Is 5.30 am too early a wakeup for my little one?

I’m not a subscriber at all to the whole 7:00 PM to 7:00 AM, that’s when they’re in their bed. I find that to be really prescriptive and restrictive. I don’t think humans are designed to all sleep at the same time.

Iif they’re going to sleep at 6:30 at night and they’re waking at 5:30. That’s eleven hours. That’s enough. I totally am down with getting up at 5:30. I think sometimes that’s just what life is like for a parent of a small child. If your kid is waking 100 times over night, they’ve got a late bedtime and they’re waking at 5:30, no I don’t think that that’s appropriate. There’s obviously some things we should work on, but if your little one is going down at 6:30 at night or even 7:00 and they’re waking up at 5:30, they’re probably pretty well rested and you just need to get up.

We can try to kind of edge them out if they’re over two year of age, you could try using a wake clock, a GroClock. You could try using one of them to try to get them to sleep a little later. You might need to put them to bed a little later too though. If they’re a baby, my first tip is to make their bedtime a little bit earlier and delay their first nap by about 20 minutes to see if we can try to get their wake time a little later.

Humans are designed to wake with the sun. I don’t like people feeling like, “Oh, he’s a really good sleeper except he wakes at 5:30.” If everything else is right, man you might just need to get up and have a cup of coffee and get on with the day, because you know it’s really not that big of a deal. Sometimes for little ones to be waking, it might just be a bit of a phase, but if they’re well rested and you really need it to be later, then maybe try to edge their bedtime out 15 minutes every three days or so to see if you can get them moving that block a little later, but apart from that honestly it’s fine. So I hope that helps.

Sleep training in younger babies?

Yawning babyIt’s really common for us to get approached by people who are at their wits end because their little one, (three, four month old) can only sleep one sleep cycle during the day. They may be having lots of them, but they can’t seem to crack linking that sleep cycle. Now, is it something that we can help with? No. We don’t want to do sleep training at this age simply because there’s no peer reviewed research to show that it works.

At this age, there are some things that we can adjust with what we call sleep hygiene, which is cleaning up around the sleep. Having the room be as super dark as possible, having white noise, having the temperature perfect. We want them to be snuggly, not too cold.

Sometimes we can try to encourage them to self-settle. That doesn’t mean we’re doing sleep training. . It just means we might start to put them down 90% asleep instead of 100% asleep and see how they go. If they start crying, pick them back up again. We’re not doing sleep training, but it can be good to try to consciously put them down just a little bit more awake than passed out. This isn’t the age where we would do sleep training yet, so don’t worry too much about it.

It’s really normal for a three/four-month old to still be having cat naps. At around the age of six to seven months is when we would expect them to start linking their sleep cycles and often at that age, they’re having cat naps because they’re not sleeping properly at night-time. They might be waking up like four or five times. We would address their night sleeping to address their naps. Don’t worry too much if your little one is having shorter naps during the day around the three/four month mark. It’s totally normal. It may just mean that you have to adjust their wakeful period to be a little bit shorter next time.

Is my little one ready to drop a nap?

Dropping a napWe generally say that a little one will go from three naps to two between 9 and 12 months and two naps to one between 14 and 18 months. One nap to none could really be anywhere between two and a half and five years of age. My three children varied greatly in that. My eldest would have napped in prep if he could have. He napped all the way up to the day before starting school. So how do we know when it’s just too much and we really shouldn’t have them napping anymore?

There are two signs that I look for. The first one is it becomes increasingly difficult to get them down for their one nap. They really resist it and that you may have to put in a lot of work to get them to go to sleep. If they do miss it, they’re able to get through the day okay. If they’re falling asleep at three o’clock in the afternoon after resisting a nap, then they’re probably not ready. So if they can kind of make it through more days than not, then they’re probably ready to drop it. Having to put in a lot of work to get them to nap is a good sign they’re ready to drop it.

The other really good sign is that the days that they do have a nap, they are awake until 9:30 at night and it’s so hard to get them down at night. This happened with my third. She was day-care’s best napper, but she wasn’t my best evening kid. She was awake until 10:00 at night and I had to say them, “Look, I know she’s your best napper, I’m really sorry, but I can’t be awake until 10:00 with this 3 year old.” They had to give her some books to ready instead and she was totally fine. Having massive evening delays is definitely also a sign that they’re ready to kick that nap to the curb, on the days that they have a nap.

When you are trying to get rid of the nap, don’t let them sit on the couch after about 4:30pm because they’ll probably nod off and you may need to bring bedtime considerably earlier. When they first start dropping a nap, you’re probably better off popping them into bed around 6:00pm because they’re just going to be so tired. Maybe even 5:45pm.

