Guest content from Lucy Wolfe, leading Sleep Consultant, Founder of Sleep Matters, author of The Baby Sleep Solution and expert at The Baby Show
1. Make a plan
Approach achieving a better sleep as you would any lifestyle change or adjustment. Understand that it will take time. It can help to write out both your end goal and intermediate goals, but more importantly how you intend to get there.
Your end goal may be to sleep in their cot, in their own room and through the night, if age appropriate. But maybe begin with getting them used to their cot in their own room and reducing the current wakes from 6 to 3. Break your goals down to achievable bite-sized portions.
Also commits to writing your plan. Write in the start date, the feeding and sleeping routine that you intend to follow, and the approach that you will use. Jot down an idea of the bedtime routine process, which night you will start and which parent does what.
It’s important to understand that progress will not be linear, and it may get worse before it gets better, but that it’s all learning. If you continue to journal and write a sleep diary then you will be able to clearly identify the improvements you make week on week. It takes 3-4 weeks plus to establish your sleeping patterns. During this time, be kind and compassionate to yourself and each other.
2. Lay a foundation
Before you begin, make an effort for both you and your child to be extra well rested. Do what works for you – rock, roll, feed, bed share, and build up their and your sleep reserves. The more rested your child can be in advance, the easier the learning process will be and the more open to change they will be.
Make sure your child is getting enough outside activity and fresh air. An hour a day is the recommendation so try 30 minutes in the morning and 30 minutes in the afternoon. This can help get you out of the house and get some headspace, but will also help to fill your child’s sensory diet and regulate their sleeping patterns.
Create a suitable sleep environment, make sure that it is adequately dark; black out blinds and a night light are a good solution for night time and day time sleep. Make a special effort to avoid hall lights and bathroom lights overnight as this can have a negative impact on your child’s sleep.
3. Ask for help
If possible, share the load as you begin to make changes. Take it in turns if applicable, draft in support if it is a possibility, and be kind to each other as you work through the problems. Ask for help with older siblings as any assistance will only be needed at the very start, until you get into your new sleep groove with your soon to be great sleeper. Also go to bed earlier yourselves. Parenting is challenging, and doing so on fractured sleep is even more difficult. Factor in a few early adult bedtimes too in an effort to get more sleep yourself.
4. Don’t compare
Avoid making comparisons between your friends and neighbour’s baby and yours, or even your own older children. All children are different and comparing yours to another will only make you feel like you are a failure and undermine your self-esteem. Just as all babies are different, all parents’ perceptions can be too, and what you find draining, another may be tolerant of, but you can slowly work through this and it can and will start to look better. Even if you feel you have tried everything, there will be a solution to the issues that you experience. Regular wake times, together with early bedtimes and enough sleep by day are all necessary components to moving towards better sleep. The level of parental input required at bedtime is also important, and you may need to asses that as part of your plan. You will get there!
Lucy will be speaking as part of The Baby Show Live @ Home Digital Event, taking place on 16-17 May 2020. The Baby Show Live @ Home will take place on a dedicated Facebook group and will see top UK baby experts share their tips and advice on birth, sleep, breastfeeding, fitness, nutrition, mental health as well as providing exclusive offers, shopping advice, product demonstrations and entertainment to guide and empower parents about their parenting choices during this unprecedented time. You can sign up to be a part of the free event here: https://www.facebook.