A short while ago I mentioned to you, my readers, that I had been chatting to the sleep consultant, Charmian Mead and we were given the opportunity to ask her some questions regarding your little ones sleep routine. I sent off as many questions as I could and here are her answers.
If she hasn’t been able to answer your questions this time, do take a look at her book which has just been released and it is called ‘The 7pm to 7am Sleeping Baby Routine by Charmian Mead’ which is published by Vermilion (£12.99). It is full of really useful, down to earth suggestions for both breast fed and bottle fed babies. Buy your book HERE.
- Please can you ask the lady how I can get my 3 year to sleep through the night and until at least 6? He is up and down all night long, often crying until I go in and then up for the day anywhere from 04.30. Thank you.
To advise on sleep training I would usually need much more information on the ins and outs of your child’s day. At the age of three your child will have strong habit of learned behaviour and expectation of parental reactions. Cut any day napping to start with, by the age of three naps are phased out. Food intake should be wholesome nutritious food that is freshly made and contains good fats and protein. If he is still drinking lots of milk, try and reduce this in order to increase the intake of solid food. Make sure you allow time for a relaxing bedtime routine which involves a bath and stories upstairs in the bedroom – no technology or TV which will over stimulate. In fact making sure your child enjoys play through physical activity and learning play instead of the TV or iPad will promote better sleeping habits. The initial cause of disturbed sleep may not actually be the reason for the continual disruption so by changing your routine to a later bedtime and a longer day temporarily can have an impact on your nights.
How you respond is also important, your three year old is now at an age of understanding so use praise and positivity to encourage longer sleep. A sundial clock is a good way to keep little ones quiet until morning and maybe a weekly star chart to reward longer sleep.
- I have got 9 month old twins. They sleep perfectly for naps during the day but evenings are exhausting with them waking uncountable times to feed. When is the best time to night wean? Best times of day for naps and duration and what time should they be going to bed?
It sounds like they could be having too much sleep during the day. Cut naps times to one nap a day ideally and over the middle of the day so waking no later than 3pm for a 7.30/8pm bedtime, and napping for no more than 1.5 hours which can be increased to 2 hours when your nights have improved. Introduce a relaxing bedtime routine to which includes bath, stories and milk before bed in their bedroom. If they are both settling well but waking for milk at night, it would suggest they are possibly not getting enough food during the day.
Milk given at night will impact solid food intake in the day. Don’t use milk as a settling tool but try and settle without milk. If you need to give milk at night then limit intake to a few ounces. Increase food intake during the day and nutritionally enhance each spoon by adding good fats like avocado, and protein such as oily fish to each meal.
- I am a first time parent and due to have my baby soon. I am a very structured person. How early is too early to start getting a bottle fed baby into a routine?
You can start a routine from day one but of course this would be a feeding plan initially, which will then progress to an ever-evolving routine as your baby grows. Starting as you mean to go on and teaching positive associations with feeding and sleep is much easier and kinder to your baby as opposed to changing your baby’s world as they know it, weeks or months later. The benefit of bottle feeding is you can see and manage quantities, which makes easy work of a feeding routine. Following the bottle routine in my book, The 7pm to 7am Sleeping Baby Routine, will guide you through bottle feeding all the way to sleeping through the night by gradually building a routine.
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- I currently cradle my 2 year old to sleep (always have done) but she is really starting to fight me. Ideally I would like to put her into her own bed to settle herself but she just screams or plays with her toys for a bit and then screams! I’m pretty sure she would cry all night if I left her. She wakes on average 4 times a night and I am exhausted. We have a sleep routine starting at 7pm, bath, book, bottle….. I’m lost.
Great that you have started a bedtime routine as this is important that your child recognises bedtime is coming and has a chance to calm down before bed. Do you have a routine for the rest of the day? Create a routine where feed times, nap and activities are the same time every day. Routine helps children feel secure which is important for settling to sleep. Structure your day and allow one nap only over the lunch time period for no more than two hours and waking no later than 3 pm. Use this nap to practice settling techniques which will have a knock on effect to settling at night. With settling, less is more and key is to be consistent and don’t give up. You could also incorporate a favourite toy to sleep with (if it becomes the new best friend be sure to double up on this toy!)
