How to Help Your Child Sleep Better
41 min read
Last Modified 16 May 2023 First Added 24 August 2015
Successfully getting a child to bed smoothly and efficiently can often feel like a cause for celebration. As most parents know, children are prone to delay, whine, and protest at bedtime. ‘But Mum, I don’t want to go to bed!’ they say.
So, if you struggle to get your child off to bed without counting to ten, two trips to the bathroom, five extra hugs, and three glasses of water, it is time to re-evaluate your overall bedtime strategy.
An ideal place to start is to take a fresh look at your child’s sleep environment. The physical space and the emotional environment you create for your child strongly influence their readiness to settle their body and mind for the night.
Let’s go through my 7 top tips, from improving their sleep space to implementing a bedtime routine that works.
While this may be a battle when you have children, your child’s room should be clean and free of mess. Experts agree that signs of clutter and disorganisation not only distract you with reminders of to-dos (“I didn’t put away my toys!”). It also triggers more excitatory sensory input, slowing the body’s transition to relaxation and sleep. A clean space has a decidedly calming effect, helping your child ease into sleepiness.
When your children engage in play during the day or early evening hours, it is good practice to encourage them to pick up after themselves. Not only because it instils responsible habits around taking care of their things, but it prepares your child for sleep in a clutter-free space.
Ready to upgrade your little one’s bedroom? The kids’ bed range includes storage options, mattresses, and bedroom furniture to help keep things organised.
I know many parents of young children who fret over the exact formula for dressing their child and setting the thermostat to get the best night’s sleep. There is reason to invest energy in this area, as studies have shown that room temperature significantly impacts an individual’s ability to get a good night’s rest.
Experts suggest a cool room, around 65 degrees, is ideal. Studies have shown that an individual’s internal body temperature fluctuates slightly throughout the day, dipping somewhat lower at night. If the bedroom is too warm or too cool, it interferes with the body’s natural sleep cycle, causing early morning waking or restlessness. Learn how to regulate the temperature of your baby’s room for optimal sleep.
I understand that most children like to have some light in their bedroom at night. Many children will settle for a nightlight, but some will demand overhead, hall or bedside lights be left on. Although allowing them the extra light to allay their concerns and fears of the dark may be tempting, too much light is counterproductive to natural body rhythms that trigger sleep.
As darkness descends, the pineal gland in our brain releases the hormone melatonin, which regulates sleepiness. This function is an important reason why children should not be exposed to electronic devices or televisions in the hour before bed. Not only is the content stimulating, but the light from the screen is especially disruptive to this process, inhibiting the release of melatonin. If your little one can’t go to bed in the dark, a sunrise light mimics both sunset and sunrise, which can help regulate their circadian rhythm.
Going to bed should be a calm and peaceful experience for children. Strive to develop positive associations with bedtime, their bedrooms, and sleep. Many parents are tempted to use bedtime as a punishment for bad choices and misbehaviour, but this consequence may turn children off from going to bed in the future. Who wants to go and relax in a place that reminds them of the last time they got in trouble?!
Build calming and relaxing activities into your child’s bedtime routine. For example, one family I worked with would read and listen to CDs from Lori Lite’s Stress-Free Kids series every night. Thus, they made relaxation and creating a calm environment a priority and central feature of the bedtime routine. Similarly, you can read and take your child through relaxation exercises during bedtime. Inner Health Studio has some beautiful (and free!) relaxation scripts you can print and read to your child.
On the Sleep Matters podcast, expert Maryanne Taylor reminds parents:
Babies and children thrive on predictability thrive on routine. And it really can make a significant difference to sleep patterns.
Although life can feel chaotic, especially with a new baby or young child, establishing routines can really help make everyone feel more grounded. A strict bedtime schedule will give your child boundaries and security, so they understand their day better, which can make them happier and healthier.
Try to implement a sequence of actions that leads to bedtime, such as:
Eventually, just doing the first step can start to make your little ones feel sleepy!
If your child frequently wakes up at night, understanding why is essential. As mentioned above, children love routine, so many form habits that can become disruptive – such as waking for a night feed, even when they’re old enough to sleep through. They’ll keep waking up for the reward if there is a strong association with comfort.
While easier said than done, breaking these habits means not rewarding behaviours you don’t like. If waking up means getting cuddles and attention, they have no reason to stay asleep! Minimise interaction during nighttime wakefulness so your child no longer feels like they’re missing out on something by sleeping through.
Finally, your mornings are just as important as your evenings. Kids looking forward to the next day are likelier to sleep through without interruptions. I know it can be tough to muster up the energy early in the day, especially when you’re busy, but reducing stress first thing can make everyone’s day go a lot better.
In this episode, Dr Pixie McKenna talks to Dave Berry, Breakfast Presenter on Absolute Radio and Maryanne Taylor, a qualified sleep consultant who specialises in getting children of all ages to go to bed and sleep well.
