One the first question your friends and family ask when they come to visit when they are little is ‘do they sleep well?’…and lets face it, when you have gone from sleeping 8 hours interrupted over night to waking every 2-3 hours to feed and wind a little person your immediate answer is likely to be ‘no’!
You will have at some point Googled ‘how to make my child sleep’ or ‘causes for early morning waking’ ‘when do I drop the morning nap’ and what you’ll find is lots of amazing advice, studies, opinions, then throw in to the mix, suggestions from well meaning friends and you often end up feeling more confused and less sure of what approach you should take and how to change or improve things.
One thing that is so important when helping your child to sleep is providing them with an age appropriate feeding and sleep schedule but also being super consistent with your pre-bed ritual and settling approach.
Being a parent… is exhausting…it’s a constant juggle but sleep deprivation which for an adult is when are having less than 6 hours night, doesn’t just make you tired and affect your mood….lack of sleep impacts our cognitive function, mental health, physical health and relationships. Sleep deprivation can increase your risk of obesity, developing diabetes, heart problems, some cancers but also our marriages and our performance at work.
Studies have shown that driving whilst sleep deprived is as dangerous as drunk driving. And according to a recent study and the majority of patients on the NHS suffering from clinically anxiety and depression are sleeping, on average less than 6 hours a night. So there’s real evidence that lack of sleep is hugely detrimental and I want to help families and children in getting the best sleep they can.
I’m not a fan of the term ‘sleep training’ but that is what its commonly known as but I prefer to say we are sleep shaping and showing your child how to sleep more independent and soundly.
Knowledge is power
I want to empower parents and caregivers by providing them with the knowledge, tools and science based evidence to improve their child’s sleep. Knowledge is power. There is no shame in asking for help or advice.
What I can do is support parents in improving their child’s sleep in gentle way taking in to consideration the child’s temperament, your parenting philosophy and looking at everything from routine, nutrition, milk intake, developmental leaps, family dynamics and health.
We are all trying to do our best and by supporting and sharing our experience and knowledge we can empower each other and give the confidence to live happy fulfilled lives.
Tips to create the perfect sleep environment
You can help promote sleep by creating a suitable sleep environment and introducing sleep cues. During the first few months the best sleep cues replicate the calming sensation of the womb. Good sleep cues can help your baby fall asleep fast and stay asleep longer.
Darkness helps increase melatonin (the sleep hormone) and shuts out any visual stimuli that may wake the baby or make it difficult for the child to switch off or return to sleep. Ensure the baby’s room is sufficiently dark. This will also help with early risers.
Rather like ‘shushing’ a baby to sleep, using white noise turns on a calming reflex in babies when crying or tired. Shushing can be very helpful in calming and settling a baby and using white noise can also have the same effect. The noise needs to be continuous and as loud as a running shower. Opt for a low steady rumble rather than anything too sharp or ‘hissy’. Also avoid using sound aids that turn off after a short while…we are trying to create a continuous uninterrupted noise for the duration of their sleep. If using a smartphone always ensure it is on airplane mode and that wifi is turned off. The white noise should be turned on before they are put in their crib and by 3-4 months the baby will start to recognise it as a sleep cue and know its time for bed! It’s a great tool to have especially when travelling or away from home and trying to create a similar home environment. It can also help drown out day-to-day noises (such as doorbells, other children, dogs barking etc). When you start to wean your baby from swaddling (4-5 months) the familiarity of the white noise will create comfort and will continue to promote sleep.
Another great sleep cue is giving you child a comforter to help them fall asleep. They can also be reassuring to your child at times of stress (such as illness or a parents absence). From 3-6 months the only safe comforter is a dummy but after 6 months you can introduce a small handkerchief sized silky blanket or hand-sized cuddly toy. Make sure your child’s comforter doesn’t have any buttons or beads in the stuffing that could be a choking hazard or get stuck up their nose. Try sleeping with it yourself for a few nights so it smells of you and use it in the bedtime routine. It is a good idea to have two identical object which you rotate every day so that if one is lost or soiled you have a back up!
Don’t let your baby get too hot or cold. An infant sleep environment should be between 16-20 degrees