The dreaded 5am wake up…not again you sigh. When is this going to stop and how do I make it stop? HELP ME!
Early waking in children is more common than you think and this week’s blog I will be talking about the reasons why your child may be ready for the day at 5am even if you are not.. and what you can do to change them to a later more acceptable time…
There are a few reasons why this may be happening and it could be a tricky one to work out. Here is a list of the possible reasons...
The levels of melatonin (Sleep Hormone) in your child’s body decreases throughout the night and from 4am onwards the lighter stage of sleep is nigh. I always say anything before 6am is night time and should be treated so. Awake after 6am and you are winning!
So how do we work it out?
Let’s take a closer look at the points above.
Was your baby super tired when he went to bed last night? How could this be possible? Perhaps his naps he had were not quite at the optimum time for his age and stage of development, or that lunch time nap was only 30 minutes. Because of these short naps sleep debt will be accumulated and therefore cause overtiredness and boom…5 am wake up.
Of course he may not have seemed tired he they went to bed last night, he may have seemed full of beans and in fact put on a little energetic performance and seemed like he were auditioning for the circus. I know this is what my eldest Leo does, he thinks he is some sort of racing car as soon as he gets out the bath..!
What is actually happening here is the sleep debt causing levels of cortisol to rise. This hormone is like an adrenaline, a shot of red bull, that pumps around the body when children are overtired and displays it’s-self in a hyper child and in no way seems tired.
It’s worth keeping an eye on awake windows and checking the awake window from last nap of day till bed time. Here is a guide…
Of course this seems obvious but if your child went to sleep easily last night you may not have thought he was under tired at all. However if he had too much sleep the previous day it all adds up and boom...5 am and it’s party time...again! You may need to push bedtime forward a little bit or indeed tweak your child’s naps in the day. Be careful adjusting any tweaks and do so in 15 minute increments every 3 days so not to confuse your child’s circadian rhythm too much.
3. NAP 1 WAS TOO EARLY
Sounds strange right and of course if your child is waking early surely their first nap of the day is gong to have to be earlier or they will be overtired... BUT...
If your child has a nap soon after waking at 5am and they sleep a long time at nap 1 their body gets used to this and tells itself that it is OK to wake early because I know I am going to get a long nap very soon. Especially if this is a reoccurring event their circadian rhythm will be set to this and this needs to be changed by you.
Instead of having a full nap try offering a little “rescue” nap of about 10 minutes and no more around 7/7.30am. This works best with 10 month olds and under. This will get you on track for their first nap to be at 9.30am and sets you up for the rest of the day and also you will be resetting their circadian rhythm to not have that long early morning nap!
If your child is older or the rescue nap won’t work you may need to stretch the awake windows ever so slightly over a period of time until you get to more appropriate nap times.
4. TEMPERATURE CHANGE
Around 4 am your child’s body temp tends to drop slightly in preparation for waking. Check the swaddle, gro bag or duvet is correctly fitted and tucked in where appropriate. Check he is dressed appropriately for sleep. Cotton breathable clothing only, no hats, gloves or even socks. Optimum room temperature is 18-20.c
During the spring and summer months light creeping in through the curtains can be a cause of early waking’s. Even a street light outside will cause a wake up or light from the hall way. When his eyes open and sees even a glimmer of light it is something to focus on.
It reduces the levels of melatonin in the body and once those eyes open they will be focusing on that strip of light popping through because it looks interesting. Also artificial light from a night light or light from under the door will also impact on levels of cortisol.
Always use a RED if you wish to have a night light in your child’s room. This does not affect the melatonin levels at all. Put black out blinds up and have you ever thought of rolling up a blanket or sheet and resting it on top of the curtain rail to stop that strip of light entering..? Try it and see how much light it really can block out.
Many children have their last meal around 4.30/5pm especially those who attend nursery as many offer dinner around 4.30pm. This would make breakfast a long way away for them to hang on till. You may find it helps by offering them a wholemeal bagel or toast with a nut butter as a snack pre bedtime that will keep hunger at bay.
Perhaps it’s time to drop the mid-day bottle and swap for a solid dairy snack and then this can push dinner time a little later and this will in turn have a positive knock on effect to the hunger hormones being released in the early hours.
Ensure your child is getting enough meat protein during the day and before 10 months of age offer at lunch time as their little tummy’s are not quite ready to digest meat proteins at night time and they can also cause waking’s.
