Your baby sleep questions answered

Get your Qs answered in our live webchat with Pampers sleep expert Wendy Dean

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We were joined by sleep expert Wendy Dean from the Pampers Village Parenting Panel for a special two-part ‘sleep’ webchat session. If you missed our live webchat here’s where you can read the questions our users asked about their baby’s sleep habits, followed by Wendy’s informative answers.

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PART ONE

Q: My 11 month old has always been a bit of a light sleeper and early riser. He has a good routine during the day and takes 2 naps of 1-2 hours each. He eats incredibly well and goes to bed at 7pm. BUT he wakes up any time after 5am, happy and squealing and ready to start his day. If he wakes earlier he’s easily settled with a dummy, or even a bottle if he’s having a growth spurt. But the 5am wake up is different, I try and settle him the same way I would at 1am but he just gets livelier. How do we get him to sleep in, even a tiny bit later? We’re so, so tired!

A: The key to the issue could be linked to what goes on at other points in the night, even if these wake ups do not happen regularly. At your little boys age he really doesn’t need a milk feed at night now. However, he will wake at regular intervals as part of his sleep cycle and may well regularly look for a milk “prop” in order to get back to sleep. Likewise if he falls asleep sucking a dummy at the beginning of the night, when he wakes he may well need it again to fall back to sleep. At first glance, these issues do not seem relevant to the 5am wake up. However, after 4am babies and toddlers are in their lightest stage of sleep. If he is quite “prop” dependent then this is the time when he will find it the hardest to re-settle. So my advice to you would be to stop all night feeds, consider ditching the dummy and try and not get him out of bed until after 6am (which whilst a bit early, is in the “normal” range). Pop in and out and reassure him you are around, but keep the room dark and keep repeating a key message that it’s still not time to get up. It may take a few weeks, but he should start to sleep later.

Q: My 7 month old son was, until recently, a good sleeper. Ever since we started weaning he is waking every 4 hours or earlier through the night (I think) wanting food. I make him a bottle but he will only take 1 or 2 oz then fall asleep again and he won’t take a dummy any more. He has 2 naps during the day but only for about half hour each time.

A: Is your son falling asleep on his bottle at bedtime? If the answer is yes, then he is almost certainly looking for the same “prop” to get him back to sleep when he wakes as part of his natural sleep cycle throughout the night. Even if he does go down in his cot awake, he could still be waking out of habit. If you are confident that he is eating well through the day and is drinking most of his milk then you can stop night feeds. I would start with making sure that he goes down awake after his bottle – you could try a split feed i.e. give him most of his milk and then read a story or play a quiet game. You can then top him up before bed when hopefully he won’t get a chance to fall asleep on the milk. If he protests about the new arrangement, try one of the Soothology™ routines on the Pampers website pampers.co.uk/goldensleep. It may take a week but you should see a big difference.

Q: How can I get my 9 month old to take longer daytime naps? We don’t have too much difficulty with night times as she’ll sleep 12 hours overnight and wakes only if teething / ill / in a funny position. She doesn’t have a dummy at night time. But we seem to be struggling with day times.

A: All babies sleep in cycles and through the day these are generally around the 40 minute mark. At that point they wake and if she hasn’t learned how to re-settle into a second cycle, she is up until the next nap or bedtime. There are a couple of ways that you can approach the issue. Either, try and leave her for 10 minutes when she wakes to see if she can settle herself back off to sleep. If she starts to cry, pick her up and pat her back until she stops and then put her back down again. Try this for 20 minutes and if she doesn’t go back to sleep, get her up and try again the following day. Alternatively, if you have the space in your house, consider rocking her off for naps in her pram. When she has been asleep for 30 minutes, gently rock the pram again and this should send her into a second sleep cycle. Good luck and I hope you see a good improvement.

Q: I have a friend whose 4 month old baby girl will not nap during the day unless she’s either on her mum or out in the car/pushchair. She has tried everything but nothing changes. She sleeps reasonably well at night, but in my friend’s words, “No two days are the same” regarding daytime sleeping. She’s breastfed, has yet to begin weaning and shows no signs she’s still hungry when put down for a nap?

