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10 Top Tips to Help Improve your baby sleep Baby Sleep

Christmas countdown – 10 tips to improve baby sleep

Following on from the success of my Insta stories Christmas countdown here are the first “10 Top Tips” in my series of sleep tips to help improve baby sleep.

Number One – melatonin

Because your newborn baby will not start to produce melatonin until around 12 weeks of age there is no point in using black out blinds in the day. The goal at this age is to help regulate your baby’s body clock and using black out blinds will only make this harder.

Number Two – Naps

Naps are critical to prevent sleep debt as the day progresses. Too much sleep debt can cause frequent night wakings, changes to the sleep architecture and early risings. If you are worried your baby is waking too early from their nap set a timer 5 minutes before they wake and with your hand gently see if you can coax them through into another sleep cycle.

Number Three – Massage

Massage with lotion has been shown to optimise the time it takes for your baby to fall asleep – plus it also helps lengthen the duration of the sleep for babies and their mothers.

Number Four – Cot Play

To help improve night waking’s and to teach your child what to expect when they wake. Use the morning wake for cot play. Instead of getting them out of their cot, open the curtains turn on the lights and encourage them to play in their cot. This teaches them it is ok to wait and helps them to understand that you will not always immediately pick them up.

Number Five – Pink Noise

Does your baby wake frequently at night or very early in the morning? You might like to think about using pink noise which has been shown to deepen their sleep.

Number Six – Exercise

Allowing your child to have around half an hour of exercise in the afternoon between 4-5 PM can do wanders for sleep. For babies who can not yet walk, try swimming, singing, rolling supported standing or jumping.

Number Seven – Milk

To help your baby sleep better when they have a cold put a drop of fresh breastmilk in each nostril using a pipet. The immune cells and the antibodies in the milk are the only thing that fight a cold. If you are not nursing use a drop of sterile saline.

Number Eight – Gentle wake

Briefly waking your baby when you ease them into bed will bring you many hours of additional sleep and will help to prevent sleep problems later on

Number Nine – Tokens

To help limit the number of trips your little one makes out of the bedroom once lights are out – you might like to consider using bedtime tokens. Each time they get out of bed they have to give one to you and any they have left over they can swap for a small treat in the morning.

Number Ten – Gro Clock

Use your “Gro Clock” or something similar as part of your bedtime routine to help with the abstract notion of time. This is particularly helpful in the summer when the nights become lighter.

So there you have it; Part One of my Christmas Sleep Tips count down – tune in next month for Part Two.

Plus in the meantime don’t forget to follow me on Instagram @helpbabysleep where I will be bringing you daily sleep tips and updates.

 

There is no doubt that your baby’s sleep is highly individualised.  This is why sometimes it can be helpful to have a personalised sleep consultation.  Alternatively, I also offer a trouble-shooting call service. 

Find out more about my packages here.

 

 

 

Autumn clock change The Blog

Clocks Change: How to adjust sleep routines

The last Sunday of October  is not far away and although the clocks are only going backward by one hour, the change to routine and the body clock can sometimes impact children and parents for weeks.

What can  you do to help your children adjust when the clocks change back?

I have spoken to numerous parents, and trialled various methods over the years with my own children.  There is no doubt that the most sensible approach is to try and get our children gently used to the new time over a number of days with a gradual transition.

“The best way to adjust your sleep cycle is to do it gradually” Stephanie Silberman, PHD, Clinical  Psychologist and Author of the Insomnia Workbook 

The key is firstly not to overthink it and ensure that your child is well rested – having good naps and night sleep in the run up to the week/weekend when the clocks change.

Then you have two options:

Option One-Gradual Transition:

To make your life easier I suggest you start by moving your children’s nap times and bedtimes by 15 minutes later each day over four days starting on the Wednesday before the clocks go back.

You also have the option to do this over three days and move them by 20 minutes per day or if your baby or child is very sensitive to change  and slow to adapt you might like to do it more gradually and make adjustments of 10 minutes each day over six days.

As well as moving bedtimes and naptimes later to encourage your child to gradually wake up later you will also want to try and move meal times later too, to help their body clocks to adjust as easily as possible.

Option Two – Go Cold Turkey:

This literally means do nothing and just let them adapt to the new time that day. You will adjust your clocks to the new time and then adjust your day accordingly.

If like the majority of families I have spoken to you choose to go cold turkey then on Sunday 27th October when they wake up earlier than norma,l try keeping them in their room for an additional 15 minutes before allowing them to get up and start their day and over the next week to ten days gradually increase the time they spend in their room to enable their bodies to readjust to the new time.

Please do not despair if after 3 days they are still waking earlier than normal as our body clocks can take as long as a week to adjust to different lighting caused by gaining an hour in the mornings.

I also suggest that if you haven’t done so already you invest in some good black out blinds as the mornings will now be lighter and the evenings darker.