Offer lots of leafy green vegetables and brown carbohydrates at dinner time. The slow release of the carbs will help keep hunger at bay. If your baby is still having night feeds it may be they have not fed for 4 hours or longer so this could be genuine hunger. Ensure bedroom is kept dark, little interaction and pop down right after feed.
Of course if this has been happening for a while now your child’s circadian rhythm will be set for waking at 5am for the day! Try implementing that rescues nap if 10 months and under and having a shorter morning nap to set the circadian rhythm. And as with any habit they take consistency and practice to be created so you will need to be extremely consistent and preserver with implementing changes to change the habit.
For the older toddlers try using a trainer clock such as ZaZu Sheep! This is my favorite because unlike the Gro Company trainer clock, that has a blue light face and disrupts the levels of melatonin, ZaZu has a red face. And remember red light does not interfere with the levels of melatonin.
Here is a link.
Teething...gahhh, it gets the blame for a lot of waking’s and quite rightly so, however, if these early wakes are happening more than 3 -4 mornings in a row usually the teething pain has subsided by now.
At night blood pressure is a lot lower so any pain tends be less than day time. If your child is not showing pain discomfort during the day it is unlikely to be bothering them at night so much. Do offer pain relief, check gums before bedtime for those little white nubs.
If your child is having a day time nap ensure they are up by 3pm and bedtime no later than 7pm. This of course has to be age and stage of development appropriate. If your child is down to 2 naps a day and having a lunch nap of only 30 minutes and is awake by 2pm then they will need to go to bed at 6pm.
Now once you have managed to address the possible causes and you are consistent and still no results you may need to implement a comforting method to help your child back to sleep independently of you for them to understand it’s not breakfast time just yet and to help set their circadian rhythm.
These methods are very individual to each family situation and child’s temperament. If you would like guidance with this do drop me a message and we can talk about it.
So with that said, you can now try a little trouble shooting with your early morning rises and for more help and advice do get in touch and we can work together to restore sleep in your home!
Don’t forget to share this with a friend who may be experiencing the early morning rising just as much as you!
Paediatric Sleep Consultant
Boom! Here we go again…another hurdle in the world of sleep. Just as you may have felt your nights were getting on track suddenly they are being disturbed again and you may be wondering “what now”?
Well, this is possibly the 18 month sleep regression. Or as we all know I like to call a “progression” because your baby is maturing, not regressing...even though you may feel the sleep is somewhat..!
So here today I explain the WHEN, WHY and the HOW to navigate through your way through this sleep hurdle with hopefully not much disturbance for all the family.
So the WHEN,
This sleep “progression” is typically around 18 months but can be a little earlier or later. Most commonly around 18 months because it co – insides with a transition of 2 naps down to 1 which happens around this time.
During this delicate time your toddler will be coming out of the baby zone and entering into toddler hood and toddler sleep comes with it as a package!
Your child's physical and cognitive development is maturing and they are learning yet more skills, wanting to explore more and test us more for sure! They are figuring out limits and testing the boundaries. Your toddler may be in a big bed with no sides (my advice it to keep them in their cot for as long and close to 3 years of age as possible due to the lack of impulse control they have before 3 years)
That impulse control couples with the “mummy, can I have one more kiss, I neeeed some more milk, maybe I can climb out of my crib, oooh, maybe I can go sleep in mummy’s bed…”
These are the boundaries your child maybe testing. Sound familiar to you?
They enter a second bout of separation anxiety (the first being around 9 months when object permanence is realised) but this separation anxiety may be a little more momentous in the way they have a little more fear and curiosity. For example they may see you leave the room but then they may wonder, what if Mummy does not come back, what it I cry and she does not hear me, I can hear a dog bark, is it near me, what is that shadow over there…?
Naturally children and adults will wake 3-6 times a night when shifting from one sleep cycle to another, falling back to sleep independently is the art and skill we need to teach our children and if they have not learnt this skill they may struggle more at these waking’s, need our assistance and of course with this sleep “progression” their sleep may be more disturbed with their new thoughts going on in their maturing mind and need more comforting.
Your toddlers language skills are not fully developed yet and they can not always express themselves so we may be wondering what on earth they are trying to convey. Especially in the night when it is dark and we are all tired and a little bit dazed from perhaps being up already 5 times... You may wonder are they hungry, perhaps I should offer milk, do they need a nappy change or perhaps they are cold/hot, no it must be teething... yes, a feed will help get them back to sleep…
I am sure you have come up with a number of endless possibilities your toddler is waking for.
SO WHAT CAN YOU DO?