- 10-15 minutes before bed, have a calming cuddle to relax
- Create a little settling ritual such giving a favourite bed toy and hum or shush to soothe, lay your child down in the cot, tuck in and bottom pat three times then walk away. This very short ritual can then be used for night-waking; your child will recognise this and feel comforted. Any ritual should take no longer than a few minutes.
- Wait 5 minutes before jumping to attention to encourage self-settling. When you go into settle, try not to stimulate your child so no nappy checking, lights on or talking. Carry out your settling ritual and walk away again, repeat this process until asleep. The calmer and more focused you are the quicker this method will work.
- My twins just don’t sleep. They are almost 15 months old now. They will only sleep in the bouncers! They share a cot as we are in a small flat. They just wake up and scream. I’ve tried to let them cry it out but that lasted from 10pm until 3am! Me and my husband have taken it in turns for the last 7 months sleeping on the sofa with them on the floor next to us in the bouncers. Their cot is literally 15cm away from my bed but the minute I lay down they scream at me! I need some advice please. I’ve tried lavender oil but no luck. Im so stuck what to do.
This is a tricky situation and I would ideally like to know more about your day to day routine before advising but I think the first obvious sleep sabotage is the twins sleep environment, your twins need space to sleep. A 15 month old would take up most of one cot and would certainly be too big for a baby bouncer where they are unable to move and will certainly keep waking up. I do sleep twins in the same cot, end to end until they are about to meet in the middle and moving which is usually around four months of age. If you have a one bedroom flat why not try utilising the living space as a bedroom for yourselves? No settling and sleep techniques or routine will work until you have set up a more positive sleep environment for your twins, they need a cot each and their own space. Once you have worked around sleeping arrangements you can then start a sleep plan which starts with a daily routine.
Firstly check they are taking enough food each day, nutritious filling meals. Daytime nap to be no more than two to two and half hours and waking no later than 3pm. Set up a routine so they are fed, naps, activities and bathed at the same time every day as helps children feel secure which is vital for sleep. Allow time to relax and calm your babies before bed and naps and start a settling ritual which should last no longer than a few minutes. This then becomes a tool to settle during the night.
- My 9 week early premature boy who is coming up for 3 years, has had problems sleeping since just after his first birthday. He bangs his head/torso repeatedly into his pillow and vocalises – this can last from seconds to minutes at a time. It usually happens when he is in light sleep, when disturbed or when waking up. My question is should he be growing out of this by now? Is it really ‘normal’? (Neonatal consultant at end of last year said yes) and how can we get a peaceful night’s sleep as we all including my son often wake exhausted? We were offered melatonin but declined due to side and long term effects.
Head banging, humming or rocking at night or during sleep periods is known as rhythmic movement disorder and is simply a means to sleep, comfort or during light periods of sleep. You were right, in my opinion to decline melatonin due to the fact that he doesn’t actually have a problem sleeping. Melatonin is released by the pineal glands when it gets dark, telling our bodies it’s time to sleep which you can encourage naturally by setting up a positive sleep environment and calming bedtime routine. Tweaks to your daily routine such as cutting out any naps during the day and introducing a comforting bedtime toy may help but it’s likely he will just have to grow out of it. RMD usually begins in the first year to the age or three or four so although distressing for you all, you have at least broken the back of it!
- This help has come at the right time. I’m ready to sleep train my 18 months old twins and stop nursing them to sleep but just don’t know how to even start and I’m petrified.
For each baby or child I help sleep through the night, their routine is tailored and adjustments made to their current situation day and night.
