Expert Tips for Baby Sleep Training - That Really Work!
written by: |February 24, 2021
Last week, our founder Millie spoke with Francesca, our favourite baby sleep specialist to give our community her top tips for baby sleep training and protecting your baby’s sleeping pattern as we adjust to daylight savings.
Millie has a baby boy (Bodhi, pictured to the left) and has been BLOWN AWAY by the results, “Bodhi has slept soundly every night since! Francesca shared such simple adjustments and they worked instantly.”
If you want to know how to sleep train a baby, and the best age to sleep train a baby, Francesca is our go-to baby sleep guru. She is a qualified Paediatric/Neonatal registered nurse and believes sleep is a learned behaviour, and along with their genetic makeup, babies need us to help them develop healthy habits to thrive. Francesca is unbelievable and so many parents swear by her methods, she has such a caring nature and holistic approach, check out her website here.
We think you guys are really going to love what she has to say!
First, we talked about the 12 month regression
It’s a tough regression. The separation anxiety comes into play around eight months of age, but then at 12 months because of the increase in vocabulary that they’re trying to comprehend and juggle in their brain I always say it’s like they just push completely down sleep on the priority list and they also have that separation anxiety. So you get a lot of nap refusal!
What can you do? It’s actually about being in the room a little bit more. And although some parents are a bit scared to do this because you think you’re going to create bad habits, but they genuinely are just needing you a bit more to kind of just look across from the cot and just go “okay, mum or dad is there”. It is still not aiding them to sleep so you’re not you’re not creating any bad habits you’re just there through this period of like separation anxiety.
Try not to go in and out just because that could become a bit of a game, but just sit there and be really boring. Particularly for naps, because their drive to sleep isn’t as large as it is overnight.
And then about daylight savings
Francesca gave us some suggestions of how to ease the transition. Because we’re going to gain that extra hour it is better than losing daylight saving, that’s typically when parents remain in the struggle for a while. When we’re putting the clocks forward it’s actually better. Generally babies sleep anywhere between 6:30pm and six. And as much as we always encourage sleep till seven, it’s more common to wake about 6am. So, in that instance, you’re actually in a really great place to start with, you don’t need to do too much. Because six o’clock will become seven o’clock that next day. So it’s so much nicer this way around.
However it’s a good idea to try, in the lead up to daylight savings to just pop to bed that little bit earlier. So normally, you know if they’re bedtime, 630, or 645, just try 15 minutes earlier. Decreasing their bedtime by 15 minutes each night for 4 nights before daylight savings is just going to allow them to get the same amount of sleep.
And what about super early risers?
One mum in our community’s baby wakes up at 3 or 4am most days. Should she just start the day super early? Or are there better methods to resettle them?
This one depends on the age of the baby. Early morning, wakings are the trickiest piece of the puzzle to try and combat. If your baby knows how to sleep, you know, connect through sleep cycles during the day to lunch, or even overnight, it’s very common at that time in the morning for you to do anything to get them back to sleep, which then becomes a bit of a habit. So as much as it’s easier said than done, just really trying not to give in is the way to go. Try not to offer that bottle, try not to say just come into bed with me. Pick five days where you can consistently for that five days, keep increasing that boundary a little bit. So say for example, it’s 5am, wait until 5:30 until you offer a bottle or offer them to come into your bed. Then the next day, try six o’clock. Just doing little increments like that is going to make a huge difference.
Should we be using bridging naps?
So many parents ask Francesa about how to sleep train your baby for naps. Say, for example, you’ve got 5am waking, so at seven, two hours later, you offer nap. And then they get to sleep for another hour and a half, they’re just going to keep waking at five or 5:30. Because they just know they get this big, long nap soon after waking. Same with a baby that wakes close to seven. When they reach a certain age, we need to start capping that morning nap. So that doesn’t happen in that situation as well. So just doing a quick 10 minutes just allows the day to get back on track without having a bed time of 4:30pm. Because if you offer a nap, if you try to do a bridging nap at the end of the day, it’s probably 9/10 your baby will reject it. Whereas it is so much easier to do it in the morning.