Of course if you are moving house or a new sibling is arriving soon, talk to your toddler about this, use books to help, perhaps a visit to the library to see what book they have on the topics. If moving try have your toddlers room marked as a priority, have the same bed, same bedding, same pictures and teddy around. Mimic the old familiar sleep space. Park the Pinterest decor you had…just for a few months anyway! It will come!
2. Be Consistent. I talk about consistency ALL THE TIME, and certainly those of you who have worked closely with me know I bang on about this a lot, but it is vital. Being consistent for your toddler at this time will help with their anxiety and expectations. If you give in to the “one more story, one more drink” demands intermittently they will cotton on to this FAST. And know they can get what they want if they go on and on enough..! Giving into your child is effectively rewarding them and at this young tender age they see it as a win.
2. To help with consistency you may like to use a picture time chart, this helps your toddler know what comes next. You can make it with them, cut out a pictures form magazines, a family eating dinner, a bath, a story, a cup of milk… they could even get the picture to pop in a “sleep box” at each “event” to sleep with your toddle on their shelf.
3. ROUTINE. Again this co insides with consistency and boundaries. Your toddler’s circadian rhythm is set to wake, eat and sleep at the same times every day. Don’t mess with that. You will rock the boat and then you have an over tired or even under tired toddler on your hand.
4. Your toddler is growing up mentally and physically, so treat them this way. Start to give them a little option or 2 , what top would you like to wear today, this blue one or this green one, what story shall we read first, the Gruffalo or Mog. Of course this goes within the boundaries and age appropriate. Things they can control will help the situation and helps in them feeling important and independent.
If you find your toddler is taking time to fall asleep and is happy in their sleep space, then leave them to it. Eventually they will fall asleep and grow out of this awake time. Of course if they are upset and you feel they need some assistance in some way of course lovingly go to your toddler and respond appropriately. Remember to be consistent in the approaches.
You may need to do frequent check ins, or sit in the room until your toddler falls asleep. But again I say it…be consistent at every wake up!
If your toddler is starting to kick up a stink and you are not sure how to respond do take this opportunity to reach out to me and I can help and offer advice and guide you through this period.
It is very normal to experience this sleep “progression” so hang in there as it may take a week or so to pass. Your anxious toddler may take some more persuading and comforting and that is perfectly normal and expected. Support them through this time.
Of course if you would like any more help and advice on this sleep “progression” don’t hesitate to get in touch, I am here to help you make this shift as easy as possible for you and your family.
Don’t forget to share this with a friend you know who may find this helpful also.
Your Paediatric Sleep Consultant
Or as I like to call a regression, a “progression”… due to the fact your baby is reaching milestones and not going backwards!
In this blog I will explain what exactly this 8 month “progression” is, the signs and how to deal with it.
So let’s get into it..!
WHAT IS THE 8 MONTH SLEEP “REGRESSION”?
Around 8-10 months your baby will be going through a major and massive neurological and physiological development change
Your baby is now beginning to be more mobile, learning to crawl, stand possibly walk and finding their own voice and practicing it more! This “progression” is your baby’s brains way of catching up with the day’s activities and processing it all. The result of this milestone is loss of sleep for all the family…
Around this time your baby will also be dropping from 3 naps down to 2 and this is a big developmental leap for them. They will be showing signs they are ready to drop this nap (see nap transitions blog for more on this )nap-transitions.html
Teething will be continuing and separation anxiety may also be starting to show. Your baby will be more aware of their surroundings, who is in the room, when you walk out the room, they may even cry a little when you walk out of the room.
They have now started to develop the skill of OBJECT PERMANCE, which is when they know something still exists when they cannot see, hear, smell or touch it.
A great game to play often to help them feel confident and comfortable in the room without you there is to play peek–boo, hide behind your hands then perhaps the sofa, then the room…!
HOW LONG WILL IT LAST?
Typically around 4 – 14 days. It may occur anywhere in the age range of 8 – 10 months. If your baby has mastered the art of self-settling and as long as you do not introduce any new negative sleep habits you should ride through this regression with ease.
You will see a shift in your little ones sleeping patterns such as
HOW TO DEAL WITH THIS “PROGRESSION”…
A sleep association will develop if it is mimicked at every sleep opportunity. If your baby has learned the skill and art of self-settling to sleep it is important not to re-introduce any previous sleep associations or start any new ones that may require your assistance such as feed or rock to sleep. Of course you can absolutely go to your baby, offer them the love, cuddles and support they need and you want to give.
So to conclude, if you have all worked hard on sleep shaping and got to your sleep goals, know that is does work and can still work, know that it is kind to teach your child to learn the skill of falling asleep independently. Don’t let a “progression” undo all that hard work you put in!