Without knowing the full details of your situation, I will have to make some assumptions, including that you already have some kind of daily structure with twins and this is definitely where your main focus should be to start with. At 18 months I would expect the twins to still be napping once a day and preferably over the lunch time period. Make sure this nap is no longer than 1.5 hours which can increase to 2 hours once they are sleeping through the night. Make sure all meals are filling and nutritious; freshly made food is more filling than shop bought pouches. If the twins are taking a lot of milk through the night, start increasing food intake during the day and space out tea or dinner to allow for a few hours before a big bottle or beaker of milk before bed. Reduce dramatically the amount of milk given at night; whatever the age of baby I cap night feeds to 4oz per night feed and give less milk the later a baby wakes through the night as it gets close to morning. You could also swap milk for water at this stage. Before reacting to night waking, wait 5 or so minutes to see if they resettle and try resettling without feeding but try not take them out of their cot, bedroom or stimulate in any way, so no talking, lights or unnecessary nappy changes. Create a little settling ritual such giving a favourite bed toy and hum or shush to soothe, lay your child down in the cot, tuck in and bottom pat three times then walk away. Any ritual should take no longer than a few minutes.
As your little ones are 18 months and have been waking in the night for a long time you will have to tackle habitual waking, so your new approach may take some time and may need to be tweak to suit both children. Being consistent with your reactions at night will win your nights back.
- We have been co-sleeping with our son off and on since he was little. He goes down well and gets up at a good time but I really want him to stay in his own bed but it’s going to be a hard habit to break. Any tips on how to do it? We are moving house soon so wondering if we can use that to make the change?
Again, without knowing the full details of your situation, I will have to make some assumptions: is your son is now a child and able to communicate? In which case your move could be ideal for transferring over to his own bed. I would talk about the move and his new bedroom with great excitement. Make his new bedroom a more inviting place to sleep than yours? Using star charts with weekly of daily reward for every night he spends in his own bed works well with children, anything that keeps up the positivity surrounding sleeping in his own bed. Create a bedtime routine around his bedroom and settle every night in his bed, if he wake and comes into your bed, take him back and keep doing so until he stays sleeping there. This may take some time as he knows co-sleeping as learned behaviour and where he has always slept. He will of course want to sleep in his own bed one day – my sister co-slept with her two boys until they decided no more from school age.
- So grateful for the timing of this. 2yr old girl boy twins. Daughter has become very clingy and won’t go to bed without you there / holding hand. If she has any nap during the day, will play up until 10.00pm and then sleep until 5.00am. Then if you stay with her again she will go down until 6.30-7. Up until a month ago always self settled and slept 7pm-7am! Month ago noise scared her and got more clingy generally. Cut nap and she goes off quicker but means she has 11 hours a night and no nap…is this enough? Also, how to stop 5am wake up as still clearly tired and she goes back off?
Most children need a nap until the age of 2.5 -3 years old but if you are able to drop your daughters daytime nap easily which results in a full night sleep then this is exactly what you have to do. Staying up until 10pm when she does have a nap would mean she has had too much daytime sleep. You could try moving the nap slightly earlier and for less time but 11 solid hours through the night is much better than fewer hours broken up over a 24 hour period.
One of the first things I look at with a child of any age is food intake, be that quantities of milk with a newborn or nutrition with older children and a need for convenience means children are eating a lot of sugar and maybe not a diet that is not as nutritious as it could be if they were eating homemade food, which boosts sleep. It also sounds like she needs reassurance and has become more self-aware, invest in quality time with your daughter and create a calm bedtime routine so she is not rushed but has a relaxing peaceful start to the night ahead. By this, I mean time to wind down before bed, bath and stories in her bedroom but no TV or technology. Make a little goodnight ritual which doesn’t involve handholding until she is asleep, maybe introduce a new comforting toy to help settle, say you will check on her in 5 minutes and always keep your word. A goodnight or settle ritual should take no more than a minute or so; the longer you take to settle, the more confusing and often stimulating for a child. Leave the room but go back after five minutes and play out your settling ritual again, repeat until asleep. You should find that each night gets quicker and easier for your daughter to fall asleep.
I’d like to thank Charmian for answering all of the above questions and I hope you have found the answers helpful. As well as her book, she also offers a sleep consultation service which can be found on her website HERE.
(Soft toys by Steiff & Jellycat from The Bear Garden)
** The book was gifted to us in exchange for this article.
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