Tactics to help your child with the new bedtime

The final thing you will need to adjust is your child’s new bedtime. To help them last the extra hour you may like to think about employing the following tactics;

  1. Keep all your artificial lighting on for longer 
  2. Stretch out bathtime to use up some of the extra hour
  3. Read more books than normal 
  4. Practice using breathing techniques to help them relax in the run up to bedtime without becoming overtired

Most importantly if things don’t work out immediately please don’t worry too much, disruption tends to be temporary. Normally it takes 3 days to a week for most children to get back on schedule.


If you can’t quite work out how to piece it all together and need a fresh set of eyes, please do get in touch to book a personalised sleep chat

 

 

Night wakings 5 tips to address them The Blog

Night Wakings: 5 Ways to address them

As a new parent it is only a matter of weeks of night wakings before you start looking forward to the moment when your new baby will start sleeping through the night.

More than often your wish becomes a realisation around the 6-month mark  but for many parents’ months can go by and your little one is still waking in the night.

If this sounds familiar then you might want to read on to discover my 5 Key reasons as to why the night wakes may be happening.

Hopefully once you have identified the reason or reasons behind their night waking it will enable you to make the necessary changes and before long you will all be enjoying a night of peaceful sleep and restoration.

5 tips to address night wakings?

The first reason why your baby may be waking at night or early in the morning is because their awake windows during the day are too long. Awake windows are crucial when it comes to our little one’s sleep. These windows of wakefulness essentially dictate how much sleep our babies will have throughout a 24-hour period. If you leave your baby too long before putting them down for a nap – cortisol will override the sleep pressure and rather than dropping of they will struggle to fall and stay asleep.

Ensure your baby is having adequate sleep over a 24 hour period

The second thing you need to look at if your baby is waking regularly in the night is the overall amount of sleep that they are having in a 24-hour period.  Although this differs hugely between babies if they are getting either too little or too much over and above the recommended guidelines it can dramatically increase night awakening and early risings.

Night feeds can also be a cause of constant night waking’s although it is important to remember that babies especially new born babies sleep lightly and wake often for a reason. It is crucial that they can wake for their night feeds and only when they are physically able to sleep for between 10 -12 hours without needing a feed should you consider trying to remove them altogether. It is important to remember however, that if you are still feeding your baby at night it shouldn’t have to mean no sleep. It is perfectly possible to still have one feed during the night and have good sleep. In fact, is can be beneficial for many breast-feeding mothers to keep up with one feed a night during the first year of their baby’s life as it helps keep up their supply.

Manage your expectations it is perfectly normal for babies to wake fully once or twice during the night in the first 2 years of their lives

It is important to manage your expectations when it comes to night waking’s and your baby’s sleep particularly around the time of major developmental milestones.  During a developmental leap your baby will spend a huge proportion of their night in light sleep.  It is during these stages of light sleep that they take the information from the day and put it in to their long-term memory. It is therefore not surprising that around the time of major developmental milestones that their sleep is lighter as it is this sleep which allows them to process the new motor or mental skills that they have learnt.  When your baby is in  light sleep they are much more likely to wake and therefore during these periods of major development expect them to fully arouse more than normal.  The key is to be patient with them and on yourself, and not set unrealistic expectations when it comes to their sleep at night.  Help them at night waking’s and don’t expect them to self soothe overnight. More than often once they have learnt their new skill/skills they will start to sleep through again.

Sleep Associations are often the cause of night waking’s

Finally, the last thing you need to be aware of when it comes to understanding why you baby may be waking at night are sleep associations.  Whatever you are doing at bedtime be it feeding them to sleep, rocking, patting, holding them in your arms it may well be that when they wake during their nightly sleep cycles they will require you to do the same again for them to fall asleep. This is not a problem as long as you are able to sustain it but there may come a point when feeding your baby to sleep every two hours is not working for you or your family. If this is the case, then you may like to think about trading one association for another that doesn’t directly involve you.

 

If you would like any more sleep tips and suggestions, please do get in touch for your free initial 15 – minute chat with me.


What kind of sleep issue does your child have quiz! 

 

 

Baby awake - early morning wakeups Baby Sleep

Early Morning Wake-ups: 5 Tips to manage them

How to manage your little ones early morning wake-ups is a topic I get asked about more than anything else.

If for no other reason, than between the hours of 4 AM and 6 AM there is no other place than we as parents would rather be than in our beds fast asleep and more than often our little ones have very different ideas.

The first thing to remember when addressing early morning wake-ups is that you need to be aware of the time that you can realistically expect your little one to sleep for at night.

For example, if you are regularly putting your 1 year old to bed at 6.30 then you can reasonably expect them to be able to sleep for between 10-12 hours. This means they are likely to wake anywhere between 4.30 AM and 6.30 AM – depending on their individual sleep requirements and you may find you have an early wakeup around 5AM simply because they have actually fulfilled their sleep needs.

