Like adults, every baby and toddler is different. We all have different needs and there are a range of factors that contribute to our wellbeing. But we all have one thing in common. We all need sleep! Some babies, like adults, can cope with a little less sleep than the norm but most simply cannot function properly without sufficient sleep.
If your baby is often grumpy and grizzly, non-co-operative, cries at bedtime and during the night, or when waking from a nap, it’s a sign your baby is not coping with insufficient sleep. I’ve heard it all: babies who will only sleep in the car, toddlers that need a parent to lay with them all night, babies that survive on ‘cat naps’ and others that wake hourly during the night. It is important, before implementing any sleep routine and sleep training, to optimise a baby’s sleep environment. The first step to encouraging good sleep habits in a baby or toddler is to create an ideal sleep environment.
Every child has different needs and if you have an easy going baby you will probably find they can sleep anywhere! Bright lights, noise, the works! It doesn’t matter; they’ll sleep right through it.
Most babies, however, are sensitive to light when they are falling asleep and also while sleeping. This may become noticeable from about 8 weeks of age as your baby’s store of maternal melatonin depletes. Light actually blocks the body’s production of melatonin (the hormone that makes us sleepy.) You may find your baby will fall asleep in the light- but then wakes after 30/40 minutes and won’t go back to sleep. It is also common for babies to wake too early in the morning as the sun comes up, particularly if bright sunlight shines through the blinds/curtains. The light is signalling the baby’s brain to wake up. As such, darkness in the sleep environment is essential.
White night lights and small LED lights on baby monitors can also be a distraction. Red and orange lights, on the other hand, can actually boost the production of melatonin. So if your baby isn’t easily distracted, a red or orange coloured nightlight might be a great idea.
You know the feeling of wriggling in your bed to warm up before you can fall asleep? Or taking the covers on and off when it’s a hot night? It’s very difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep if we are feeling too hot or too cold. The same is true for babies and toddlers.
Every parent I meet asks me the same question: “Is my baby warm enough?” That’s where the 365 Sleep Bag 2.0 comes in. It has zip off sleeves and an extra 0.5 tog layer that can be removed based on the weather and the room temperature. The 365 has two layers equalling 3.0 TOG which keeps the baby warm during colder nights. During the in-between months the 2.5 TOG (the main sleep bag) can be used alone with appropriate sleepwear underneath. And on hotter nights the 0.5 TOG can be used alone (provided the room’s not air-conditioned.) So often I see parents using the wrong TOG rating which is based on the season and weather. But if the house is air-conditioned then a summer weight sleeping bag might not be appropriate, depending on the room’s actual overnight temperature. Luckily, every sleep suit and sleep bag from the Sleepy Company comes with a room thermometer and sleepwear guide, which is a great idea to help you ensure your baby is dressed optimally for their specific overnight environment.
Baby mobiles and hanging cot toys are very distracting to a baby trying to fall asleep and should be avoided. These items can be overstimulating which is counterproductive at sleep time. Baby mobiles and hanging toys are much better suited to hang above a change table to make nappy changing easier once baby starts to wriggle!
White noise is the best thing since sliced bread. I only wish I knew about it when my first child was a baby! It is honestly like magic. White noise is a constant and consistent sound that acts as a positive sleep association. It helps create a monotonous and calming ambience in the room, which blocks out other noises and disturbances.
Background noise from pets, television, doorbells, creaking floorboards, a flushing toilet – it doesn’t matter – the white noise blocks it all out. Light sleepers can especially benefit from background white noise. There are several white noise machines on the market and free white noise apps that can be easily downloaded to your tablet or smartphone too. Take out your old retired smartphone from the bottom draw, download the free app, and you’ll have a white noise machine at no cost. Give it a try! You won’t regret it.
At the end of the day, some children may already have an ideal sleep environment and just need a little help adjusting their daily routine and learning to self-settle to achieve good sleep day and night. Others require a more comprehensive approach. Every child is different, which is why I conduct personalised assessments and tailor my sleep plans to suit the individual needs of each of my little clients. Rest assured my service doesn’t end after our consultation has finished. I provide support via phone and email after the initial consultation while we work together to implement your child’s personalised sleep plan. Please contact me if you’d like to know more about my service and how I can assist you and your child to achieve your sleep routine objectives, or to just to have a chat!
Sleep well everyone x
By Shira Katz, Infant and Child Sleep Consultant