Health

Sleep tight

It’s that clock-changing time of year again, and while most of us will be thrilled with the extra daylight it’s not quite the same story for parents with little ones who don’t sleep. So, we’ve called on advice from two baby sleep experts and speakers at the upcoming Baby Shows.

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Heidi Skudder is a parenting expert and founder of Positively Parenthood and Lucy Shrimpton is a sleep and well-being expert and founder of The Sleep Nanny. Both agree that if you ask any new parent what their biggest problem is, 99 per cent of the time the answer will be ‘lack of sleep’.

Here are their tops tips for encouraging little ones to sleep well, meaning you too can sleep well and have a happier and healthier day ahead!

Plan a routine

Heidi says: 'The word routine has been somewhat demonised in recent years. Most new parents now dread even using it, as they have been made to feel that all it implies is a baby who is not listened to, fed only when the routine says and nap every day from 12-2pm. This is simply not true, and a more relaxed routine can benefit even the most disorganised of us.

Although some sleep specialists remain fairly rigid in their approach to routine, most sleep coaches will work a pattern for your baby around your lifestyle. Being aware of ‘wake windows’ (the time a baby is awake between sleeps) is probably one of the most game-changing bits of information that you will ever come across as a new parent!'

Lucy adds: 'Having a consistent bedtime routine each evening will help babies understand the cues that will make them ready for sleep time. This could be bathtime or a bedtime story: just try to do the same thing in the same place each evening. Consistency is key.'

Having a consistent bedtime routine each evening will help babies understand the cues that will make them ready for sleep time

Get the lighting right

This may sound obvious but is hugely important to help your little one nap during the day and get off to sleep when on lighter evenings. Lucy says: ‘Make sure you invest in some good blackout blinds to keep out natural light, ­ it will make a world of difference.’

Keep naptimes consistent

Day time napping consistency is also important, although much will depend on the individual child and when they are ready to drop their nap. Lucy says: ‘Try to hold on to naps until they are around three-and-a-half or four. Children with lively temperaments may appear not to need (or want!) naps but actually they need them more than their laid-back peers! Children aged three and over who are sleeping a solid 12 hours a night probably won’t need a nap though.’

Stay connected

‘When very small, babies can struggle with the transition from cuddling close to you to being in a cot,’ says Heidi. ‘Connection is so important for you and your baby, so enjoy the newborn snuggles, but then practise putting them down by lowering their feet into the cot first, followed by their head. If they stir or seem upset, hold them on their side, patting and soothing them. Once they calm down, try putting them onto their backs into the cot. This gentle way of lowering babies into their cots is a game-changer for those babies who struggle to be put down.’

Good advice can often work far better than buying endless new products which promise to solve the issue

Create the perfect nursery environment

Keep the nursery cosy, familiar and comfortable. Cribs like the Snoozi from Stokke are easily transportable from place to place if you’re travelling, allowing children to get that familiar feeling even away from home. Lucy says: ‘Avoid putting the cot close to a window as that can be draughty and potentially noisy. Try to keep the temperature of the nursery at around 18 to 20 degrees.’

Don’t be afraid to ask for help

Heidi says: ‘You don’t have to spend all your money on snazzy sleep products and gadgets to have a baby that sleeps well - far from it. As a busy sleep coach, I see many parents who have done exactly this, only to realise that baby sleep is about so much more than a rocking crib. Rather than spend thousands on gadgets, I would advise new parents to spend a fraction of that money on talking through their concerns with a reputable sleep coach. Good advice can often work far better than buying endless new products which promise to solve the issue. From a sleep coach perspective, it’s about helping shape sleep gradually from the beginning, rather than spending lots of money on things which may offer only temporary respite, or not even solve the issue at all!’

*Heidi and Lucy will be taking to the main stage at The Baby Show, the UK’s leading pregnancy and parenting event taking place at the NEC Birmingham 10-12 May, Manchester Central 7-9 June and Olympia London 25 -27 October.

Visit Heidi Skudder at www.positivelyparenthood.com and Lucy Shrimpton at www.sleepnanny.co.uk.

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