Top 5 Tips on how to help you manage these early morning wake-ups

TOP TIP NUMBER ONE: Keep the bedroom dark

It is important to ensure that your little ones bedroom is as dark as possible. If the blue early morning light is coming through the window and hitting the back of your child’s eyes it will wake them despite their eyes being closed. Try and make their sleeping zone as dark as possible with the use of black out blinds and heavy curtains. Once you child has woken, it is crucial that you keep them in their darkened room even if it means holding them as darkness will help reset their circadian rhythm and encourage them to wake up later over a period of 5 to 10 days.

TOP TIP NUMBER TWO: Ensure there are no unusual early morning noises

Try and ensure that the noise in your child’s room is constant. Any abnormal noise particularly at 5 AM in the morning when they are coming out of light sleep will potentially cause them to wake. Think about investing in a white noise machine that you can keep on all night and that will block out external noise such as planes and the central heating kicking in.

TOP TIP NUMBER THREE: Check the room temperature in the early morning

Make sure that your little one is not waking early because they are either too hot or too cold. Our body temperature needs to drop around 5 AM to help us stay asleep and if your child is over-bundled this will not be able to happen and they may well wake. Equally, if they are too cold this will cause them to wake as well. In the winter months you might like to think about warming their bed with a wheaten bag before removing it and popping them back in it.

TOP TIP NUMBER FOUR: Check out the gap between nap-time and bed-time

Ensuring that your child is having the correct sleep dispersal throughout the day is also key to preventing early morning wakeups. Often if your little one is having too much afternoon sleep too close to bedtime it can lead to an early wakeup. It is also important to ensure that your child is having the correct awake-times for their age to allow sleep pressure to build and to curtail the rise of too much cortisol which can subsequently lead to issues with night waking’s.

TOP TIP NUMBER FIVE: Establish good sleep habits

Another cause of early morning waking’s can be habitual. If your little one is used to waking at 4.30 AM and they are coming out of their bedroom and  interacting with you, then it is going to be important to set limits. You might like to invest in an a morning wake up sound clock or a gro -clock which uses light and pictures to alert your little one that is time to get up. You might also like to create a reward chart which allows them to win a small prize for staying in their room until the time that you agree they can get up.


If you have considered all the above and your baby is still waking then it might be time to look at an appropriate gentle sleep intervention which fits in with you and your family’s philosophy to help them sleep.

It is worth bearing in mind that morning interventions can take a lot longer than bedtime interventions because you simply don’t have science on your side at this time in the morning.


If you can’t quite work out how to piece it all together and need a fresh set of eyes, please do get in touch for an SOS sleep consultation.

 

 

 

 

 

The Blog

My 5 Top Tips on how to get your…

My 5 Top Tips on How to get your little ones to sleep without the Bedtime Battle

You more than likely know the feeling – it comes to bedtime and no matter what you do you cannot get your child to fall asleep.

In your mind they should be tired!  They have been awake for several hours and you have led them through a well signposted bedtime routine full of gentle and effective sleep cues.

The problem is, the closer it gets to your baby’s bedtime the more awake they seem to become. So what can you do to overcome this issue.

1.One of the first and most simple things you can do is to identify the time your baby actually becomes tired even if it is much later than your preferred bedtime and use this as a starting point.

2.It is important that your baby associates their bedtime routine with feeling drowsy so even if you have to wait a few hours before you begin it is much better than trying to sign post bedtime when they are still wide awake. Because your baby is naturally drowsy at this time they will quickly fall asleep and you can spend the 20 -30 minutes leading up to it, taking them through a gentle routine of calm and pleasant bedtime activities.

3.As your baby learns to associate their bedtime routine with falling asleep you can then gradually move your baby’s bedtime making it 10 -15 minutes earlier until you have reached your desired bedtime hour.


4.The other thing you can do is  to stay with your child while they fall asleep and over a period of nights your pay progressively less attention to them.

For instance, over a few days you might touch your baby less often and instead of lying on their bed your might sit on a chair next to their bed. The next step would be to move the chair into the middle of the room and the step after that would be to move the chair to the door.

By making these gradual changes your baby is weaned off having to go through an extensive parental soothing routine in order to sleep. After a few days you might start leaving the room and returning when your baby begins to cry. This helps your baby learn that you can be trusted to return after an absence but you will always remain in their presence while they fall asleep.

5.If your baby wakes in the middle of the night you can try the same approach but as your baby gets used to you not being in the room you might be able to wait for slightly longer before returning.

Which ever approach you choose your once fractious bedtimes should seem a thing of the past!

It is important to remember though with all these things how you behave around your baby is crucial in setting the scene for a calm and stress free night time routine. If you are stressed and anxious about what is going to happen they your baby will pick up on this and will mirror your behaviour.

