child and it is bringing you concern link in with your family doctor. Make sure you are armed with your log or diary of what has been happening so that you can immediately show your doctor the frequency of the terrors. Sometimes, they do require further investigation, and a referral to a pediatrician or sleep clinic may be recommended.