Help getting baby to sleep FAQ's from Facebook Live Event - answered!
Help getting baby to sleep for parents is such a popular topic. In a recent Facebook Live session, I opened the gates to help parents with their pressing baby sleep problems. What a success it was. So much so that I was unable to answer every question during the live interaction but, I have gone through and answered all the baby sleep questions below. I hope it extends to all the parents struggling with getting your little one to sleep and settle.
There is a huge amount of information on my website. You can look at the blog for a list of my articles on baby sleep. The Four Month Sleep Regression is a common topic and something I am asked about all the time. Check that out if your little one is at that age. In this post I talk about sleep regression through various ages from 4 Month Sleep Regression right through to 18 month olds and the various causes.
For now though, let's dive in and take a look at the questions I had. Hopefully we can give you some help on getting baby to sleep (and parents too!)
PLEASE NOTE - the video from the Facebook Live Q+A will be posted here shortly
Early Morning Waking
- Getting your little one off to bed at a reasonable time is important. Some people are under the impression that making bed time later will help rule out early morning waking and it’s usually not the case. Sleep promotes sleep. You can use a bedtime as early as 5:30/6pm if need be.
- Eliminating all props but make sure you have a plan. So if your child is using a dummy or being fed/rocked/sat with to sleep all of the time for example, what this will mean is that in the early hours of the morning instead of your little one just drifting through each cycle they wake for their external prop. Come 4-5am it’s much harder to expect them to go back off to sleep. Self - settling plays a vital role in helping your little one re settle in the early hours of the morning. Props as I refer to them are any external measure that comes into play time and time again to get your little one off to sleep.
- Make the room dark and I mean really dark.
- Don’t encourage these early morning waking’s. I advise my clients that unless you are worried give your little one some time to see if they will drift back off to sleep. If your child is crying you can always go into the room and offer some comfort to encourage him/her back to sleep.
How to Manage Multiple Night Wakings from your Baby
Firstly I absolutely look at why they are happening. What is it that you do time and time again to get your little off to sleep, drowsy or even to cue that sleep is coming. Learned associations are the most common cause of multiple night wakings. When your little one is used to external measures such as dummies, rocking, feeding etc to get to sleep and back to sleep and through sleep cycles time and time again, this is when it becomes problematic. I recommend addressing their props and I would begin working on self - settling. If you do decide to work on this I recommend commencing from the first settle of the evening. I also recommend having a really solid plan that doesn’t guide you to swap your props. So many people will come to me and say we’ve stopped rocking our little one to sleep but are now stuck patting for example. I would also ensure the feed isn’t the last step of the routine and try and move it forward twenty minutes before bed. Finally make sure your little one isn’t over tired when you begin and commit to as many naps at home as you can for the first few days.
- Note – Teaching little ones the skill of sleeping well really is just changing what they associate or have learned to get to sleep. It is absolutely unreal to see the change in sleep patterns and the quality of sleep when they get back to settling themselves between cycles. They simply drift between them in a peaceful state. I work one on one with clients for two weeks to guide and support them during this change. This takes all of the guess work out and gives parents a plan and the ongoing support that way they know it is going to be successful and their best decision yet!
Catnapping (Baby does not know how to self-settle)
The biggest blunder – not self-settling
First and foremost, the most common cause of short naps is quite simply this: an inability to self-settle. This translates as an inability to sleep without being patted, rocked, fed or given a dummy to get to sleep. When I start with clients, this is one of the first areas we work on, and within days we start to see naps turnaround from 30-50 minutes to 1-2 hours. Here’s why: When your little one has the ability to fall asleep independently, they then have the skills required to settle back to sleep after the end of their first sleep cycle (somewhere between 30-50 minutes). We all rouse after sleep cycles, but self-settling is particularly important for babies and toddlers as they often struggle to drift into the next cycle. This then leads to them waking with not much luck of re-settling.