One of the best ways to ensure both you and your baby are relaxed before attempting to put them to bed is to use the gentle practice of massage. It is lovely to include essential oils as well in this night time ritual so your baby learns to associate the smell with sleep or alternatively you can buy an aroma fan which will allow the smell to be present in their room.

If you would like any more sleep tips and suggestions, please do get in touch for your free 15 – minute chat with me.


What kind of sleep issue does your child have quiz!


 

The Blog

Returning to work after Maternity Leave

The End of Maternity Leave and a Pain Free Return to Work

For the majority of  mums returning to work after maternity brings about mixed feelings. On the one hand –  feelings of anticipation and potential excitement about what lies ahead but on the other hand feelings of guilt and worry about what will happen to the little person that you are leaving behind.

For many, including myself it can be a very traumatic time and one that often leads us to questioning our motives as to why we went back in the first place. Undoubtedly, we all have our reasons, for me it was a combination of financial pressures and a want to return to the life that I had led prior to having my son.

The first few months…….

When I look back now at those first few months of being back at work, I realise that the real reason I found it so difficult was the fact that I was severely sleep deprived. My now 6-month-old son had not slept well since he was born and the recent changes to his daily routine had only helped to compound the situation. Not only did this make it harder to leave my very young baby at nursery everyday but it also made the job that I had once found so enjoyable almost unbearable. I could no longer remember anything that had happened the day before and as for learning new concepts or understanding new office systems, it was virtually impossible. This left me feeling inadequate and totally demoralised.

In truth, I felt like I could no longer look after my baby doing the job that I had spent the last 6 months doing and I also wasn’t able to carry out the role that I had once excelled at.

The option of resting during the day whilst I made up for lost sleep the night before was no longer possible and this vicious cycle began to play havoc not only with my physical health but also with my mental health and self -esteem.

My Moment of Realisation

It was at my lowest ebb a couple of months in to my return that I realised that there was another way.

If I was able to educate myself as to what was going on with my little boy’s sleep and the reasons as to why he was waking up this would massively improve my mental outlook.

For rather than spending my days worrying about what if and why – I was able to appreciate all the developmental and biological changes that he was going through and how these in some way were impacting on his sleep.

I also developed an approach to helping him self settle that not only was gentle on him but also on myself. I think that when you are in a sleep deprived state however, much people tell you it is ok to leave your child to cry the answer is it just isn’t.

All children like us want to feel safe and secure and they need to have the reassurance that when they wake during the night (which they will) everything is going to be the same as it was when they went to sleep.

For this reason, I concentrated all my efforts of ensuring my son felt happy and comfortable in his cot so that he knew when I went out the door at night he was going to be ok and that I would always return.

Empowering Mums

That was nearly 5 years ago and now I have a happy little boy who sleeps through the night and for the most part loves going to school every morning with few complaints.

This experience also brought home to me just how difficult it is for so many mums like myself returning to work, however much you want to go back it is just never the same.

This realisation was one of the main reasons why I decided to set up Help Baby Sleep and to help empower and give all Mums the confidence and the tools to deal with their baby’s sleep or lack of. No one should have to go without sleep – there is a reason why they use it as a method of torture because it is.

As Katy Brand said recently on BBC Radio 4’s, The Infinite Monkey Cage “, I go crazy when I don’t have enough sleep. The impact of two or three nights of badly disrupted sleep is enough to a have massive impact on my general outlook. I am no longer able to see things in a positive light, everything becomes a catastrophe, I can’t cope with anything and everything makes me sit down and have a cry on the kitchen floor.”

I couldn’t have put it better myself it becomes impossible to cope with anything let alone the demands of a job without it.

So what advice would I give to my mummy friends returning to work.

  1. Firstly, don’t be too hard on yourself – set realistic expectations and if you don’t fulfil them there is always tomorrow/ next week.
  2. Be gentle on yourself and your children, remember they are still tiny and everyday something is happening within their bodies and brains that may well have an impact on their behaviour and sleep.
  3. Take time for yourself – even it is just for 10 minutes when you can close the door and go lie down on the floor, knees bent hands out to the side, breathing in and out slowly through your nose and out through your mouth. This is a technique practised by CEO’s and World leaders that equates to having 1.5 hours of sleep.
  4. If everything gets too much – don’t be afraid to ask for help, however hard it might seem at the time, I promise you it is a lot easier than not doing anything about at all.

Remember returning to work is a highly admirable achievement and just because you are not spending all day, every day with your children you have given birth fed and nurtured them and you will never stop being their mother.

You should feel immensely proud of yourself and never let anyone else tell you otherwise.

If you have any concerns about your child’s sleep and how it may be affecting you, please do get in touch for your free 15-minute consultation.