How can I help my child sleep better? Transcript
Pixie McKenna [00:00:03] Hello everybody and welcome to the sleep Matters podcast from dreams. Everything you need to know about how to get a good night’s sleep and why it matters so much. I’m Dr Pixie McKenna. And in this episode we’re chatting about children’s sleep and whether a rigorous routine is as important as people make it out. So today I’m joined by Dave Berry, welcome Dave.Dave Berry [00:00:27] Hey Pixie, How you doing?
Pixie McKenna [00:00:28] I’m very well thank you. And Dave is a breakfast presenter. But he’s also, more importantly, father to a daughter, Evangeline. And so I’m guessing she’s four months old. Sleep is definitely something that’s on the agenda.
Dave Berry [00:00:42] [Snoring] Sorry what? [Laughter].
Pixie McKenna [00:00:43] Or lack of sleep. And next to me I have Maryanne Taylor and Maryanne is a qualified sleep consultant. She specializes in getting children to sleep, all ages getting them into bed and getting them to sleep. I needed you a long time ago. I don’t need you anymore. So before we get started how’d you sleep last night Dave.
Dave Berry [00:01:04] I slept okay. I’ve already been told not to say it out loud. A little bit like a candy man. A horror movie if you say his name three times he comes out of the mirror but here goes everyone. My daughter Evangeline is a sleeper. She likes to sleep.
Maryanne Taylor [00:01:19] He said it.
Pixie McKenna [00:01:20] He said it.
Dave Berry [00:01:21] I’m sorry, it’s just going to be once now on the podcast and then I’m done, I’ll never say it again.
Pixie McKenna [00:01:25] You are doomed [laughter].
Dave Berry [00:01:26] I know I’m sorry. Yes. No, I’m feeling good thanks for asking.
Pixie McKenna [00:01:29] Good. And how about you, you must sleep well I guess?
Maryanne Taylor [00:01:33] I generally sleep well, my children generally sleep well now, and I will stress the now because we’ve had lots of ups and downs with my children’s sleep. But it’s not set in stone and there are plenty of times when we have downs on the sleep front both with the kids and me.
Pixie McKenna [00:01:49] Did you end up in the job that you were in because your kids couldn’t sleep?
Maryanne Taylor [00:01:55] Absolutely. That’s how I initially got to it when I, we had our first child 16 years ago. We were first-time parents, I really haven’t been around babies much at all myself and it just hit me hard. We didn’t have a clue what we were doing really so we were trying all sorts of different things to try and help her sleep. And she wasn’t a great sleeper and I really struggled with that. I find it very very difficult the sleep deprivation. So I got very interested in the whole topic of sleep. And then when I had my second child everyone said oh second time around second children are great sleepers, he won’t have any issues and you know what you’re doing and actually, that wasn’t quite the case.
Dave Berry [00:02:35] Liars, Liars.
Maryanne Taylor [00:02:37] That’s what I said to the baby. But he wasn’t listening to me.
Maryanne Taylor [00:02:41] So then I really immersed myself in the whole this whole area of sleep and I found it absolutely fascinating so I decided at the same time as has having my third child to retrain as a sleep consultant. And so that’s really how I got to it through my own obsessive nature and sleep deprivation.
Dave Berry [00:02:59] Has it been, sorry, if you don’t mind me asking Marianne, has it been easy to kind of implement this stuff you spent the years learning in getting your children to sleep? I know you’ve helped other people’s children’s and stuff but were they, were they on board with that always? Is it more difficult when it’s your own child rather than somebody else’s?
Maryanne Taylor [00:03:15] Totally. It is definitely more difficult one that your own child and I did retrain at the same time as having my third child so a lot of the practising was done on her. And she interestingly was the best sleeper out of the three.
Dave Berry [00:03:29] And her name is guinea pig, what a coincidence [laughter].
Maryanne Taylor [00:03:31] The plight of a third child.
Pixie McKenna [00:03:33] Is it true, because I think this happened to me, you know laughing and saying Dave’s that oh my daughter sleeps.
Dave Berry [00:03:40] That’s two strikes, thank you, doctor.
Pixie McKenna [00:03:43] My child slept until she is six months old and I’m now cruising around with the buggy thinking I got this, this is nailed, and then I seriously think she heard me and she went hahaha, I’m going to teach you. So for two and a half years after that, she didn’t sleep. Well, It’s not that she didn’t sleep she went to bed but she was up twice every night like clockwork. We had a rota and we had an on-call rota and if it was your night on call, if you didn’t get out of bed you were you able to get beaten or elbowed or some kind of abuse at 03:00 in the morning.
Maryanne Taylor [00:04:14] Right, yes I can understand that at 03:00 in the morning.
Pixie McKenna [00:04:18] So is there something in that?