Naps in summer

Naps in summer

Naps in summer

Naps in summer

There is a surprising reason why your little one might actually not be able to link sleep cycles during the day or wake up early in the morning during summer. It’s something that might not occur to parents during summer. In Brisbane, Australia, it gets very warm. It’s actually stiflingly, disgustingly hot.

What happens in some cases is parents pop their little ones down for a nap or for bed, turn the fan or air conditioner on and expect them to sleep. Often though, the little one is put down with their arms and perhaps their legs uncovered, perhaps in just a singlet (vest) and a nappy, because of the heat.

Imagine yourself sleeping in that room. Would you pull the sheet up over you sometime during your sleep because the fan/air conditioner makes the room that much cooler? If you were going to, then baby needs the same thing.

It sounds really obvious, but it is something that in sleep-deprived fog a lot of people wouldn’t even think of. It is something that a lot of people don’t think of in summer because it is warm. If you’re cooling down that room or if you have a fan going overnight, by three in the morning or four in the morning, you need to imagine what you would be sleeping in in that room. Would you have the sheet up over your arms? Yes? Then you need to have your little in long sleeves.

Resettling for naps?

I say resettling baby during naptime is the work of the devil. I am not a fan of resettling for naps. I’d try resettling for five minutes if you really know that they should be back to sleep. Apart from that, you will be sitting there for at least an hour. They’ll be crying. You may be crying. It’s kind of ridiculous. I don’t see it being a consistently positive thing to do.

What I hear a lot of is, oh she woke after 30 minutes so I went in and I resettled. After about 15 minutes, she went back to sleep. I’d put it to you that you were probably just resettling for her entire wakeful period. You probably could have brought her outside, had a sandwich and a chat, hang for 15 minutes and then put her back to bed.

Instead of resettling, what I say is to adjust the next wakeful period to be shorter. If your baby’s wakeful period will normally be about two hours or whatever depending on the age, then and they have a shorter sleep than normal, look for those tired signs around 1 hour and 40 minutes. Bring that next wakeful period shorter, to compensate for the fact that they have had a short nap.

I don’t want people struggling on with resettling. Honestly, if you’re resettling for 45 minutes, basically all you’re doing is teaching him to cry for 45 minutes before you get him up. I don’t really know who that’s benefiting.

I hope this helps!

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At what age should I move baby to their own room?

One of the questions I get asked a lot is what is the right age to move my little one out of our room and into their own room? For this question, I’m assuming that your little one is sleeping in their own space, in a cot or bassinet in your room. To be honest, there really isn’t a right age. There’s no need to feel pressured to move your little one into their own space. If you like having them in your room, that is no problem at all.

SIDS recommendation is to have them in there until they’re 12 months of age, but I see a lot people who don’t have them in their room for whatever reason. I didn’t have any of my littles ones in my room because we didn’t own a bassinet and because our bedroom is rather small, a cot wouldn’t have fit. So we just put them in a cot in their own rooms from the start. Also, I feel like if I had had them in my room, I would’ve woken up to every little snuffle and would’ve got even less sleep than I did.

If that’s something that you enjoy and that’s working out for you guys, there’s no need to succumb to people saying “Shouldn’t he be out of your room by now?” Obviously, they’re not going to always be there. If that’s what makes you guys happy, just keep doing it. It’s totally fine. It’s not going to be a big deal if you move them when they’re 18 months. One dark room to another dark room is pretty much the same thing.

And if you’re concerned about waking them with your movement, just use some white noise in their cot so they don’t wake up every time you roll over.

I hope that helps.

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What to dress baby in overnight

What to dress baby in during spring nights?

What to dress baby in overnight

What should you dress your baby in to go to bed overnight? It’s hot in the evening, but then it cools down over night. It’s tricky. What I always say is dress your baby for the coldest part of the night, which is around 3 or 4 in the morning, but adjust the temperature in the room at the start of the night so air-conditioning or a fan – something to cool baby down a bit, but have them in the clothes they’ll need later on in the evening.

Early morning wake-ups

What’s happening is parents are dressing their baby in what’s suitable at 7 o’clock at night when it’s actually still really hot, which is why we’re seeing some early morning wakings at 3 or 4, because the night is much colder and baby isn’t warm enough.

Don’t use a blanket

Don’t use a blanket – it’s not only a SIDS risk, but you certainly don’t want to be relying on something that may or may not be on them later on at night. At the moment my general guide is to have long sleeves unless it’s an excruciatingly hot night. If you need a sheet pulled up over your arms at 4 in the morning, then baby is certainly going to need their limbs covered as well.