A: It sounds like your friend’s baby has a problem with settling herself to sleep – do you know if she can do this at bedtime? If not then that would probably be the best place to start as it tends to be easier. If she does go down awake ok at bedtime then the key to the naps is going to be perseverance and a lot of patience. The little girl prefers a cuddle with mum or a rocking motion to her own bed and in a way one can understand it. However, she will learn to love her bed. Advise your friend to set a “sleep window” of 40 minutes around 2.5 hours after she woke from her night sleep or last nap. Suggest that she does a little pre-nap routine – perhaps take her outer clothes off, wrap her in a blanket or sleeping bag if she has one at night, sing a song, listen to music or play a quiet game. Shut the curtains to dim the light. Once she has done this, lower the little girl into her bed. If she cries, pick her up and pat her back rhythmically until she stops. As soon as she does, lower her back into her bed. If she starts to cry, pick her up again and repeat. The aim at this stage is to just get her to fall asleep on her mattress – the length of the nap doesn’t matter at this stage, 2 minutes would be a success. If she only has a short nap or is still awake after the 40 minute “window” has elapsed tell your friend to call it a day, put the little one in the pram and take her for a walk. She should then try again for 1 nap the next day. It will take a few days to see an improvement, but if she sticks with it, she will get there.

Q: How long should my 2 year old be napping for during the day? He sleeps between 10 and 11 hours per night and every day I have to wake him from his nap or he’d sleep all afternoon!

A: Congratulations on having a 2 year old that sleeps so well. A 2 hour nap is fine and he could probably have a little longer (around 2.5 hours) as long as it’s not affecting his falling asleep at bedtime. If he sleeps past 5pm this is more likely to happen. Enjoy the time and treat yourself to a hot cup of tea. My daughter had a good 2 hour sleep every afternoon until she started school so try not to worry.

Q: I’m wondering how much sleep is too much? My daughter is nearly 23 months now. She’s always been an amazing sleeper, but I do worry about whether I should wake her more often. She is always asleep by 7pm, normally much earlier (5.30 sometimes!), and she sleeps for about 15 hours. When she wakes, she’ll be tired after an hour or so and will go back to bed for up to 4 hours… Is this too much?

A: It does sound like she is taking quite a bit more sleep over 24 hours than the average 2 year old. If she seems happy and healthy then it’s probably nothing to worry about, but why not go and talk to your Health Visitor just to get her checked out and reassure yourself that all is well. I will be here at the same time next week, so let me know what she says.

Q: My child has just turned 3, when he gets to sleep he can sleep through the night until 8am. It’s getting him to sleep that is the problem, sometimes it can be 10pm by the time he is off, you can tell he is tired, but just wants to stay up. We don’t let him sleep in the daytime now, as we want him to be in his bed for a normal time around 7.30.

A: I actually specialise in babies under 2 so he is a little old for me to offer specialist advice. It does sound like he is asserting himself rather than that he has a specific sleep problem. The way forward is probably to start and stick with a bedtime routine and make it clear that it is bedtime and he is to go to bed – don’t let him downstairs after the bath, story etc. You could combine this with a reward chart e.g. if he stays in bed he can have a star and a small treat. It would also be worth having a word with your Health Visitor and see what she suggests.

PART TWO

Q: My little girl is 11 weeks old and we could never get her to sleep in her Moses basket so we started co-sleeping as it was just easier to feed her. We have now set up her cot (it’s a Cosatto bedside cot) next to the bed but are struggling to make the move from bed to cot what is the best way to do this?

A: It can be very difficult to settle a small baby into her own bed, particularly if she has got rather used to sleeping somewhere else. Take a look at the Pampers Village website pampers.co.uk/goldensleep where I have worked with Pampers to devise a Soothology™ routine especially designed for your age of baby. With a lot of patience of perseverance it should be possible to help her settle into her own bed, it might be hard work and could take a little time. Keep trying and you will get there.

Q: I have a 9 week old daughter, and while I know not to expect too much from one so young, I am certain she’s not sleeping enough. For almost 2 weeks she’s almost absolutely refused to sleep in the day. Her pattern at night is to feed (breastmilk) from 7.30pm then every hour and half until around 11pm, she then sleeps until 3.30am. After which she is awake on and off and grumpy until the morning. We do plenty of playing with her etc, but she’s not sleeping for more than 15 minutes max! Last week there were a couple of days where she went 12 hours sleeping no more than 2 minutes then awake for an hour! I’m finding it a real struggle. She does have a dummy, which doesn’t seem to be helping any more, and she won’t even sleep on us any more either, so I’m completely stuck?

