September is National Baby Sleep Awareness month; I am so excited to be writing my first collaboration post, a couple of weeks ago I joined up with Lynette from Serene Sleep Solutions in Canada to bring you a Q&A about baby and toddler sleep patterns and sleep training.
Lynette is a child sleep expert offering tailored services for parents with young children to help them gain a safe and healthy sleep schedule. Through one on one support Lynette will create a bespoke sleep training plan for you and your child to follow to help them transition into a sleep routine that is both good for them and for you.
I reached out on social media for questions that new and expectant parents wanted answers to but perhaps didn’t know who to ask and I was so surprised to get so many similar questions being asked. It seems we all have the same worries and face the same obstacles when it comes to getting little ones into a routine.
So without further ado, here are the questions and Lynette’s answers:
Do you recommend the bath, bottle, bed routine? Or can you suggest an alternative routine that you think is more successful at getting new-borns to sleep?
I do recommend a bedtime routine for new borns, but I would suggest doing a slightly different routine. It should be short and simple, nothing longer than 15 minutes at this age and the same every night. The key to a successful bedtime routine is to not feed right before bed. For example you could do a routine such as the following: pyjamas, feeding, singing a song, and into their bed.
I’ve read about people waking their babies for a ‘dream feed’ have you any advice on whether this is a good idea? Is it best to let baby sleep and wake when they’re hungry or keep them on a fixed feeding time frame?
I don’t recommend dream feeds as not all babies will respond well to this. Some babies will wake up and it can be hard to get them back to sleep, other babies may not wake up enough to even be able to get them to feed, and others may start waking at that time out of habit looking for a feeding. It’s best just to let your baby wake when they’re hungry and stick to what your doctor says about how often they need to feed.
I am anxious to get my new-born into a good evening/sleep routine so that we have a clear structure but I am worried about becoming dependent on the routine. Would you recommend sticking to the routine as close as possible right from birth or should you mix it up sometimes so that baby learns to adapt? For example if we went out for a dinner and took baby with us in the pram, they would be able to sleep in the pram rather than being completely thrown by the change of routine.
Babies thrive off of routine. The purpose of a bedtime routine teaches babies/toddlers to recognize that bedtime is coming, and helps them to become calm and settled for bed. Babies won’t start forming a schedule until 6 months. Very few will start as early as 4 months.
You can start right away creating a good, consistent bedtime routine for your new born. This is a good habit to get into but your baby won’t become dependant on it at such a young age. As your baby gets older and to the age where a schedule should be consistent then I would recommend making sure you are home for their bedtime and naps.
Have you any thoughts on the use of infant support pillows like Dockatot and Sleaphead (UK version)? I’ve seen lots of people using them and they seem like a great investment but do they really help babies to sleep better?
I recently tried the DockATot out with my daughter when she was 18 months while we were camping and it was a success. However, she’s come to the age now where if I put it on the floor to use as a bed at someone’s house she gets up and walks around. Right now that’s not a battle I want to deal with so I’ve stopped using it and have gone back to the “pack & play” where she sleeps great! I’ve never had the chance of using it for a baby, but I can see how they would help the first few months. Your baby would feel safe & secure in the DockATot and would help them sleep better. If you have a baby 3+ months old, it may still help them sleep better, but if you are having trouble with your baby falling asleep on their own it’s best to fix the problem permanently and teach them to fall asleep independently in their crib.
The DockATot can also be great for safe co-sleeping and I would highly recommend it if you plan on co-sleeping at all.
Can you recommend any methods for soothing a baby that won’t sleep without rocking them? I don’t want to make my baby dependant on being rocked as I know it can take a long time to break this habit but I also don’t want my baby to just cry and cry.
This depends on the age of your baby. If he/she is younger than 3 months, then do whatever it takes to get your baby to sleep. Make sure to give your baby lots of practice being laid down when they’re awake so that they can get used to being outside of your arms. I don’t recommend sleep training before 3 months because babies are still getting used to the outside world. For a temporary fix with older babies, try soothing them with other sleep props such as patting, shushing etc. so they don’t develop a habit of being rocked to sleep. For a long term solution feel free to contact me to develop a sleep plan customized for you and your baby.
I offer two gentle methods that have very little tears. My gentler methods are very suitable from the ages of 3 months all the way up to 36 months, keep in mind that the older your baby gets the more set in their ways they become and the longer it takes to sleep train without tears. Once they hit the one year mark it is almost impossible to sleep train without a few tears, that being said i do not offer any cry it out methods.
Following on from the above question, do you advocate a self-soothing technique of letting baby cry sometimes or do you believe it is best to comfort them and get them back to sleep when they wake?
As a sleep consultant I’ve seen the results of both letting your baby cry sometimes and comforting them back to sleep. I can highly recommend that the best way is to teach your baby to self sooth. As mentioned above, I don’t offer cry it out methods.
I offer an intermediate method that usually involves crying but I never tell you to leave your baby to cry until they fall asleep.
The two gentle methods I offer usually involve very little tears. I always ask my parents how they feel about letting their baby cry so that I can make a sleep plan according to what they feel comfortable with.
We are trying to wean my toddler of their dummy/pacifier and they are refusing to settle to sleep and waking often in the night which they didn’t do before. Any advice would be much appreciated?