Being awake all night is not good for anyone.
Stick to your routine, encourage independent sleep skills and all will be OK!
If you find you have been dealing with this for longer than you feel is “normal” then do drop me a message and we can have a chat about how to get back on track!
Don’t forget to share this with a friend who has a baby or may be going through this transition. It may just shed some light on the matter..!
Sleep well happy families,
Here is your Ultimate Guide To Daylight Savings,
The Winter Issue
In this week’s blog I explain how you can navigate your way through the clock change going back 1 hour. I suggest 3 different options for you with detailed schedules below.
The dark nights are drawing in closer, the colder mornings are upon us and Jack Frost is waiting in the wings to frost up our windows and paths...
But what does all this mean for your Little Ones’ daily routine and morning wake ups? Does this mean your 5am wake up will now be 4am? Does this mean they will be ready for bed at 5pm instead of 7pm…? There goes your evenings with more wake ups and “lazy” weekend mornings I hear you say…
I say, “NOPE, Not at all”!
Falling back into winter can actually be a positive and give you one more extra hour on the clock to work on teaching your baby independent sleep skills and they get more time to “study and learn” these new skills! It’s all going to be fine…you will see. And it is EASY!
There are some adjustments you can do in preparation of the new Winter Time. Below I explain 3 different options you may like depending on what you feel suits your child best.
Read on to find out how this can work for you and see some example schedules…
Remember, our bodies are regulated by 3 things...
So, if we alter the timings of these 3 activities during the day, slowly your baby should fall into the new time change quite easily and without too much bother. It can take 1 – 2 weeks for your child to fully adjust to the new time so do be patient and be consistent. Every. Single. Day. And of course it does help if your child has the super skill of settling themselves and falling asleep independently of you.
Remember exposure to light be it natural or artificial will aid your child’s circadian rhythm to adjust so get outside for a walk, even a walk around the block will help , and if it is raining, adorn those welly’s and go splash in the muddy puddles…last time I check puddles were a lot of fun!
Below are some sample schedules to help guide you and your family into the new clock change.
Essentially you will be moving your child’s schedule 15 minutes later every 2 days, including feeds and solids. This will give time for your child’s body to readjust slowly without sending their circadian rhythm into shock!
Do remember that if your child is under 18 weeks your days may already be very unpredictable and you may not have a schedule in place. Therefor you just need to maintain your baby’s awake windows appropriate to their age. If you are not sure what their awake windows are, do see my blog on appropriate awake windows for different age groups. https://www.rachaelwilsonsleepconsultant.com/blog/how-much-sleep
Now, here’s the good bit…
Going Back 1 hour BEFORE time change
Start this 1 week BEFORE the clocks change.
Of course not all of us have the “luxury” to be able to wake our child up later because they are already an early riser. In this instance it may be more beneficial for you to adjust their schedule AFTER the clocks have changed. See example schedule below.
GOING BACK 1 HOUR (After time change) 7-7 routine
Another option to navigate through this is to extend your child’s awake windows by 5 – 15 minutes the weekend of the clock change. Now this has to be treated with caution as you do not want to send your child into a frenzy of overtiredness, this just merely extends their circadian rhythm a little longer to get to the end of the day and adjust before the new time actually arrive.
Then Monday morning you are back on track with your usual timings.
Example schedule below for a baby with a 2.5 hour awake window on 2 naps a day
By extending the awake window gradually this will help your baby fall back into the new time on Sunday when it arrives.
REMEMBER…This is just guide and if your child shows sleepy signs you must pop them down to sleep. If you do not then you will risk running into overtired territory and then you will have a new ball game to play with!
Don’t forget to share this with a friend you know out there who is wondering how on earth she is going to cope with the clock change and potentially 4am wake ups….!
If you feel you would like some more guidance on this adjustment do get in touch, drop me an email and I can help guide you through this!
Take care guys, and sleep well...
From the day you bring your baby home we see them sleeping, napping and not always at the times that is conducive to our sleep and daily schedule! Very soon your baby will spend more time awake, your days are constantly changing and just when you figured out some sort of routine, boom, something changes and you need to figure it all out again!
So how do you know when it is time to drop a nap? Here I explain the signs to look for that your baby will show when that times comes. Remember this is just a guide and every child differs from the next. Some babies hang on to their naps until the bitter end and some are quite happy to drop a nap as soon as they can!
