FIRST MAGAZINE: Time for bed – How to get your baby or toddler, and yourself, some sleep!

First Magazine

Saturday, 30 September 2017, 15:54
Last update: about 12 minutes ago

I am a 31-year-old woman from Venezuela and the mother of two girls aged three-and-a-half and two. When my second daughter was born, I was determined to breastfeed her and that took a lot of my energy – and hers. Between feedings, crying, pumping and rocking her to sleep – and taking care of my other daughter – it seemed like a never-ending situation, and co-sleeping did not work neither did breastfeeding, rocking, or a dummy. I even tried letting my baby ‘cry it out’ but her that would wake up her big sister and then we all ended up crying together! My elder daughter missed naps, which affected her appetite and behaviour, making her cranky most of the time, and – well – we all were! I was mentally and physically exhausted, not to mention sleep-deprived and am sure that postpartum depression didn’t help, either!


During one long night I found out about sleep coaching on the internet and decided to work with Kim West – ‘the Sleep Lady’ – to get my girls and myself to sleep. I found out that the baby was suffering from ‘silent reflux’, so I got that under control by following the suggestions the ‘Sleep Lady’ made. Soon my daughters were sleeping together in the same room all night and even napping during the day at around the same times as well. I learned a lot about sleeping and how sleep works where little ones are concerned, so I decided to spread the word and be that ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ for sleep-deprived families.


Here are some questions and answers that may help you get some sleep!


At what age do you think a baby should start sleeping through the night?

Sleeping is a self-learned skill, and most babies are developmentally ready by the age of six months; others take a bit longer and are ready by their first birthday or they could need to be fed during the night for longer for medical reasons.


What sleeping hours do you suggest, and why?

Recently, there has been a lot said and written on the value of early bedtimes – and in some cases extra-early bedtimes – and both do work in some cases. However, the truth is that some children are able to stay awake for longer and still manage to sleep through the night without any detrimental effect on their behaviour or development. However, the temperament of every child, and the dynamics of every family, are different so the number of hours of sleep a child needs will vary. And it is also important to remember that it is not only the quantity (ie, the number of hours) that has to be considered, but also the quality of the sleep.


What bed-time tricks do you suggest?

“Wrap it up and connect”. While you are helping your child put his or her pyjamas on, or changing the nappy, talk about what you’ve done during the day, what you are doing now and then what will happen next. For example: “Today we went to the beach and played with the sand. We paddled in the water and built little castles, and you had such fun, stepping on them, didn’t you?” Wait for the response and then continue describing highlights of the day until your child is ready for sleep. Then, help your child into bed and kiss him or her good-night. Say that you will check on him/her soon and then switch off the light and leave. And make sure that you do what you said, and check a little later.


What should you not do before sleep time? 

Studies have shown that screen time can affect the quality of our sleep, making it difficult to stay asleep and causing some children to have nightmares. It is recommended to have at least one hour free of screen time before bedtime. Quiet games like puzzles, building blocks or colouring are more soothing than running and jumping around with loud music. What is eaten is also important and anything containing caffeine or sugar should be avoided in the three hours before bedtime.


How can you tell if your child is over-tired?

The ability of children to stay awake is a roller coaster. When they are ‘up’ is when they should be awake and when they are ‘down’ they should be asleep. When they need to sleep they will often slow down, exhibit a lack of focus and prefer quiet activities. When they are overtired they will appear cranky and fidgety and it will be more difficult for them to get to sleep. Then, like in the roller coaster, they will need to be ‘up’ to be able to enter a calm stage where they will be able to sleep.


What would you tell parents who can only get their baby to sleep in a moving car?

A baby that will generally only go to sleep in a moving car is relying on the motion of the vehicle. To change what can become a routine, I would suggest that the parents make a gentle transition by offering the same kind of motion as part of the bedtime routine at home – and sticking to it. You could do this until your baby is asleep and then carrying him/her into the cot or bed to sleep. As the days go by, reduce the amount of the ‘car’ motion and let the baby be more aware of being in the cot. As always, be sure your child is not over-tired and has a soothing bedtime routine.


Do you suggest keeping to a sleep routine when on holiday?

Yes, some of some type. New places and new people can be really overwhelming for our children so it is important that we are able to offer them some kind of routine that makes them feel safe going to sleep in a new place. Taking a few of their favourite books and maintaining the same routine at bedtime can also help a lot.


How strict should a parent be and what do you suggest for parents who easily give in to their child’s tantrum when he/she does not want to go to bed?

I would not use the word ‘strict”, but if you are unhappy with a situation and want to change it, you need to be very consistent. This means being consistent with your actions and expectations, with your health and that of your child. Have a plan, create a routine with which you and your child are comfortable and use it consistently, allowing your child to unwind and to look forward to it. Work together with others care-givers, and be patient.


What factors can change the sleep routine or the number of times a baby or toddler wakes up during the night?

It depends. Since the temperament of every child is differently, there are various reasons. Children that go to sleep independently will wake up fewer times than those that rely on something being done for them in order to go to sleep because they will often need it to actually stay asleep. Big events and feeling unwell can affect the sleep pattern of most children, in the same way that they do for adults. Others circumstances such as room temperature, noise, light or hunger and bowel movements are things that we can either prevent or take action to prevent and thus confidently avoid sleep disruption.


What is a sign that a child is not getting enough sleep?

Sleep-deprived children demonstrate changes in appetite, difficulty concentrating and regulating their emotions, suffer from headaches, hyperactivity, impulsivity and ‘crankiness’, have difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep and wake up more frequently in the night. Sleep deprivation is accumulative, so the less a child sleeps, the less he or she is likely to sleep. Falling into a sleep deprivation cycle has shown tendencies to continue into childhood, where signs can even resemble the symptoms of ADHD.


Can a child who goes to sleeps at midnight without a tantrum ever fall asleep earlier?

Yes. When a child goes to sleep late and wakes up late it can be a case of ‘inverted circadian rhythm’. By allowing the child’s body the opportunity to move that clock to an earlier time – at the same time being gentle and respectful of the child’s needs – can achieve an earlier bedtime.


Daniela can be contacted by telephone on 9995 9857, on Skype: danielasleepcoach and Facebook: Daniela Sleep Coach. For more information visit her website:



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