The daily grind
Run your day by distinct periods of ‘feed’, ‘play’ and ‘sleep’. I cannot recommend this enough! It is a fantastic way to structure your day and set your little ones up for good naps and solid feeds. Differentiating each period is key. It is also a good idea as your little one starts to take more solids to offer something to eat (snack) 20 minutes prior to their nap. I would begin implementing this type of structure around 10 – 12 weeks of age.
Timing is everything
Have you tried to get your little one to sleep well when they are over or under-tired? It’s like fighting a losing battle. So when you’re working on getting naps sorted, be sure to keep this in mind. Getting to know your little one and their tired signs is important in working out the optimal time for naps. This will not only make the initial settle much more pleasant, but will also give your baby a better chance at taking a longer nap. I recommend taking a look at my previous article on Baby Hints and Tips that talks about ideal wake times for your child’s age. This also appears on https://babyhintsandtips.com/awake-times-tips-to-avoid-an-overtired-baby/
Plenty of practice
The more opportunities your baby has to sleep in their safe sleep space, the better. Routine and consistency play a big part in creating and maintaining healthy sleep habits. If you are rarely home, or your child is in and out of the car and pram all day, it’s hard to expect that they will be taking long naps on the rare occasion they are at home. Nap one and two are the only naps you usually get extensions on so I only focus on those two. Of course if bub takes a long naps 3 you let them but I don’t put pressure on any naps being long other than one and two.
Set the scene
I really encourage families to provide their children with sleep spaces that are conducive to quality sleep. Creating a dark room (without night light shows and mobiles), provides your child the chance to drift peacefully off to sleep and then again into another sleep cycle without becoming distracted.
Baby not sleeping during the day
- Be aware of other times they have slept instead. On feeds, in the car, in your arms. Even if it’s a quick doze this will take their appetite away for sleep to come.
- Shorten awake times so you’re not trying when they are overtired.
- Commit to a few days of getting them into their cot for day sleeps.
- Create a pattern of feed, play and sleep.
- Dark rooms and white noise.
- If you are getting them to sleep in your arms and they are waking each time you try and put them into their bed this is something that I would try and manage differently so working on in cot settling or self settling if they are old enough.
A guide to awake times
Please note – These awake times are based on a child who is taking proper naps and having reasonable sleep overnight. If your child is catnapping or waking a number of times overnight, these awake times may not be suitable. Every child is different and there really is no one size fits all. However I find when I work with these awake times as an approximate guide and then take into consideration the child’s behaviours around these times, parents often find the timing to be right on cue!
Newborns 8 weeks old and under:
- 45 min – 75 min awake time
- This time should include feeding.
8 weeks old and over:
- 60 min – 90 min awake time
- If your little one is taking short naps, you might find 60 minutes is a stretch and that’s ok. I would rather you put your baby down more regularly than end up with an overtired infant. Some people find their children manage well with a greater awake time and that’s okay too.
4 – 6 months old:
- 1 hour 45min awake time
- At 4 months of age, start with 1h 45min and then slowly work up (over a couple of months) to an awake time of around 2.5 hours as your little one reaches 6 months and older.
7 – 12 months old:
- 5 hours – 4 hours awake time
- Around 7 months you may find your little one is still settling well on 2.5 hours awake time. As they reach 8-9 months, 2h 45min – 3 hours might be more manageable, and by 12 months your baby could be managing an awake time of 3.5 – 4 hours in between their naps.
12 – 18 months old:
- During this time your little one might start showing signs they are ready to drop to one nap per day. I encourage parents not to rush dropping nap number two, and ensure that their little one is ready to extend their morning awake time until at least 10:30am. This way they are more likely to make it through to a reasonable bedtime (somewhere between 6pm and 7pm) without being exhausted.
I hope these wake times act as a helpful guide for you to understand when your little one may need to take a nap. Remember, every child is different, so it’s important for you to look out for the behaviour and mood changes that are unique to them.