Maryanne Taylor [00:04:19] Yes. It is interesting because I think there is we do fall into that mistake possibly. And I didn’t want to say it but, sleep patterns are ever changing. It’s not an exact science and babies and children aren’t an exact science so we can’t say categorically that’s it my child is a fantastic sleeper and as I said there’s always going to be those ups and downs. It can become a habit then sort of a sort of self-perpetuating situation where something causes a disturbance to sleep and that becomes a habit and then it can be tricky sometimes to break that habit. It can happen over time, naturally but often children need some help.
Pixie McKenna [00:05:01] And I suppose there’s that thing as well when you’re a new parent or an inexperienced parent or just a parent you always get that thing when your child, someone else looks after your child. Oh no. They say they didn’t get up at all. Why does that happen?
Maryanne Taylor [00:05:15] Yeah yeah. Irritating as it is a lot of it is about association for children. The children have an association with a parent. Whether it be that a parent needs to be in the room or holding their hand or just whatever that may be, and that association becomes the issue itself, and when they’re not faced with that association or a parent isn’t necessarily there then they don’t have those issues with sleep.
Pixie McKenna [00:05:41] And what is the importance of sleep for kids. I mean you haven’t experienced it yet until tonight obviously. But you know I know the issue whether your child doesn’t sleep it’s a problem for the whole family. But what’s the importance of sleep in terms of children?
Maryanne Taylor [00:05:59] Well it’s absolutely essential I mean it’s essential for growth for health, wellbeing, concentration, all of that is so much so affected by sleep. And we see it certainly with school-aged children who aren’t getting enough sleep. The focus and concentration at school is very much affected. And with younger children I mean often we have a situation certainly with toddlers where they’re very active very busy they’re kind of flying around all over the place and you were to see them that will make them tired but often what it is if a child is sleep deprived then that becomes a little bit hyper that situation becomes into a hyper situation and a parent sometimes looks at that situation and assumes that their child isn’t tired at all. And then maybe delays bedtime or delays naps or cuts out a nap that because they feel that their child isn’t tired enough. But often what that is is exactly the opposite. And the child is overtired and therefore becomes more hyper.
Dave Berry [00:06:51] Another big benefit I’ve already found, even though Evangeline is only 4 months old, is that when she sleeps it’s an opportunity to trim those tiny razor-sharp fingernails that have slashed me in places, I didn’t even know existed. When she’s laying there she’s got her little hands out over the top of the thing. It’s when we go with the little clippers, we know it’s going to be a safe environment for mummy and daddy if anything.
Pixie McKenna [00:07:16] How much should, for a small baby, so baby let’s say you’re like Dave, your child is between 0 and 1. Everything is done scientifically now when it when people have babies, it’s not like well let’s go with the flow and see what happens. People are looking absolutely at times if you’re not doing the latest thing. What’s the science behind it or what should people be hoping to achieve?
Maryanne Taylor [00:07:40] So that slightly worries me that whole what that science of it and I do think that that has put a lot of pressure on new parents of that they feel that there has to be X number of hours of naps during the day and X number of hours of sleep and it is variable. And children do have variable sleep to a degree. So I would say from the beginning so from where we’re out newborn up to around six months it’s roughly split into half as in half sleep during the night half asleep during the day. So there’s a lot of naps during the day and then it’s you start to sort of regulate into more of a regular sleep pattern from around the 5/6 month mark where a child will probably have about three naps a day and then look at doing around 11 hours, 11 to 12 hours at night.
Pixie McKenna [00:08:32] Right through? As in your 11 hours at night?
Maryanne Taylor [00:08:37] You really would love that. Yes. Yeah absolutely I mean a child of six months would have the ability to get things considered and I’m talking about a child with average weight and size and all of that all things considered then a six-month-old certainly would have the ability to be able to sleep through.
Pixie McKenna [00:08:54] Wow, imagine that. I’d be a different person I think if that happened.
Dave Berry [00:08:58] Evie does kind of eight hours at the moment, You know we nap her in the day, then at 8pm we put her to sleep and she kind of sleeps right through.
Maryanne Taylor [00:09:07] That is amazing, that’s really amazing.
Dave Berry [00:09:09] Oh that was the third time.
Maryanne Taylor [00:09:10] I’m sorry. I’m sorry. And it was me that said it.
Dave Berry [00:09:12] I’ve got no one else to blame. So it’s, you know, it’s great at the moment, but as you say it’s interesting to know because reading a little bit about what you do Maryanne on coming on the podcast, it is going to change. You know and I think it’s good for myself and my partner to be aware, that we know it is going to change.
Maryanne Taylor [00:09:31] And what’s good going into it knowing that, it doesn’t mean that she’ll become, I hate to say ‘bad’ sleeper but it doesn’t mean that her sleep will be terrible but it certainly will change, and it sort of morphs into a different type of sleep as well.