So a short nap in the morning and a long nap at lunchtime, purely because neurologically, they just do not need that restorative nap in the morning anymore. And what that’s going to do, a short nap in the mornings is going to drag their circadian rhythm as close to seven o’clock as possible. Without them thinking, “I’m going to get a long nap in the morning. I’m fine to party at 5am”. So by capping that nap, we set that kind of boundary that Okay, I need to get in as much sleep as possible for the rest of the night because I’m only going to get a short nap for my first nap of the day. And then that means that by doing that short nap, they get that deep restorative nap over lunch time. And a restorative nap over lunchtime means that they will sleep well, overnight.
Does iron help sleeping?
They say up to about six months babies will have iron stores from during pregnancy in utero. However, after that point, they just severely deplete, which coincides with starting solids. So we need to figure out ways of getting their iron requirements into them. Fun fact, babies need the most amount of iron they ever need in their life between six to 12 months. So we need to get quite a big amount into them. But then on the other side of that they’re not very good at processing so we need to make sure it’s mostly at lunchtime pre 10 months, so that they have time to process.
How dark should a room be?
The test is if you can see your hand in front of your face, then that’s going to be too light in there. Product recommendations for that are The Grow Company [link], they do this kind of stick on portable blind or even Ergo Pouch [link]. It comes in a roll so you can cut according to the size of your window. Just if you have oddly shaped windows. So those are two quite reasonably priced options, or even just foil will get it done without installing expensive blinds.
Are catnaps OK?
From newborn to 12 weeks, don’t worry if your baby cat naps on occasion, they’re not supposed to be good at sleeping at this point. Their brains are maturing, they’re trying to basically figure out what the sleep thing is. Sleep is genetic. So you’ll find one mum say that her baby can sleep anywhere and everywhere and not be woken, and sleep for two hours at a time and then you’ll get another mom, same age baby just cat naps, maybe even 30 minutes, not even 45 you know, so just know that that’s genetics. And that’s why you can never compare babies. Pre 12 weeks, neurologically, they need that assistance e.g. hands on, shushing padding, rocking or whatever that motion is. If your baby is over 12 weeks, neurologically, they can begin to start self settling. So this is where we probably implement some gentle sleep training.
White noise is the best thing ever
And science has shown us that it gets us into a deeper more restorative state of sleep. I think particularly here in Sydney we will kind of live on top of each other a little bit, so it really does block out those unwanted noises around apartment blocks. Have it as loud as it needs to be somewhere around 70 decibels. A baby’s cry can reach around 100 decibels of noise. So that’s pretty loud. If your baby is upset, particularly during the newborn days, just make sure they can actually hear that white noise so if it means cranking it in that moment and then turning it down again once settled so that the baby actually hears it, just do that momentarily. That kind of comforting, deep rumbly noise is what’s going to turn on their calming reflex. As well as the sucking too, dummies can be great.
You’re not alone
If you want to know how to go about sleep training a stubborn baby, sleep training babies without crying, or the best age to sleep train a baby make sure you get in touch with Francesca. Sleep deprivation can affect so many areas of our lives. There is no shame in asking for help. We are big believers that we are stronger together. If you need to catch up on sleep, reach out to a baby sleep specialist for advice or you can also book an experienced nanny on Huddle to pick up the kids and take them to the local park, so you can enjoy some much needed sleep. Sometimes a good sleep-in is all you need to feel ‘human’ again. There’s no shame in asking for help — you’re not alone in any of this. It truly takes a village and we are all here to help.
If you would like to watch the live chat between Francesca and Millie, here is the link. If you’d like to organise a one-on-one with Francesca (pictured below) to personalise your baby sleep training, you can contact Francesca at The Sleep Escape at https://thesleepescape.com/. For those looking to connect with our amazing network of trusted, vetted and recommended carers download Huddle App www.huddleapp.com.au.