Everyone expects sleepless nights in the early weeks with a new baby. But what happens when those exhausting, bleary-eyed weeks turn into months or drag on for even a year or more? Mums say how they tackled their older babies’ sleep problems, and share
the tricks that turned their lives, and their night-times, around.
What real mum’s say…
6 months old – ‘We kept the lights dimmed in his room’
‘When Jonathan was tiny, I kept him in the lounge where the TV was on and people were talking. But by 6 months, I realised this wasn’t working. We then kept him in his room, feeding him with the lights dimmed, no matter how tempting it was to sneak him downstairs. He’s slept through from 14 months.’
SUSAN BELL, 29, is a midwife and mum to Jonathan, 24 months
7 months old – ‘We worked out our own routine’
‘When Daisy was born, my husband Bryan and I read loads of baby books for advice on sleep. But all the “experts” seemed to contradict one another. After so many more broken nights, we were too tired to follow any kind of rigid sleep plan.
‘Crunch time was going back to work when Daisy was 7 months. I needed to get some sleep and still have enough time to cook, eat and get things ready for the next day.
‘I decided to work out my own routine for Daisy, something sensible and practical, so I started by reading books to her before a 6.30pm bathtime. Then she’d have a quiet bottle. I was careful not to chat as she drank her milk. I put a low lamp on and pulled the blackout curtain down. She was in her cot by 7.15 and settled by about half past.
‘Keeping everything simple and quiet worked. Daisy fell into her routine within two weeks. She seemed to like knowing exactly what was going to happen.
‘I’ve thrown away all the baby books now. Instead of rigid or complicated routines, I feel a simple solution works best.’
MARIA BOYLE, 33, from Richmond, west London, is mum to Daisy, now 17 months old
8 months old – ‘She cried hersefl to sleep’
‘I knew that at some point I would have to let Grace cry herself to sleep but I didn’t feel ready until she was 8 months old. For a week, I held her in my arms if she cried, putting her back into the cot when she settled. For the second week I sat out of sight, just checking she was okay. Now, a fortnight later, she’s sleeping through. Start a routine when you feel you’re both ready to cope.’
Susan Kennedy, 36, is mum to Grace, 8 months
9 months old – ‘I bored my daughter to sleep!’
‘When she was 9 months old, Grace was still waking in the night, and as a single mum I was shattered. I’d gone back to work when she was 7 months, and within weeks I was like a zombie. My whole life seemed to revolve around work, looking after Grace, then trying to cope when she woke at night.
‘I needed a flexible sleep plan, as Grace often had to sleep at my mum’s several evenings a week while I worked shifts. I realised that when Grace did wake at night, she wasn’t really feeding, but just cuddling up to me. So I knew I just had to stop the waking habit.
‘One night, Mum told me a story about babysitting young children years ago. She recalled they refused to go to bed until she switched on the TV and found a really dull programme. They then jumped up and raced to bed!
‘I decided to try boring Grace to sleep. I picked the song You Are My Sunshine, as it’s the tune on her cot mobile. Whenever I was settling Grace, I started singing it until she fell asleep. If she woke at night, I’d sing it again until she dropped off.
‘It worked wonders. Within a week, Grace recognised this was a sleep song. After a couple of weeks, she stopped waking in the night altogether!’
LOUISE PARKER, 28, from Stockport, Cheshire, is a residential support worker and mum to Grace, now 2
BABY’S AGE WHAT SHE NEEDS WHAT CAN HELP 6-12 months Between 12 and 14 hours. Around four hours of this will be during the day. You’ll soon start to recognise what some of your baby’s cries mean and at this stage it’s fine to leave her for a few minutes to see if she’ll settle down again on her own. A favourite toy or cuddle blanket can help her feel secure if she wakes in the night.