As a Baby and Child Sleep Consultant, I see many of the same issues faced by my clients time and time again. Here are five sleep and settling issues that I deal with on a regular basis and some helpful ways which can rapidly improve your little one’s sleep habits.
With the cold of winter upon us, I often find that babies and toddlers are not warm enough in their cots which can lead to frequent waking. We all know that being cosy and warm in our beds is one of life’s greatest pleasures, but with so many parents worrying about SIDS, I find that children are often cold.
As soon as we address this issue, the number of night wakings will almost immediately decrease, leading to more ZZZs for weary parents!
If you don’t want a scary electricity bill this season but bub’s room is very cold, using a small oil fin heater in bedrooms, well away from the cot is effective. Setting the temperature to around 19-20 degrees, with a timer to come on in the early hours, is a great way to keep costs down and little ones warm and sleeping.
2. sleep cues
Although I really believe in a flexible routine for little ones, I do know that following sleep cues and timings are so important for good sleep and do need to be somewhat in place. Rather than following the clock to the hour, it’s really essential to focus on a baby or child’s sleepy cues as their first sign to begin either nap or bedtime. However, keep an eye on both clock and baby to find the optimum sleep window. Failure to catch the sleep window leads to an overtired baby who will be tricky to settle and go to sleep. Sleep cues include pulling ears, red eyes and whinging.
3. consistent bedtime routine
Putting in place a consistent sleep routine genuinely works wonders and is one of the first things I do. Closing the blinds, reading the same book every night or singing the same song is a lovely cue that sleep is next. Putting on continuous white noise, changing a nappy and placing in a sleep bag, all the while talking in a hushed voice with a dim light on, will remind your little one that it is time to sleep now. The repeated cues of preparation before bed help to reinforce what is expected well before baby is placed in the cot.
4. drowsy but awake
Babies and children go through 45 minute sleep cycles. Each time they get to the end of one sleep cycle, and before they transition into the next, they wake briefly. If they wake and conditions are not the same as when they went down, such as being fed to sleep either by a breast or bottle, a dummy fallen out of the mouth, no rocking or patting, etc., they may fully wake and begin to cry. These are called sleep props and can be very hard habits to break once firmly cemented.
One of the most important pieces of advice I can give is to put your baby down to sleep drowsy but awake. Putting down drowsy but awake means to tickle feet lightly, blow on face, say night night gently or anything else that may slightly wake them so their eyes may open briefly as you are putting them into the cot – but not too much so they become unsettled! It’s a fine art but can be perfected with practice.
5. extending early morning wake-ups
Responding to your child five minutes later everyday can help when they have an early wake-up. Little ones learn to self-entertain and this is a really important tool as they grow into children. Make sure the room is not too light in the morning from spaces in or around blinds. Lastly, I always recommend using white noise. It helps to block out early morning ambient noise and can help extend your little one’s morning sleep cycle. It’s also very relaxing, not just for babies. I use it with my girls and it really helps!
Sleep is truly the holy grail of parenthood. I really hope these tricks of the sleep trade help you and your little one! Good luck!
Chantal Cohen is a certified sleep consultant and owner of nanny agency ‘Chantal the Nanny‘. As a mother of three small girls and wife to Jeremy, when she’s not baby whispering or singing Wiggles tunes you’ll find her drinking tea and reading on her back verandah. Chantal has over 18 years experience helping new mothers to find their confidence, small children to tie their shoes and encouraging tiny wriggly babies to go to sleep!