How To Juggle Bedtime Routines
Bringing a new baby into the house is a glorious, exciting, terrifying occasion, especially when you have one or two already, and it can bring up a whole lot of questions.
- How are the older children going to react to their new sibling?
- Are they going to embrace the role of older brother or sister?
- Will they turn into jealous little clingers who need constant attention and reassurance?
- How will their schedule fit in with your newborn’s naps and feeding times?
- And maybe most concerning for anyone who’s clawed and scraped to get their little one sleeping through the night?
- how is this going to affect the older child’s bedtime?
Trying to juggle two or three different bedtime routines can be mind-boggling if you’re not prepared for it. Read more
Back to School Sleep Tips : Help Your Child be ready (2021)
Updated 1 March 2021 (originally published 16 September 2020)
Alright, let me just start off here by saying, no judgment for what might have gone down in the last couple of months.
I know… I’m a child sleep consultant and you may think that I’m going to tell you off for the late bedtimes, inconsistent schedules, or any of the many naughty things that may have taken place over your summer holidays and during lock down. Read more
Switching From a Cot to a Bed
When it comes to making the transition from a cot to a big-kid bed, there are two questions that need to be answered. The first is when, and the second is how.
Now, if you’re reading this on my website, chances are that you came here looking for some advice about teaching your little one the skills they need to sleep through the night.
And if that’s the case, then the answer to the question of “When” is, quite simply, “Not now.” Read more
That’s right, I said it. Your baby will never sleep straight through the night.
And neither will you, for that matter.
This isn’t due to stress, caffeine, lack of exercise, or any other factors that can contribute to a lousy night’s sleep. It’s a normal, natural part of the human sleep cycle.
Understanding the Adult Sleep Cycle
We’re all familiar with the various stages of sleep from our own experience. You might not be able to put a name to them, but you’ve certainly felt the difference between waking from a light sleep and a deep one.
To put it simply, when we fall asleep, we spend a little while in a light stage of sleep and gradually progress into a deeper one. We stay there for a little while and then gradually re-emerge into the lighter stage, and when we do, there’s a good chance that we’ll wake up.
❶You fall asleep at eleven
❷ Hit that deep sleep by midnight
❸ Hang out there for roughly 6 hours
❹ Then start to come back to the surface around 6:00 or 7:00
❺ Gradually waking up refreshed and ready to face the day.
Except the whole process only takes about an hour and a half.That’s right. From start to finish, going from light sleep to deep sleep and back again takes between 90 – 110 minutes.
Luckily for us (and for those who have to interact with us) the process repeats itself pretty easily. Either we’ll wake up for a minute or two and fall right back to sleep, or we might not even wake up at all. Ideally, this happens five or six times in a row.
We get a restful, refreshing, restorative snooze in the night, and we reap the benefits of it throughout the day.
Understanding the Infant Sleep Cycle
But enough about us grown-ups. What about our little ones?
Infants, despite their increased need for sleep, have a much shorter sleep cycle than adults. On average, an infant goes from light sleep to deep sleep and back again in an astounding 50 minutes. So whoever coined the term, “Sleep like a baby” was clearly misinformed.
That’s right, I said it. Your baby will never sleep straight through the night.
This is where the essential element of sleep training comes into play, the program doesn’t teach your child to stay asleep, or spend more time in any one stage of the sleep cycle.
What we do is teach your baby to fall asleep independently initially, and when they wake up.
That’s it! That really is the heart if what we’ll be doing together. We’ll be helping your baby to accept these wake-ups as a non-event.
Once they’ve learned the skills they need to fall back to sleep on their own, they’ll wake up after a sleep cycle, their brain will signal them to go back to sleep, and that’s exactly what they’ll do.
There are a few reasons why I feel it’s so important for parents to understand this. First of all, I want you to know that we’re not doing anything that actually influences or alters your baby’s natural sleep. We’re just giving them the skills to fall asleep independently after they wake up, which, as you probably know by now, they’re going to do multiple times a night.
One of the biggest arguments you might hear from critics of sleep training is, “Babies are supposed to wake up at night!”
And that’s absolutely, 100 per cent correct. Babies, just like adults, are supposed to wake up at night.
All that we’ll be doing together is teaching your little one to stay calm and content when they do wake up, and giving them the ability to get back to sleep without any help from mom, a pacifier, or any other exterior source that might not be readily available in the middle of the night.
So if you’re wondering whether or not sleep training is going to put your child at an increased risk for SIDS, or if it will somehow alter their natural sleep patterns, or make them nocturnal, or damage them in any way, I can assure you with the full support of the American Academy of Pediatrics, that it will not.
What it will do is keep them calm and assured when they wake up in the night, and help to ensure that they get the sleep they need to be happy and healthy.
