Some families report ongoing sleep challenges, whilst others find that after a period of good sleep – something has shifted and resistance to sleep, night waking and/or early rising may be part of what you are experiencing. The good news is that your child’s sleep can be actively improved and is not just how it is, and you won’t need to leave them to cry it out. Better sleep is possible with understanding, patience, and a commitment to improvement.
Here’s some suggestions that may help initiate a recalibration and a move towards better, more consolidated sleep.
- Decide that you are about to make a lifestyle change, as with any self-improvement attempt you will need to be open about adjusting your current life, some will be long term, others short-term, but to open the possibility for your child’s sleep, changing something or lots, may be appropriate. Remember “if nothing changes, nothing changes” and with that in mind become open to adjustments that may help move the needle- even if you feel you have already tried everything….
- Avoid making comparisons between your friends and neighbours’ baby and yours. All children are different and comparing yours to another may only undermine your efforts. Just as all babies are different, all parents’ perceptions can be too, and what you find draining, another may be tolerant of. It is about how it feels to you and if it feels like something must change, then be bold and grasp the opportunity to make a positive impact on every aspect of your lives.
- Make sure that your child is getting enough outside activity and fresh air. An hour a day is the recommendation, so I suggest 30 minutes in the morning and 30 minutes in the afternoon. This can help get you out of the house and get some headspace but also will help to fill your child’s sensory diet alongside supporting their sleeping patterns.
- Create a suitable sleep environment, make sure that it is adequately dark; black out blinds and a night light are a good solution for night-time and daytime sleep. Make a special effort to avoid hall lights and bathroom lights overnight as this can have a negative impact on your child’s sleep- even when it is not apparent.
- Reserve music and light shows for your bedtime routine only and avoid the music or white noise staying on or being in motion/voice activation mode whilst your child is falling asleep, unless you are prepared to commit to this for the entire sleep period. A general guide would be if it is on when your child goes to sleep then it would ideally stay on for the entire sleep period, otherwise you run the risk of night-time awakenings as the brain seeks the conditions under which sleep was first achieved. You may not even turn the music/white noise back on overnight, but it may contribute to the why.
- Sleep loves regularity and for those reasons a predictable wake time between 6 and 7.30am with a feed outside of the bedroom in the first 30m, even if your child has fed frequently overnight, helps to press start on the day, regulating the feeding rhythm that reduces the vulnerability of feeds and naps from clashing.
- Consider earlier bedtimes as you help improve the sleep situation. Most children sleep better when they are in bed asleep between 6-8pm. Most children who are routinely waking overnight or catnapping, adjust well to 7 pm bedtime. If they are under 8 months, they respond to a wakeful period not exceeding 2-2.5 hours before bedtime, between 8-17 months, 3-4 hours works well and 18 months onwards 4-5 hours of wakefulness before being in bed asleep can have a significantly positive impact on both bedtime and the overnight presentation.
- Establish an appropriate bedtime ritual to help prepare your child’s body for sleep. Do this activity specifically in the bedroom that your child sleeps, to help ingrain positive associations with sleep and to avoid breaking the spell of your hard work by changing locations at the end. Introduce low impact activity – reading, softly singing, puzzles, shape sorting. Do this in a dimly lit environment, with plenty of physical and eye contact to help your child feel relaxed and supported close to sleep time.
- If your child could be awake when they get into their cot or bed, the less exposed to night-time activity you may be. By using my stay and support approach many parents can transition from feeding, rocking, or doing “something else” to get their child to sleep, which lowers vulnerability to night waking, early rising and short naps.
- Manage your expectations. Better sleeping patterns can take 3-4 weeks plus to emerge depending on the issues, the rate of change and your child’s age. Early improvements may be represented by improved mood and behaviour, better eating, easier to get to sleep and then longer stretches will start to emerge. It is not an upward only spiral of improvement it can fluctuate throughout the few weeks, sometimes getting worse before it improves or you may find it gets better and then regresses, this is normal, so be prepared and confident in your new approach.
If you would like more support, then you can review either of my books www.sleepmatters.ie/books.
One to one sleep consultations with ongoing guidance and support can be booked here: https://calendly.com/lucywolfesleep/one-to-one-sleep-consultation-with-support
30m Sleep Chats to help you get started may be booked here: https://calendly.com/lucywolfesleep/one-to-one-sleep-chat-with-lucy-wolfe-