In this Brisbane climate at the moment it’s hot, so I would say that in Brisbane at the moment I have little ones in long sleeve Wondersuits. Not the fluffy ones and perhaps a one-tog sleep bag, maybe even a two and a half-tog sleeping bag depending on how cool it gets in the middle of the night where you guys are. No heater necessarily at this time of year, but I would say that you could cool a room down at the start of the evening and then turn it off when you go to bed. Of course have your white noise going as well so that they don’t notice the difference with the sound of the fan gone.

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Nutrition and sleep

The link between nutrition and sleep

Nutrition and sleepWhen we do a consultation with children over the age of six months (who have established solids) who aren’t sleeping so well, we always ask for a food diary. We don’t ask for that because we’re judging you on your ability to produce hipster food purees for your little ones. We’re asking for that because we want to make sure that there is enough protein in their diet.

Protein satiates our brain and tells our brain that we’ve had enough food. You can keep eating all of the other stuff till your head falls off, but the brain will keep telling the body that it’s hungry. So, protein is the first thing we’re looking for.

Secondly, we’re looking for foods high in a substance called tryptophan. Tryptophan is a substance that is essential for producing melatonin, which is the sleep hormone. We can’t manufacture tryptophan. We have to eat it. So in our consultations we’d be looking for foods that contain tryptophan.

Foods that have an abundance of tryptophan for example are nuts and seeds (e.g. almond spread, cashew spread – probably not Nutella), cheese, poultry (especially turkey), beef, pork, soy products, salmon, tuna, eggs, bananas and oats, are all really good sources of tryptophan. So, if you’re tossing up between two foods and one of them is on this list, I would definitely go with the one that has tryptophan, because with that tryptophan, your baby is able to produce the melatonin that they need to sleep.

 

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Should Mum or Dad do the sleep training?

Should Mum or Dad do the sleep training?

“Should Mum or Dad do the sleep training?” is a question I often get asked during sleep consultations. Who should do the sleep training, the reassuring? Should it be me or should it be my husband? The reality is, it’s actually more important that we have the person who the baby is expecting to come in, do at least the first night or two of the sleep training.

Who usually responds?

Say we got the person who doesn’t usually get up at night to settle baby to do the sleep training for the first few nights and there’s an improvement (because there will be an improvement) and on night four or five, the other parent goes in (the one who usually got up through the night). What happens is baby goes “Oh, great! You’re here! You’re the one who knows how things work around here and not the crappy idea that’s been happening the last few nights. YOU know that I need to be rocked and fed and facing due north, and bathed in unicorn tears before I go back to sleep. Get cracking!”

We will see improvement if the other person does it, but it’s best to stick to the normal responder. In some cases that might not be mom. I can think of many consults where the baby actually gets mom for bedtime, dad does the 10 o’clock every time, and then mom does the ones after that, etc. In that case, absolutely, get dad to do the 10 o’clock. It’s equally interesting for the child if all of a sudden it’s like, “Oh, mum’s here! What’s going on?” Definitely, just keep to the norm and start sleep training with the one who would normally respond.

Keep going until baby is asleep

Also, if you’re using a certain method for sleep training, whether it’s one that we’ve given you or one you’ve gotten elsewhere, what’s important is that the one person who responds sticks with it until the little one is asleep. If you’ve got one person doing it for half an hour and then gets somebody else to take over and then that person swaps with the first person, etc. you’ll have one very stimulated child – especially if we’re dealing with toddlers. So just have one person per settle, if you will.

 

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Should my baby nap in a light or blacked out room?

Should my baby nap in a light or blacked out room?

The answer is, quite simply, they should be in a very, very, very dark room for napping. The reason is that it’s the presence of light that actually suppresses melatonin. Melatonin’s the sleepy hormone, so you actually need melatonin to be going to sleep. So, you don’t want any light in the room at all.

The darker you can get it, the absolute better for your baby’s napping. My rule of thumb is if you can read something in front of you, it’s too light. If you ask any shift worker how they sleep during the day, between night shifts, they’re going to tell you that it’s as dark as possible or they use an eye mask. So, short of getting an eye mask for your baby, obviously, it’s going to be better to make the room really dark.

Linking sleep cycles

I do hear people saying that other sleep people have told them that their little one should be napping in light, so that their little one learns the difference between night and day. Okay, so absolutely, that would apply if you were having them in dark 24/7, but if your little one is coming out into natural light in between naps and it’s all normal Australian light, then napping in the dark is totally fine. In fact, it’s probably going to help them to link their sleep cycles. So, definitely have your little one napping in as dark a room as possible.

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