So although your little one is going to wake up numerous times a night, every night, they can quickly and easily learn the skills to get back to sleep on their own. It will only seem as though they’re sleeping straight through the night.
That, I would imagine, is something we call all get behind.
[i] US National Library of Medicine – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0072506/
[ii] US National Library of Medicine – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3439810/
[iii] American Academy of Pediatrics – https://www.aap.org/en-us/about-the-aap/aap-press-room/pages/Infant-Sleep-Training-is-Effective-and-Safe-Study-Finds.aspx
Baby and Toddler Sleep Pattern
It’s spring again, which means the clocks go forward an hour. In some ways that’s lovely, because it means summer is on the way and the nights will get lighter. But if you have a child who you’ve just got into a good bedtime routine, you might find that the changing of the clocks affects their sleep. Bear in mind that your baby or toddler doesn’t actually know the time – they use their own inner clock – use that to your advantage. The secret is to be prepared, and with just a little bit of effort, you’ll find their sleep routine gets back to normal really quickly. Here are some tips to help you prepare your little one for time changes.
Adjust daytime naps to compensate
You’ll probably find that after the clocks change your little one will be tired before their “usual” bedtime – for example, if it’s 7pm they will be tired at 6pm once the clocks go forward. Try waking them a little later, moving their daytime naps forward or letting them sleep longer during the daytime – this will help regulate their body clock and assist them with moving their natural bedtime an hour later.
Move bedtime earlier
Perhaps the easiest way to get your little one used to the time change is to move bedtime earlier by a few minutes every day. Start about a week before the clocks change and move bedtime earlier by just 5 minutes every day. They will not notice this small difference and within a week of the clocks changing bedtime will be back at its proper time.
Stick to the original time.
If your little one normally wakes up too early then you might be able to use the clocks changing to your benefit. Leave bedtime at its usual time – so an hour later by the clock – and with any luck, they will sleep an hour later in the morning, at least by the clock. So if little one normally goes to bed at seven and wakes at six, put them to bed at 8 (new time) and they will hopefully wake at 7 (new time), giving you a psychological lie in!
Finally, another tip is to fit blackout blinds. Lighter evenings can make it harder for a child to sleep, whatever time you put them to bed, using blinds keeps the daylight out and helps your little one realise it is time for sleep.
How have you handled the time change previously? What do you do when you travel to another time zone with your little one? I love to hear from you, the information you share will benefit other parents.
Toddlers are fascinating creatures, aren’t they? Watching them develop into thinking, creative little people is such a fascinating time, and one that parents often wish would last a little longer.
Of course, they usually wish that after baby’s grown out of the toddler stage, because along with that creativity and new-found intelligence, we usually see a lot of boundary-testing, which can be a frustrating experience.
I get asked this question a lot, and I have two answers for you.
First of all, the clinical one. If your child’s six months or older, gaining weight as expected, and your doctor says you’re okay to end night time feeds, then go ahead and give it a shot.
But that doesn’t really answer your question, does it? Because that information is readily available on about a thousand different websites. If that was all you needed to know, you’d know it already.
Chances are, what you’re really asking is, “Why does my baby refuse to give up his night feeds?”
Because if you’d pulled his night feeds and he just accepted it and started sleeping through the night, you wouldn’t be online looking for information about it. You’d either be in bed, enjoying eight hours of blissful, uninterrupted sleep, or you’d be at the playground, telling all the other moms how easily your little guy gave up night feeds, and how this whole parenting thing is such a breeze!
(Don’t do that though. Moms hate that.)
If there’s anything that can send your child’s sleep off the rails, if there’s an arch-enemy for sleep training, it is, without a doubt, the dreaded condition of overtiredness.
Kids, as with all people, have a natural rhythm when it comes to sleep. Our bodies secrete hormones to keep us up and running during the day, and different ones to help us rest at night. They’re dependant on a variety of factors, but timing is the most prevalent.
So what happens when your little one stays awake past the time when these natural cues to sleep are activated? Well, the body assumes there’s a reason that it hasn’t been allowed to get to sleep, assumes there’s a need to stay awake, and fires up those daytime hormones again.
Have you ever heard the story of Catherine O’Leary’s Cow?
Back in 1871, the Chicago Tribune reported that the cause of the great Chicago Fire was a cow, Catherine O’Leary’s cow to be precise, kicking over a lantern in the barn while it was being milked.
Unfortunately, the Tribune admitted later on that it had completely fabricated the story, but that didn’t stop people from blaming Catherine and her cow from being widely blamed for one of the greatest disasters in US history.
What’s this got to do with teething, you ask?
Nothing really, except that they’re both victims of some unnecessary scapegoating.
I am passionate about helping families get the sleep they need to be happy and healthy. I am now a proud mum of two girls exactly a year apart in age.
– Judy Clark