by Karen Miller
Sleep - That five-letter word you don’t really think about before kids, it’s not something that you made a priority or something that you particularly cared about. How that changes once you become a mother, the lack of it is something everyone warns you about, but nothing can prepare you for the impact that it has on every aspect of your life.
My name is Karen Miller and I am a baby/toddler sleep consultant. I make it my mission to ensure that mums everywhere get the sleep they need because guess what, it isn’t true that just because you're now a parent you must say goodbye to sleep. I am here to give you the hope, the knowledge and the confidence to make the changes needed to ensure your baby sleeps through the night and naps consistently throughout the day.
Here are my top tips for better sleep.
Ensuring that the baby's room is set up in order to maximise sleep is a great way to lay down good sleep foundations. Even newborns can benefit from the room being dark from 8 weeks. Black-out blinds and covers for prams are great tools to ensure baby has darkness for each nap and bedtime. The reason this is so important is due to hormones, melatonin is the sleepy hormone and is more readily produced in darkness so it gives your little one the best chance of decent sleep.
Overtiredness is the number one reason why babies fight sleep, cat nap through the day and wake multiple times at night.
If you can get on top of that, you’ll notice a significant change in how well your baby sleeps. The best way to manage it is to know what your baby's awake window is and put them to sleep within this time.
Awakes windows are the periods of time your baby can stay awake before biologically needing a nap. These windows differ depending on your baby's age so having a guide helps. I have a FREE guide you can download for babies 4-12 months.
Once you put baby down during these times, they will settle more quickly and sleep for longer. It also helps you to get the right amount of day sleep for their age, as babies only need so much sleep across the day.
Remove Sleep Associations
A sleep association is anything you use to get a baby to sleep. So rocking, holding, feeding or a dummy are all associations that your baby will look for each time they wake. You want the baby to be put down awake into their bed and not need anything from you to fall asleep.
So start to remove this assistance around 4 months of age and use a settling method to teach baby to sleep independently.
Babies can self-settle themselves from 16 weeks, so it’s a great time to teach this skill from that age.
To do this you need a plan, it’s not going to work unless you’re 100% consistent and it is much easier to be consistent when you have a plan of action. So pick a method you’re comfortable with and follow it through for 2 weeks. You should start to see changes quickly, within the first week if you’re doing it correctly.
In just 2 weeks, you can have a baby that is self-settling, taking longer naps in the day and sleeping through the night.
Finally, manage your expectations. Yes, babies and toddlers will protest any change you make but if the lack of sleep is affecting your mental health and your experience of motherhood then it’s time for a change. You don’t need to just survive, you should feel like you can thrive and be the mother you want to be. Lack of sleep will impact your relationship, your mood and your general wellbeing.
Babies cry out of frustration but we tell ourselves they’re distressed and will be traumatised for life. This isn’t true and sometimes some small bursts of crying are necessary to achieve something that ultimately will be in their and your best interests. The end goal will be a much happier child and less crying overall as they won’t be tired anymore and neither will you.
So do me a favour and ignore those people who say, forget sleep now you’re a parent. You deserve sleep, you need sleep and sleep is possible.