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Sleep - tips

Updated: Oct 20, 2022

Sleep is a topic that often comes up with mothers of children of all ages! I don't think there are many who have had zero challenges with sleep.

Maybe you have a newborn when sleep deprivation is expected but the realities hit you far harder than you could have imagined.

Maybe you have a baby that just won't settle without being cuddled or fed.

Maybe you have an active toddler who fights naps and wakes at 5am every morning!

Maybe you have a child that wets the bed or has night terrors every night.

Maybe you have a child with additional needs who needs extra supervision throughout the night, medication or just has general difficulties in settling and staying asleep.

Or maybe you have a sick child who needs medical care through the night or whose needs mean you are kept awake with worry.

There are so many reasons for mums to be sleep deprived and though when you are all alone, in that oh so isolated place, in the dark early hours, wondering how things have turned out this way and how you are going to get through another night like this, remember you are not alone - there are mothers everywhere feeling the same as you even if their situation is slightly different.

Here are some ideas to help you through. Some motivational, some practical and some links to professional advice. Some things are just ideas and recommendations I have received during my journey and I will share them - though they may not have all worked for our personal situation. Also everyone has differing opinions - these are just things I've found helpful or things that fit with my point of view. Read them with an open mind and take from it what reaches out to you.

Firstly, everything is a phase and will pass, nothing lasts forever.

Remember newborns have spent 9 months (if full term) being carried around constantly with the sound of your heart beat reassuring them. So when they are born it is only natural that they will feel more comfortable and soothed to be in your arms and close to your chest. Lying flat on their back in a crib is a completely different experience for them.

Safe sleep advice is for babies to sleep on their back in a crib next to the mother's bed.

Try a white noise or soothing heart beat sound device near baby at sleep times to calm them.

Take your little one for a walk in the pram for nap time - the fresh air, exercise and being in nature is restorative for you both. Listen to a podcast or audiobook or take a book to read on a park bench when your little one has dropped off. Find a way to make nap time you time even if it's not how you originally planned.

Try and find a way to enjoy cluster feeds. With my first born I was frustrated that I couldn't get him to settle in the evenings and he wouldn't go in his crib. With my second born I made the most of it - set myself up in bed with a box set and let her feed - switching from side to side - for as long as needed. I loved those evenings!

Create a simple bedtime routine that works for you and your family. Traditionally bath, teeth cleaning, pjs, story, song, bed is a standard routine. But if you find a bath livens your little one up, move it - give them a morning bath or do it earlier in the evening. Pick activities that are calming to your individual child. At the moment my son enjoys sticker books and he is calm when playing with them, so that has become part of his routine. Maybe a bit of massage, some deep pressure, bedtime yoga, classical music, an audiobook, hugs, whatever works for you.

Start winding down an hour before bedtime. Screens off, calming activities, no active games or tickles that hype your little ones up. Start closing the curtains to darken the house a bit to help increase melatonin levels - the sleep hormone.

Throw the curtains open first thing in the morning to flood the house with light - this also helps regulate the sleep hormones. Obviously this is harder in winter. I gradually brighten the lights or use a wake up sunrise/sunset light to recreate dawn.

Do what makes your life easier and provides you with the best sleep. For example at the moment I sleep on a mattress on my son's bedroom floor because I am then already on hand if he is disturbed in the night. If I sleep in my bed and my son is upset in the night I have to get up and relocate, probably disturbing my husband more in the process, getting cold from getting into a different bed and it is more disruptive to my sleep. This isn't forever and I am working on a transition plan to be able to move back out his room, but at the moment I'd take better sleep over being in my own bed. I make the most of it - it feels like a sleepover every night!

If your baby is awake a lot in the night and needs you, try sleeping in the same room, try feeding whilst lying down. Books that advise to let them cry it out, keep going in every two minutes until they learn to self soothe, aren't thinking about the poor mothers who are completely exhausted and need to then continue their job as mother the following day! Plus you don't want to disturb the rest of the household otherwise the night becomes even more of a nightmare and you have a lot more grumpy people in the morning.

Having a rigid feeding and sleep routine from the start can help some families and it can work for some babies. You just need to choose the path that works for you and your little one.

Do what feels right to you. I remember a night I was staying at my parents. My son struggled to settle to sleep and I attempted to let him cry for a bit and would pop in and reassure him, then leave him again. He screamed so much he was sick - then we were both in tears and I was an emotional wreck. Letting him cry was not an option for me - I just couldn't do it. And it didn't work for him. Some babies will stop crying, my son never did - he would get more and more hysterical.

Try baby wearing - put them in a sling as you do things around the house, they will feel comforted and more inclined to sleep and you can be hands free to get on with whatever you need to do.

When my baby son was really upset and couldn't settle, standing beside the kitchen extractor fan on full blast did the trick - the white noise snapped him out of the state he'd got himself in and he would fall to sleep. This technique still works now he's ten. If he is in a state and is struggling to sleep I stick on waterfall sounds on Alexa and it will help him regulate and calm. It doesn't always work, but generally it helps.

Try swaddling your baby to help them feel secure and to reduce the startle reflex waking them up. Using large muslin swaddles is great as they are lightweight and breathable so baby is less likely to overheat. You can purchase my own design of swaddle blanket at Dot & Lizzi - made from 100% organic cotton muslin.

For current guidelines on safe sleep advice to reduce the risk of SIDS, check out the NHS website below....

Also the Tommys charity website which also references premature babies

And also the Lullaby Trust website has lots of safe sleep information.

You can of course speak to your midwife, health visitor or GP with any concerns or for advice.

Do you have any tips? Please share in the comments. I'd love to hear them.

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