Smart strategies for good baby and toddler sleep
When our babies and toddlers get a good night’s sleep it makes a huge difference to our quality of life. But there are so many factors that can negatively impact their sleep. These happen at different ages and stages – and sleeping patterns can change at times we don’t expect.
Parenting expert and best-selling author Pinky McKay recently answered a whole range of questions from parents with real life examples. We thought we’d share some of her advice to those who participated in the live Q&A, to help parents facing similar issues. If these issues sound familiar to you, we hope there are some tips you can put into practice!
One mum’s two and a half month old son suddenly began waking around 5am each night, even though light and temperature didn’t seem to be issues, he went to bed at 7PM and he napped well during the day. Pinky suggested changes in the family or the toddler becoming bladder aware could be causes. At this age, kids may be woken by a full bladder, she says, so you can try taking them to the toilet before you go to bed or try making their bedtime a little later.
Another mum’s nine and a half month old was having disrupted sleep because of teething and illness, which meant it took a lot of rocking and bouncing her to finally get her to sleep. Pinky’s advice was to recognise that this baby had a lot of developmental changes happening, along with getting used to new foods and peak separation anxiety. She recommended staying with her until she fell asleep and remembering that “this too shall pass”.
One parent wondered if poor sleeping around 3.5 months of age, with the baby falling asleep while being breastfed or in the pram, was a phase that would pass or whether to try stories, blankies, positive sleep associations and routines.
Pinky says breastfeeding is a wonderful way to get your baby to sleep because of the chemicals in it. But her blog has a range of other ways. She notes blankies are a parent substitute, because that’s the person babies are most attached to.
Wind was a problem for one parent, whose fourth child, a four month old, was getting upset as much as an hour after a feed. Pinky’s advice was not to worry too much about wind, and that acid reflux might be at fault. Her blog is helpful when trying to identify if your child has reflux.
Toddler sleep was on one parent’s mind - this parent shares a bed with their three month old while their three year old occupies their bed. But the three year old’s sleep is disrupted when the baby wakes, making him tired during the day. Pinky recommends their partner sleeps with the toddler to settle him in his own bed and helping him drift into a deeper sleep earlier on. Becoming bladder aware could also be an issue here.
Pinky was also asked about a daughter having trouble sleeping at daycare, instead going from awake, alert and happy to extremely over-tired. Her answer was some gentle, quiet music to help the girl relax, but she warned it would take at least a week to condition her to music. The daughter also woke several times at night and often ended up in her parents’ bed to get to sleep. Pinky suggested if these things were working then it was good not to leave her to get upset. “Forget the pressure of self settling and ask yourself, is it safe?, is it respectful?, does it feel right?” Pinky said.
Another mum asked how much sleep their nine week old should get, and how often. Pinky said sleep needs varied as much among babies as among adults and that learning your baby’s cues and following his or her needs worked better than a strict routine which could extend feeding times or upset baby.