Eliminating the dummy/pacifier is the same as sleep training. You’re teaching your little one to fall asleep on his/her own. Make sure you keep consistent in what you do every night so that he/she understands that they no longer get the dummy/pacifier. Reward your toddler when he/she sleeps without it.
Some parents find it best to throw the dummy/pacifier away so that they don’t give in. By giving in it prolongs the process and will just make your toddler cry harder the next night.
It can take a week or two before your toddler learns to fall asleep on his/her own and so being consistent is key.
Have you any views or advice on co-sleeping? I have a friend who swears by it but I am unsure, is it safe?
I don’t encourage co-sleeping but I’m not against it. Co-sleeping creates the habit of baby needing mom or dad to always be there for them to fall asleep. As well as many nursing moms experience that it creates the habit of feeding to sleep because baby is right there so it’s easy for baby to quickly latch on when they may not need a feeding but rather want it to get back to sleep.
If you are going to co-sleep please do it safely. Here is a link to a really good article on safe co-sleeping guidelines.
I will help parents sleep train if they still would like to continue to co-sleep. Just remember that it will take longer to sleep train if you plan on continuing to co-sleep.
I’m so nervous about moving my baby into their own room and into their big cot from the moses basket, I know my own nerves are probably going to make them unsure and I will want to check on them constantly. How can I try to make this more peaceful and a smooth transition so that they sleep through the night?
First of all, I’d like to say you’re not the only one that feels this way! I have helped many moms that are nervous about putting their baby in their own room.
There are a few different ways you can do this. If baby responds well to being put into his/her crib in their own room, then I would suggest just getting a video monitor for yourself so that you can easily check on them while they’re sleeping and you don’t have to worry about waking your baby up. Sometimes just knowing that your baby is ok in their own room by themselves is enough to settle your nerves. Another way is to spend a few nights in your baby’s room with them until they’re used that sleeping environment. Or you can just stay in the room until they’re asleep.
I want to invest in a baby carrier to help my baby sleep during the day and still be able to get things done around the house or when we’re out for the day. I’m torn between a full carrier like the Ergobaby and a fabric sling wrap, do you have any thoughts on either type of carrier and whether they are good for baby to sleep in whilst parents get jobs done?
Baby carriers are a life saver when it comes to getting work done while your baby sleeps if they are unable to fall asleep outside of your arms. However, if your baby is past 3 months I’d recommend looking into why your baby won’t fall asleep outside of your arms and try a sleep training method to get your baby more comfortable sleeping on his/her own. Prior to 3 months, it’s best just to do whatever it takes to get your baby to sleep while they get used to the new world they are apart of and carriers are great for that! Just be careful they aren’t sleeping too much during the day as that won’t help their day/night confusion.
I used the Ergo carrier with my daughter in the first few months and loved it. It has great back support and I could bend over and such knowing that she was secure and comfy. I had a fabric sling wrap as well but never used it near as much because it didn’t support my back as good. Which carrier you buy all comes down to your own preference really and whether your baby feels comfortable in it. I would recommend going and trying out a few in a store to get a feel for what is comfortable for you and your baby.
How do you combat a baby/toddler who’s fighting sleep. I know they are so tired and crying constantly but just won’t close their eyes and allow the sleep to come? It happens mostly when we’re out and I think they just don’t want to miss out on the world, I’ve thought about covering them with a moses to block their view but can you suggest anything else to help?
Majority of the time a baby/toddler that is fighting sleep is because it’s past their nap time. Depends on the age but sometimes 15 minutes can make the difference of them going from tired to overtired. So try moving their nap a little earlier.
If you have an older baby or toddler and they’ve reached the age where they’re distracted by their surroundings, it’s best to stay home for their naps. This way they will know it’s nap time and associate their bed with going to sleep. They will also get a good nap versus a catnap that will leave them feeling tired again in a short time.
If you keep your baby on a set schedule and they are getting good naps, then those special days that you have to be out during their nap, the short/late/no nap won’t affect them as much.
In the UK we have a daylight savings time so we change our clocks twice a year. This throws my toddler’s sleep pattern out of the window as they think it is an hour later/earlier than it really is. It’s a struggle to realign their sleep every time. How can I encourage them to stay in bed longer when it is suddenly lighter outside?
Number one thing is to get blackout blinds. Make their bedroom as dark as possible. If they have reached the age where they have shown signs of being afraid of the dark then you can put a night light in the room, farthest away from their bed.
Here are ways to get your baby/toddler adjusted to the new schedule without it having too much affect on them:
For the fall/autumn:
One week prior to time change, move your baby/toddler’s schedule ahead by 10 minutes each day.
For the spring:
This time change isn’t usually as big of a deal, but to help keep them on their schedule you can move your baby/toddler’s schedule back by 10 mins every day the week after time change.
Wow, so much great advice here, I hope you have found it helpful and reassuring to know you’re not the only one struggling or asking questions. I know as a first timer I am definitely grateful for the information in these answers.
No matter how prepared we feel as parents our babies and children will do whatever they can to test us but I hope you now feel armed with a little more knowledge to help along the way.
If you have any other questions or comments on the areas we have discussed please leave a message below, also if you would like to see a Q&A on any other topic I’d love to know.