Here are 5 top signs to look for…
4 - 5 months drop from 4 naps to 3 naps
7 - 9 months drop 3 naps to 2 naps
15 - 18 months drop 2 naps to 1 nap
2. When transition from 3 to 2 naps it is the last nap of the day that goes at this point. You will know this is needing to happen because your baby may be fighting this nap. Putting up a little protest or even waking early from it. This nap may also be interfering with bedtime. If you see these signs…it’s time to drop it!
3. Your baby may not be falling asleep quite so easily at any nap as they did before. Perhaps they are looking for some assistance, protesting verbally a little or just lying in their sleep space taking their time to fall asleep, more time than previously.
4. Suddenly you have a night wake up and for a long period of time or an early morning wake up when you did not before…this is a sign of possibly too much day time sleep.
5. Your baby may wake early from a nap when they did not before and you see a pattern of this behavior over a number of days.
How do you transition these naps…
Depending on how sensitive your baby is with sleep, dropping naps may need to be done gently and slowly. If you suddenly drop a nap this may have fall backs on night sleep and early waking’s and you may also have a very cranky grumpy child on your hands and that’s no fun!
Here are my top 5 tips how to drop naps…
1. GO SLOW. Reduce the nap length by 10 minutes every 3 days until you get to the desired nap length or it has gone.
2. When you feel the morning nap is ready to go you can also choose to extend the awake window by 10/15 minutes every 3 days with the help of distraction and natural daylight. Natural day light stops the sleep hormone melatonin being released but of course don’t push too much or you will have an overtired child on your hands. Then eventually the timing of this nap becomes the lunch time nap
3. Bring bedtime forward to compensate that last nap of the day being dropped and to bridge the gap from end of lunch nap to bedtime. Again, you don’t want an overtired child on your hands or then bedtime may turn into a meltdown with tears and tantrums and an early 5am wake up may occur!
4. Be conscious of your child’s sleep needs and follow their sleep cues
5. Be consistent. Every day the same. Consistency is KEY.
When a nap has been dropped, especially the last nap of the day and then the lunch time nap goes it may still be worth having some quite time, just for a week or so, so your child’s body has time to adjust to less sleep in the day. Perhaps read some stories, do a puzzle or some drawing.
For more help and guidance on Nap Transitions get in touch with me, I’m here to help your family become more rested!
It’s part of parenthood right, to be up in the night, changing nappies, feeding, pacing the floorboards, rocking back to sleep, “enjoying” those moments while the rest of the world out there sleeps!
I remember when my daughter, Chloe was born my friend had her son at the same time, we would always send each other a few texts in the night during these waking hours to see if we were up at the same time and what feed they were on..1 or 10! The following morning I would tell my husband a few stories and he would always ask me where I got all this information from as it was only 6am in the morning and it was basically night time…he had no idea that while he sleeps there is a whole other world out there awake…and surviving…mostly feeding parents and breastfeeding mum's who are awake…chatting away to help each other through the night…..!
So here in this blog I wanted to explain how you can maybe determine what is “normal” when it comes to night waking. Help you find some reasons and solutions as to why your Little One is waking.
Let me start off by saying, just like us adults all and every child wakes in the night. It is normal for a child to wake between 3 and 6 times a night. Even if it is just to turn over and re settle themselves, kick and flail about or to ask for a feed. But when and how do we know when to respond to these waking’s….and what is “normal”?
The New born stage. The biggest change in your life has just happened and for many of us we are under prepared for what exactly has just happened and about to happen…we arrive home from the hospital, sit down (if at all we can still sit without being in so much pain we feel our lower body has just been ripped to shreds!) and we say..Ok...now what..? A lot of us actually have no idea how to navigate our way through each day or really what to expect, every day is so different.
At this young new born stage your baby will feed, poop, sleep and repeat. A lot. It’s a turntable of the same most days, like a carousel that just won’t stop! It’s wonderful but it is exhausting and that is “normal”.
Your baby will be feeding every 2-3 hours or so. Don’t forget breastmilk is digested much faster than formula milk so you may find your baby feeds more often in the night than your friends who is formula feeding. This is normal and whichever way your feed your baby they are being nourished and loved and you are meeting their needs. Fed is BEST!
At this young age it is also way too early to start any sort of sleep shaping with any methods as such however what you can do is introduce positive sleep associations that will stand you in good stead for the future.
Change and feed during the night in a dark room, use a red light instead of the usual bedside lamp you have as the red light wont interfere with the levels of melatonin in your baby’s body. Stay in the same room as to avoid temperature changes which can wake a baby up. Minimal stimulation. It’s not party time it is feed and sleep time! Keep your nights calm and consistent. Make sure your baby is winded before you lay back down in their sleep space.
