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The ultimate guide to the common questions parents face with baby and child sleep issues

Table of Contents

4 Early months suggestions sleep settling

  1. Master a pre-sleep ritual
    Whenever you are ready, do this in the bedroom that your child will sleep in, dim the lights, connect, and engage, telling them you love them as you prepare them for sleep.
  1. Aim for more awake than asleep
    At bedtime specifically consider having your chid go into their sleep space aware that you put them down- use my percentage of wakefulness approach to initiate future sleep ability.
  1. Avoid comparison
    Every baby is so different, don’t diminish their individuality by comparing with another, have low expectations, learn more and develop a rhythm together that suits you both.
  1. Keep night feeds low-key
    Whilst I always encourage responsive parenting day and night-keep night feeds in the dark, in the bedroom and without too much stimulation.

4 Reasons to provide a feed earlier at bedtime

  1. May improve sleep ability
    If you aim to have the last feed over at least 45m before sleep time and you have also then use the stay and support staged based approach then you are creating a fertile ground for a high level of sleep ability required to support sleep in general.
  1. May reduce night waking
    A high sleep ability at bedtime helps to promote a higher sleep ability overnight which may reduce the risk of waking unnecessarily. You may still need to work on the overnight, but you are creating the scope to do so.
  1. Naps may be easier and longer
    Sleep ability created at bedtime may unlock the napping mechanism meaning the nap is not a battle and may also start to lengthen
  1. May reduce early waking
    A high sleep ability at bedtime created by moving the feed enables the last sleep cycle at 4-5am to get stronger for many, ultimately resulting in a later wake time.

6 Ways to encourage more sleep for your baby

1. Try not to worry
You cannot spoil your baby – there are no such things as bad habits- focus on meeting their needs with loving responses.

2. Have a regular wake time
Babies thrive when we are predictable. Waking at the same time and offering feeds and sleeps at similar times each days helps.

3. Offer Naps every, 1 to 2 Hours
Look for brief eye rubs and yawns and prepare for sleep within this time frame throughout the day.

4. Contact Nap
Use motion-car, pram, arms to help the nap happen.

5. Ask for help
If you have support, don’t be afraid to ask for help! Food preparation, holding baby while you shower, go for a walk…

6. Parent Yourself
Nurture and honour your own needs too-be kind, be forgiving and loving to yourself in your new role.

4 Considerations for 6 months + non-sleeper

1. Consider the sleep environment
Consider the transition to a formal cot. After about 4 months big cot is more appropriate. Have you considered if some wakes are due to proximity to you or the other parent. Are you disturbing each other? Is it dark, warm, without too many distractions. Do they have a positive relationship with this space?

2. Consider your feeding practice
Consider how and when you provide feeds- is the morning feed in the bedroom? Could this confuse them? Are feeds used to support naps? Are you offering feeds continuously throughout the day resulting in a grazing style of calorie intake, could this be a repeating pattern overnight? Do they get enough milk by day to sustain longer stretches overnight?

3. Consider the location of the bedtime routine
Consider your child’s relationship with sleep-is there a flow to your bedtime routine- is it in the place where they sleep so that the value of the wind-down is enhanced. Is it long enough, are you present and available?

4. Consider if they are more awake than asleep when they land in the cot
Consider how they experience their sleep- are you putting them to sleep or are creating a loving space for them to fall asleep more by themselves, being able to do this at bedtime helps how they transition though their night sleep cycles, or not as the case may beth

3 Replies to bed-sharing questions

1. Is there an ideal age when children should stop sleeping in their parent’s bed and if so, what is it?
I don’t feel that there are any specific ages to cease bed-sharing. When the parents or the child decide it is time for a change represents the ideal time.

2. Is it a problem if they continue to do this after that age (apart from parents being exhausted) and what issues are there?
There are no sleep problems until how sleep is experienced becomes problematic for those involved. Some parents may report that it takes ages to get their child to sleep at bedtime meaning that they have little time themselves to switch off. Or they may report that bed-sharing disturbs their own sleep and that if woken they find it hard to get back to sleep and therefore, they are not well rested themselves. Some children that share the bed experience broken sleep too with the same effect. Bed-sharing may also mean that the parents no longer share a bed, and this may have an impact on the couple relationship. However, bed-sharing is a personal, inhouse decision and parents decide what feels right for them and their child on an individual basis.