A: On the face of it, she may be using the breast as a source of comfort rather than as a way of filling up her tummy. When she is at the breast, is she taking strong sucks and clearly swallowing or is she having a little suckle every now and again, stopping but remaining at the breast? If the answer is the latter, then introducing a daytime feeding routine could be the answer. There are some helpful resources on the pampers.co.uk/goldensleep website which will help you plan one – the sleep diary would be particularly helpful to you I think. If she is falling asleep at the breast and just won’t settle in her bed then start the Soothology™ routine (at the same web address) that is suitable for a 9 week old babies. It may take a while to start with, but she should start to settle herself off to sleep without needing a feed.

Q: My son who is 23 months still has a dummy for bedtime/naps, any tips on how to remove this? I don’t think he’d quite grasp the concept of dummy fairy etc yet, but ideally would like to be rid of it soon after his second birthday. I had planned to do it sooner but we moved house in November, then his sister arrived in December so figured it would be a bad time?

A: If you really think that your little man won’t understand sending the dummy to a dummy fairy, then make it a bit simpler – offer him a bribe to hand it over I’m sure he will swap it for a very interesting new toy. The key though is to make sure that he knows it’s gone at that point – it needs to go in the kitchen bin and then into the big bin about 10 minutes before the bin men arrive. From then on, you will need to keep telling him that the bin men have it every time he asks for it. He will forget very quickly if you keep distracting him and re-enforcing the message. There is a bit more info on dummy ditching on the frequently asked questions sections of pampers.co.uk/goldensleep

Q: I have a 16 month old, she has never been a great sleeper and I’m not a fan of controlled crying. We still get her off to sleep with a bottle and then rock her and lay her down. Do you have any other suggestions as to how we may be able to get her to sleep herself rather than controlled crying?

Q: The key to helping her get a good night’s sleep is to support her while she learns how to self-settle i.e. so that she doesn’t need to be rocked and fed off to sleep. Change the bedtime routine so that this no longer happens – pampers.co.uk/goldensleep website has plenty of ideas for bedtime stories and fun lullaby’s. Once she is relaxed and ready to fall asleep, put her in her cot. You can then continue to read or sing to her whilst you encourage her to lie down. Once she is happy to do this, sit quietly beside her and constantly reassure her that you are still there. Eventually she will fall asleep. You need to do the same thing for several weeks, but gradually start to edge out of the room.

Q: My son is 19 weeks old and has never been one of these babies that sleeps through the night. However, he used to just wake up once a night to be fed and would be back asleep in 20 minutes. Over the last few weeks though he has started waking every hour or so and sometimes will then be awake for a good hour and a half!! He will fall asleep the minute I pick him up but scream when I put him down – this happens no matter where I put him to sleep. I have tried teething gel, Calpol, checking if it is wind, checked if he was too hot/cold and we just can’t figure out why he is waking up? We started weaning after this started happening too but it hasn’t made a difference.

A: Try the following:

1. Make sure that he goes down awake at bedtime every night. If he is either asleep or very drowsy then he may be struggling to fall asleep when he wakes as part of his natural sleep cycle.

2. When he wakes in the night, try not to pick him up, but reassure him in the cot. Stay next to him, but keep interaction to a minimum – if he does need that pick up in order to get back to sleep, this should help him learn that he actually doesn’t.

Good luck with it – what is suggested above is no instant solution, but if you persevere it should work. Remember, the pampers.co.uk/goldensleep is packed with information to help you.

Read the full sleep webchat by clicking the links below:

PART ONE

PART TWO

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Visit the Pampers Land of Golden Sleep at pampers.co.uk/goldensleep to read the Pampers Soothology™ routines in full. There are also many other useful items on the website, including a sleep diary, Frequently Asked Questions fact sheet, lullabies and bedtime stories. There is also information on the new Pampers Baby-Dry nappies which now feature 14% wider Extra Absorbent Zones to channel wetness away faster, and help keep your baby dry for up to 12 hours.

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