If you are experiencing multiple waking’s say every 1-2 hours through the night there may be something else that is hindering longer periods of peaceful slumber between feeds such as tummy pains from over feeding or overtiredness. It is worth exploring these other possibilities and if you feel you would like some help in solving this I am very happy to have a chat with you and put you at ease.
This age is a very impressionable age. Your little one will be changing a lot during this time, cat naps may start to occur, solids will be introduced and play time becomes more fun! And sleep changes.
Your baby’s sleep cycles at this age change and during the night become longer, 2 hours long so you may experience waking’s every 2 hours. It is very unlikely your baby needs fed every 2 hours at this age so it is worth exploring why this is happening.
You may find the issue is a self-settling problem, or perhaps your Little One is over tired from minimal sleep the previous day. It is impossible for me to say exactly what the problem is without having more in depth knowledge about your child’s world of sleep.
Around 4 months, the sleep “progression” will occur, you’re Little Ones’s brain is progressing and developing and their sleep cycles become like an adults.
When this “progression” has passed it will be the perfect time to start any sort of sleep shaping, be it form a schedule in the day or try to teach your Little One to sleep independently. You can really start to work on those naps and sleep associations.
You may even be getting 1-2 feeds a night with around 11-12 hours sleep!
Imagine that! Continue with the positive sleep associations you have been using and for every sleep. You may start to see a pattern in your days and find a routine that suits your family. This age is the perfect age to start with a gentle routine and this will help consolidate your baby’s night time sleep.
Your baby will be really establishing solids now, go slow and steady. It is advisable to introduce a new food every 2-3 days and at lunch time then if there is any reactions you will have the day to notice and know exactly what food it was. I would also recommend to introduce meat proteins at lunch time only until the age or about 10 months, Meat proteins are hard to digest and can cause waking’s in the night.
Night waking’s should be minimal at this age and if you are experiencing many wake ups and your little one is finding it hard to re settle or they are awake long periods in the night something is not on the right track here. Perhaps day time naps are off track, too much day time sleep can also hinder night sleep. Perhaps your baby has a sleep association and needs you there to help them back to sleep… all the time…
Do a bit of trouble shooting, look at their awake windows during the day, are they getting enough sleep and at the right time of the day? How did they fall asleep? Are they feeding more in the night than in the day, this is called “reverse cycling”. You will need to adjust naps and feeds during the day to adjust the nights. It’s about teaching your Little One the difference between night and day.
Many babies still require a feed up to the age of 12 months. It is not uncommon and it is also not uncommon for many babies to sleep through the night in this age bracket. Babies are very capable of mastering this awesome skill. If you Little One is still waking many times, again trouble shoot, think about the previous day…
There is a lot it could be. A lot happens at this age and stage of development. They are crawling, learning to pull up and maybe even start walking. Their diet is becoming more established.
If you would like some help in working out the cause of your Little Ones waking’s do get in touch. Sometimes it just takes someone out the box to work out the issue and help you solve the puzzle!
Your FREE 15 minute discovery call to assess your sleep problems is waiting for you and we can see where to go from there and find a sleep solution for you!
So you are here, reading this blog through foggy eye lids held up with match sticks to stay open. You were up every hour last night…and you need to find a solution to this problem. It is just not sustainable any longer for any of your family. And you are right. It is not sustainable for all of the family and your baby needs to sleep long stretches of time through the night for their own health, development and growth. Don’t fear, these waking’s in the night can be a thing of the past and your sleep can be restored.
Firstly we need to do a little trouble shooting here to assess whether these waking’s are normal. Perhaps your baby is still very young, a newborn. It is very common for newborns to wake frequently for feeding especially if they are only taking small feeds. But, what is not normal is if you have say a 6 month or older child and they are waking frequently, every hour or 2 during the night.
Certainly I have found many parents I work closely with say their baby slept well and for long stretches through the night but once 4 months arrived…boom….awake…every 2 hours…And this is because your baby’s brain has matured through the 4 month sleep "progression". This is a great sign your baby is developing and reaching milestones.
Now many babies sleep quite well from bedtime to around midnight, and this is because they are entering the deepest most restorative sleep during these hours and they are not very easily disturbed. They enter the deep sleep phase twice within about 3 hours of going to sleep.
Then you have a baby waking every 2 hours so we need to look at their daily routine, their food intake, there naps, awake windows and how they are getting to sleep. Of course sleep regressions can also be a factor. All these factors have a massive impact on night’s sleep.