When parents make changes to how their child experiences their sleep it is a time of adjustment, it may be considered easier before your child is pre-verbal, but it can also be more straight forward with an older child, as you can explain and collaborate with them and gently ease them into a new sleep experience.

3. Do you believe it gets harder to encourage children into their own beds as they get older and what tips would you have for parents to help kids make the transition?
As the child becomes older encouraging their positive input to the changes can be a helpful way of initiating the transition. Some will find this easier than others. How the child experiences the world in general may help inform how you can expect them to tolerate this change. In some instances, it is the child that initiates the changes as well.

I believe that if either the parent or the child is ready and make the changes that support the architect of the child’s sleep with regular wake and bedtimes, and more importantly their emotional response to the new sleep environment, then it can be a nourishing adventure. Building up to the changes, seeking their involvement- explain, make a book with them, show them in images the changes: spend non sleep time in the bedroom and help them to understand their own sleep space -that is both sleep friendly and one that they have developed a positive relationship with too. Having a bedtime routine (either with the parent or self-directed -aged based) that happens outside of the bed in the bedroom and focused on creating a calm setting before sleep time and being predictable with them around the changes, all help this phase. Using my staged based stay and support approach can help foster falling asleep at bedtime without a parent and learning to stay asleep in their own bed overnight too.

4 Baby nap advice

1. Consider your wake times
Having a regular wake time, no later than 730am allows you to set the tone for naps and bedtime! It can be challenging when you have been up at night, but it can make a huge difference to your daytime attempts.

2. Start time of nap
Possibly the trickiest dance to do – aiming before overtired and not tired enough- watching for cues or using my age-appropriate sleeping times as a framework can help an easy landing.

3. Sleep-inducing environment
Use light and dark to your advantage- expose to bright and natural light during the awake time and create a dark space for sleep time, this may help to regulate the sleeping patterns.

4. Provide a pre-nap ritual
Getting your baby ready for a nap will be helped with a pre-sleep ritual, take them into the place that they will nap and in the dim light prepare them with a short and connected sequence of events to help make the transition from awake to asleep!

6 Reasons to seek professional sleep help

1. Your child’s sleep profile is a challenge
Despite your best efforts, at 6 months of age plus you still experience several challenges such as sleep resistance, frequent night waking, long wake times over-night, excessive upset, short naps, and early rising, for example. You may also have feed, weaning, and behavioural concerns that are interrelated.

2. You don’t know where to start
As your child’s sleep is multi-dimensional and entirely unique, general recommendations may not always apply and conflicting information and emotions may undermine your efforts. You may begin to second guess yourself too. This can mean starting to make changes feels too overwhelming and your confidence may be lower because of being tired, and emotionally worn out.

3. You would like bespoke guidance, support, and relational safety
Many parents intellectually know what changes are required or may help, but benefit from the level of support, guidance, insight, and accountability the process of working with a sleep specialist provides for. When delivered in a compassionate, non-judgmental setting; parents own intuition, and understanding has an opportunity to flourish, as we nourish your being and that of your child.

4. You have tried a sleep intervention before, and it was unsuccessful
It is hard to stay predictable and on track when you are doing this solo; working with a professional helps to keep you on track when everything is off track; the process helps you to understand where to start, what feels right for you and most importantly what helps to promote better sleep, appetite, mood and behaviour-for all family members and to future-proof your child’s sleep experience too.

5. Because expectations matter
We know that psychologically having a plan, a clear pathway and range of solutions presented to you, as well as being accompanied, accountable and supported helps individuals to address hard challenges, lean on the professional, exchange thoughts, feelings, and emotions, and in this holding of space, become engaged, motivated, and empowered to make and maintain changes that support your goals.

6. You want to be part of the solution
Working WITH a family is a big part of the solution. Collaborating, combining your understanding and aspirations, together with all the parties to the sleep equation can be factored in, and unique dynamics can be addressed; decisions can be encouraged in a supportive culture that means everyone (Mum, Dad, Co-Parent, Baby, Sibling) feels seen, heard, and belonging-and that level of safety continues to promote your sleep story and journey.

I have been in practise for over 10 years, this means that I have been able to witness, resolve and learn from each family that has engaged with me, meaning that the depth of knowledge and experience, coupled with ongoing training, education and expertise are applied to your sleep plan and process that allows your goals to emerge in a collaborative and co-creational way.