Sleep… oh, sweet bliss! Are you getting any? Is your baby a 'good sleeper'? What can you do to help your little one get into a routine that involves consistent sleep patterns?
Once you have a child, sleep becomes a commodity that you value more than gold, and long-term lack of it can lead to tough times, emotional meltdowns and even depression. BUT sometimes a few little tweaks to your routine or one piece of advice is enough to tip the balance in everyone's favour.
Find answers to all your common sleep-related queries here!
*Should I change my newborn's nappy during the night when I feed her? *
Only change your baby's nappy if it is dirty. If it is only wet, it won't disturb her sleep, but changing her nappy every time you feed her will wake her more and means you'll be getting less sleep, too. Changing her first thing in the morning is fine.
I've just had my first baby. I'm worried about how to keep her warm at night while not piling on too many blankets so she overheats. How can I make her comfortable?
Overheating and bad ventilation are a recognised risk factors in sudden infant death syndrome (cot death), so you need to make sure your baby doesn't get too hot. At night her room temperature should be around 21℃. Buy a room thermometer so you can check how warm the room is. If she gets really cold she'll wake up then let you know by crying!
Use the following as a loose guide to how many blankets to give her, depending on the weather:
When it's 15℃ use a sheet and four blankets
When it's 18℃ use a sheet and three blankets
When it's 21℃ use a sheet and two blankets
When it's 24℃ use a sheet and one blanket
When it's 27℃ use a sheet only
*My eight-week-old son, Tom, seems to sleep all the time. But when he's awake, he's perfectly happy. Is he sleeping too much? *
Babies need a large amount of sleep and newborns can sleep up to 80% of the day. Sleep patterns vary hugely from baby to baby, but a typical pattern is for him to wake up, spend half an hour to an hour feeding and being changed and then go to sleep again for another couple of hours.
My six-month-old daughter is still waking at least once during the night and the quickest way to calm her is to feed her. All my friends' babies are sleeping through by now, so why doesn't she?
By around six months, most babies should be able to sleep a good few hours without being fed, so night feeds can be cut out. If your baby has fed well during the day, a late evening feed – at around 8pm, say – should see her through to the early hours, as she can now go 10 hours or so without feeling hungry.
If she still wakes during the night, wanting to be fed, try increasing her food intake during the day. She may not actually be hungry at all during the night but is waking naturally and crying. If you calm her by feeding her, you are filling her with unnecessary milk, which may actually keep her awake. Needing to wee more may wake her, too.
Try leaving her a couple of minutes to see if she falls asleep again, or calm her down without taking her out of the cot. If she is thirsty, offer a drink of cooled, boiled water instead, to break the link between sucking and sleeping. Once she realises she's not getting milk and there's no use demanding it, she'll start to sleep through.
*My seven-month-old son often cries out in the night. Is he having a bad dream? *
He could be having a bad dream or suffering from nighttime fears. Seven months tends to be the age that babies start to feel separation anxiety and will cry if they see you leaving the room. These worries can sometimes show themselves in night fears and scary dreams.
He may be frightened by shadows in his room, an unexpected noise or unpleasant thoughts and dreams. Fitting a dimmer switch, installing a night light in his room or leaving the landing light on with his door ajar may help.
If he wakes up afraid, give him a cuddle, reassure him and move away, but keep returning to him until he falls asleep again.
When my husband comes home in the evening, he loves to play with our 10-month-old son, getting him all excited and hyped up. But I've often just quietened him down ready for bedtime – it's driving me mad! What can I do?
You need to compromise. Your husband obviously wants to spend time with his son when he gets home from work, while you're eager to get him ready for bed and have a little relaxation. You could ask your husband to read to your son or sing him a song when he gets home before bed rather than active play, which will hype him up again. Or, ask him to try and get home 15 minutes earlier to have a little fun before joining in with the 'wind down' time before bed.
*How can I stop bedtime battles with my 11-month-old, who just won't go to sleep when I tell him to? *
Telling your baby to 'go to sleep' just won't work, because children, like adults, can't simply fall asleep on command (darn it!). Going to sleep is a skill that must be learned.
To teach your son to sleep, put him in his cot while he's still awake so he learns it is a safe place to sleep. Be patient, but firm. This may mean leaving him to cry sometimes, but as long as he's not ill or otherwise unhappy, he will eventually learn to fall asleep on his own. Don't get cross with him. If this doesn't work after a few days, try one of our sleep techniques.
Help, I'm exhausted! My one-year-old bub goes to bed at 7pm and used to sleep through until 6.30am. But in the last couple of weeks he's started waking up at 5am and is then raring to go. Why has he changed and how can I get him to lie in a bit longer?
As babies get older, they start to need less sleep and this could be one of the reasons why your son is waking earlier. You could try putting him to bed a little later and see if this works, but often children wake at the same time, no matter what time they go to sleep. Other factors may include how dark the room is in the mornings. If the curtains let through a lot of light, buy a blackout blind to reduce the light. Does his room adjoin a room in the next house where they get up early, waking him, or is he near a heater or anything else that may wake him when it switches on?
To get him to start sleeping later, when he wakes, rather than getting him up, go to him and whisper, 'Ssh, it's still nighttime. Everyone is asleep.' Then retreat. Leave the room and turn on a radio alarm, which you should leave just outside his door. Go back in and say, 'The radio's on, time to get up!' After a couple of days, set the alarm for ten minutes later, repeating the process every couple of days. If he wakes before it comes on, say, 'Ssh, it's still nighttime. Everyone is asleep,' and leave the room again. When the radio comes on, go in and say 'The radio's on, time to get up!' It will take time to set the clock later and later, but he will eventually get the idea that it isn't time to get up until he's heard the radio.