Now we need to establish the cause and reason for your baby's multiple wakings of which there may be a few.
Ensure the room is pitch dark, no natural or artificial “blue” light is entering the room. External noises from neighbours (which can be hard to control..!) Use white or pink noise constantly all night.
If baby is only suckling and looking for a comfort feed at these wakings you can be sure they are not hungry. If you know they can go longer during the feeds than 2 hours you will need to encourage them back to sleep without feeding and then feed at the 4 hour mark if that is suitable for their age and stage of development. If you notice that they are not interested in their breakfast feed you can be sure they have had too much through the night.
This is parenthood and it will happen and be tiring. Know it is just a short time and it will pass…onto the next stage…!
So with that said, you can now try a little trouble shooting with your multiple night wakings and if you would like some more help and advice navigating your way through to better sleep in your home do get in touch and we can work together to restore sleep in your home!
Email me on firstname.lastname@example.org
Ouch, staying awake till 10pm I remember being a killer in the early months, I recall going to bed at 8pm, setting my alarm for 10pm to then offer Leo the dream feed in the sheer hope and glory that he would sleep longer stretches at night or even till 7am thank you! Does this sound like you?
There are many conflicting opinions out there towards the dream feed and if you are thinking about or currently are offering your baby this feed you may like to know some facts.
Firstly, it does not work for all babies. Some babies yes it does, like a dream! Others not at all. And in fact it can actually contribute to more waking’s in the night and early rising.
Some parents say they had a hard time dropping this feed and it actually disturbed their baby’s sleep and they had a hard time to get back into a peaceful slumber afterwards. Then it became a habit feed. Baby started to wake for it right on cue. Every. Single. Night. They could set the diary for their child waking for it!
Some parents describe their baby far to sleepy to feed properly, they were just not interested and therefore what was the point spending night after night trying to make it happen when it clearly just was not going to ever happen?
Why might it not work…?
If your baby is in the REM stage of sleep when you rouse them for this dream feed their muscle tone will be very relaxed. More so than during another sleep stage. This means your baby is more likely to choke and be less able to swallow. You may have even had your baby projectile vomit the feed you reluctantly crawled out of bed to offer…I know Leo did on a few occasions!
If you do choose to offer the dream feed it is advisable to wake your baby fully so they have the muscle tone to swallow but of course once baby is fully awake, they may think it is time to party…?
For those who experience more waking’s during the night or even the dreaded 5am early rising, this will be because you have interrupted the night time sleep cycle, the digestion of this “forced” feed is contributing to more work the stomach is having to do and the sensations will be disturbing your baby’s sleep.
How do I know if it is working...?
If your baby is taking a dream feed and still waking around 1 or 2am am then I would suggest it is “not working” and you are best to let your baby wake naturally for a feed. If they sleep for at least another 5-6 hours then the dream feed is working and you may like to continue with it but please remember a baby who is ready to sleep longer stretches through the night will be developmentally ready, not because they got an extra feed at 10pm!
When is appropriate time to introduce a dream feed...?
I would say when your baby is settling to bed around 6 or 7pm. This is a great natural bedtime for many babies around the age of about 12 weeks.
How do I drop the dream feed...?
If you are looking for ways to drop the dream feed, it is best to do around 6 months of age. This is because of the digestion process, contribution to becoming a habit and as I mentioned already the dreaded early rising.
Here is a gradual process to reduce the dream feed…
Say your baby feeds for 10 minutes you would reduce this time by 1 minute every 3 nights.
If you are bottle feeding you can reduce the amount of milk every 3 nights and once down to 1oz... stop!
Don’t reduce the feeds too quickly, your baby will need to adjust gradually by taking more calories in during the day and this will enable the dream feed to be reduced.
You may also like to speak with your health visitor or GP before introducing the dream feed.
If you would like to discuss ways to help wean your child off the dream feed at night do get in touch and we can talk over the best ways that may be appropriate for your baby and family.
Many of us remember waking in the night thinking there was a scary green monster chasing us around the park or that the bogey man was coming to get us…this was us having nightmares. I for one can definitely remember waking up fearing something terrible was in my room and then running to my mummy in tears for comfort. Now your child may be experiencing nightmares and you may be wondering how to handle them.
It is a good idea to learn a bit more about nightmares first and then we can understand how best to “tackle” them.
First of all nightmares are VERY different from night terrors. Nightmares will occur at completely different times of the night to night terrors and you will be only made aware of the nightmare after it has occurred.
