Updated: Sep 4, 2020
As a sleep consultant I’m constantly asked what advice and tips I can give parents to help their little ones sleep better. Sleep deprivation is hard – we can’t pour from an empty cup as parents! We want to make sleep as easy as possible for our little ones and there are my 3 top tips to do so.
1. Create an amazing sleep environment for your little one. We want to make sleep as easy as possible for our little ones and their environment is the easiest place to start. Research shows the best sleep happens in darkness. A pitch-black room is key for the production of melatonin (the amazing sleep hormone). Even the smallest bit of light creeping from the top of a curtain rail or an open door can signal to our little one’s brains that it’s time to wake and stir so darkness is paramount. I’d encourage you to use white noise which acts as a buffer to external noises like siblings, doors slamming or dogs barking. White noise is also an incredibly calming sound to our little ones, triggers our babies calming reflex and mimics what they heard in utero. Try to avoid mobiles above the cot or numerous toys as they are a distraction from sleep in their room.
2. Get the timing right. We want to work in with your little one’s natural body rhythms and timing is key! How much awake time do our babies need? See my free sleep needs guide for age appropriate awake times and how many naps your little one’s need. Make their lunch nap your priority and try to avoid this nap always being on the go. The morning and afternoon naps are ideal for having out and about as they only need to be short, but try and prioritise their lunch nap – this is the nap they will hold onto well into their toddler years, and is the most restorative sleep for them.
3. Stop, pause and listen. Listen to what our little ones are trying to communicate to us and try to put it into context. Being a mum of twins, I was on high alert for every grunt, grizzle and slight fuss and would race into the room as the last thing I wanted was one twin to fully wake up and wake their sibling! Understandably, I hadn’t learnt to stop, pause and listen. I didn’t realise how our minds are active when we are falling asleep and the same goes for our little ones. Even babies who can self-settle, will often still make noises. Imagine if you were tossing and turning trying to get comfy in bed and someone opened the door, let all the light in and started talking and fussing around you – you’d become stimulated and slightly annoyed too! I found myself intervening too quickly which meant game over with their nap! Our babies need lots of guidance and reassurance and we as parents need to stop, pause and listen to what they are communicating to us. When our babies truly cry we should respond. Are they crying because they are genuinely upset or are they just grizzling and protesting whilst trying to fall back asleep? See if you can pause before you race to respond – they may have had a partial wake up overnight and are simply drifting into another sleep cycle making a little noise as they do so! Often these noises or grizzles aren’t necessarily a true cry for help and they don’t require us to go in and stimulate them – it’s normal to make noises when falling asleep and we should try to stop, pause and listen to see if they truly do need our intervention.
If you find you need more help and want coaching through this, email firstname.lastname@example.org and we can tackle this together. Early mornings become habitual quickly and truthfully they take weeks of patience and consistency to solve. Keep at it and keep consistent!