Nightmares will occur when the brain is very active, the REM stage of sleep. REM sleep occurs at different intervals during the first 7 hours of sleep. Your child will be asleep, "paralysed" as it were and these nightmares will be recalled by your child. They can be extremely vivid and memorable as we all know. They are extremely normal so don’t be too worried about it. It is a sign your child is showing signs of human survival believe it or not!
A Swedish scientist did a study into nightmares and found they are very “cultural”. His findings found that for example in Japan many children had nightmares about earthquakes and tsunamis and children in the United States of America often had nightmares about guns and shoot outs.
Nightmares can be very short lived and infrequent however, if you find they are often recurring and perhaps have been triggered by a traumatic event you may need to seek professional advice from your GP.
Now when we wake in the night from a nightmare we know it was a nightmare, not real, we may still feel a little “freaked out” by the event and need to switch on a light or snuggle up to our partner but when a child has a nightmare, to them it is real, they may be very confused and depending on the age of your child and their ability to understand they may not grasp that is was in fact a nightmare, a bad dream, not real. We need to comfort them as much as we can, help them back to a state of calm and relaxation whereby they feel “safe” enough to go back to sleep.
Top tips to help your child through a nightmare…
1. Be there as soon as you can to support and comfort your child upon waking from a nightmare. Stay with them until they have fully calmed down and relaxed.
Preventing nightmares can’t always happen but there are somethings we can do to stave them off...
How many times have you heard someone telling you their baby slept so well and now they are waking every 2 hours in the night? I for one can tell you I have heard it many times, it comes with my job! Now this can be very normal especially around the 4 month mark due to the maturation of your baby’s brain in what we know as the four month sleep regression.
You may be asking why your baby is waking so much in the night when they slept so well previously and what can you do to get back on track to you sleep goals? There are definitely things you can do to stop this happening that are perfectly safe and still nurturing your baby's needs.
Firstly we need to take into account your child’s age, weight and stage of development and any medical issues. Of course we would expect a new-born baby to wake perhaps every 2 hours in the night but not a 6 month old or even a 10 month old baby.
Then we need to look at how your baby went to sleep. How your baby falls asleep has a massive impact on their sleep habits. Then we look at how much sleep they are having during the day. These two things will give a huge insight to why you are experiencing many waking’s in the night.
Take a diary over the next few days and just note down how your baby is falling asleep for every nap and bedtime and through the night. You may find a common denominator here…perhaps it is feeding, rocking or even motion in a buggy to sleep. These are the crutches your baby is clinging onto and they only know how to get to sleep by these crutches.
Secondly, take a look at what naps they are having in the day time, times they are and lengths of the nap. An overtired baby will not sleep well at night equally nor will an under-tired baby. If your baby is cat napping or having all their sleep in the morning then they will be overtired come bedtime and this can also be a cause to multiple waking’s in the night.
During the night, sleep cycles slightly differ from the day in that and many babies do wake on the 2 hour mark.
Now, have a think what you are doing when your child is waking every 2 hours in the night? Are you feeding them back to sleep? You may find your child is not taking as much solid food or feeding during the day or indeed at their morning feed and this will be due to the large intake they had throughout the night. This is what is called REVERSE CYCLING. You will need to decrease the feeds in the night and then you will see a difference in the day time feeds.
HOW DO YOU DO THIS?
Well it is easier than you may think but you will need to want to do this and be prepared to take your time and stick at it. There is no quick fix when it comes to sleep shaping, I like to take changes gently and always keep in mind your baby's needs and respond to them accordingly, but once you start and you see results it is amazing and you will surely reap the benefits as will your child.
Firstly you need to ensure your child is the right age, weight and stage of development to be dropping feeds in the night. When your child approaches the two hour mark your child will be entering the lighter stage of sleep, REM sleep. They will be easily disturbed and woken. If they have a strong sleep association in place they will most likely wake and expect the same way to get them back to sleep again.
At this point you will need to pop in place a settling method you feel comfortable and confident to practise. You may like to use your voice, touch or a little cuddle.
When your child wakes again and it has been 4 hours since the last feed you can be assured they may very well be hungry at this point and will need a full feed.
You may start to see a difference in the night feeds now if you have missed a feed at the two hour wake up. The feed may be a little longer and stronger and in turn help sleep more conductively.
If you would like some more help and guidance with your child's sleep book in a complimentary call and we can discuss your sleep challenges.
TOP TIPS FOR A MORE SUCCESSFUL NIGHTS SLEEP