Pixie McKenna [00:09:52] So is that six months, you know the first six months you have a child who’s just does everything that they’re supposed to do and then after six months they just turn into it…..
Maryanne Taylor [00:10:07] That’s from experience. Yeah, I can hear experience speaking there for the six-month mark, generally up until around five, six months the sleep patterns aren’t massively established, so it can be slightly all over the place not in your case but a lot of newborns. It can be all over the place and there is no regular pattern. And from around the 5 6 month mark, it’s where it starts to establish a little bit more. It coincides with the introduction of solids at around six months as well, there are developmental jumps at around that time so all of that brings us to a point where you start to see a regular sleep pattern and that’s where hopefully we want the sleep to start extending and stretching at night.
Pixie McKenna [00:10:52] So that whole concept of routine, have you got a good routine do you think?
Dave Berry [00:10:56] I think so yeah. I mean we as I say, where it works fortunately with my breakfast show is that I can I kind of can get home on average around midday. And that means that I get to spend some time Evangeline and my wife gets to go and speak to other adults and be a human being and then so there’s usually a feed involved in that and then Evangeline will sleep normally. Then we’ll try and interact with her as much as we can and play with her and then we try to put her to bed around 20:00. Then normally my wife and Evangeline sleep together in one room and I go to the other room and sleep there so that I can get up at half-past four and then do my job.
Pixie McKenna [00:11:37] You’re up early.
Dave Berry [00:11:38] So it balances it, that’s our balance.
Maryanne Taylor [00:11:40] So when you say you had a good night last night how was the baby?
Dave Berry [00:11:46] I just presume she sleeps you know I never thought to ask go ahead and comment on here. No, but the baby is sleeping well that means my wife’s getting her rest and so that’s. On occasion we all kind of stay together and stuff on a Friday. and Saturday which is good.
Maryanne Taylor [00:11:59] Lovely.
Pixie McKenna [00:12:00] Because your routine though is I think is quite important isn’t it? So I guess my understanding of what you’re saying is if you can get yourself into the groove and have something established by that five or six months, you’re much more likely to nail it.
Maryanne Taylor [00:12:12] Very much so, yes absolutely. Babies and children thrive on predictability thrive on routine. And it really can make a significant difference to sleep patterns. Both nap times and night times is to have that predictability and also bedtime routine. And we all know that bedtime routine for children is important but it’s essential, in my book actually is for a child to know what’s coming next how a bedtime runs. It’s very soothing it’s very relaxing and it’s an important way for a child to start their night sleep is to have that soothing wind down.
Pixie McKenna [00:12:50] And is that true for, not just you know babies and toddlers but is that true for most age groups right up?
Maryanne Taylor [00:12:56] And adults. Absolutely. It’s important it’s very important for us and certainly adults who have sleep problems of which there are many. The first thing we look at is what their process is leading up to getting into bed. Bedtime routine it’s the same thing. It’s that sort of ability to be able to switch gear both physically and emotionally and give yourself the time to be able to kind of turn it down in the lead up to getting into bed.
Dave Berry [00:13:19] I mean interestingly as part of the routine and I’m sure this isn’t true of many people, but because of my job, because I love to sleep and I’m very fortunate that I do get to go off to sleep and because my wife works hard and she’s a new mum and because my daughter is four months old for those various reasons we all go to bed at 20:00. Perfect!
Maryanne Taylor [00:13:39] Wow. You’re great fun, that’s amazing. When does Netflix happen?
Dave Berry [00:13:43] Yeah. Well, this is it, this is the thing because I think that there’s obviously there’s a part of the brain which you see from time to time called FOMO the fear of missing out. And I think if you’re lucky enough not to have that part of your brain switched on then you’re going to find it a lot easier to sleep and I just don’t suffer from FOMO. I don’t worry about not being at the pool but don’t worry about missing out on that thing. I’m kind of happy at home with my family. So it means that we all get to have a little bath time. Yeah yeah. Get to sleep and I feel fresher in the morning.
Maryanne Taylor [00:14:14] Amazing.
Dave Berry [00:14:15] I mean that’s not all the time bearing in mind. We don’t go to bed at 20:00 all the time. But we are often all tucked up by 20:00.
Pixie McKenna [00:14:19] Dave Berry goes to bed at 20:00, you heard it here first.
Dave Berry [00:14:22] So not like the old days.
Maryanne Taylor [00:14:25] If you could talk to my 16-year-old about going to bed at 8pm that be great.
Pixie McKenna [00:14:31] 20:00. That’s early. I think the other thing about the routine is it’s all very well to have your routine but what do you do if you’ve got a child who wakes up in the middle of the night and once I had a milk monster. So want’s something. Well, what’s the deal with that. Do you leave them?
Maryanne Taylor [00:14:47] So I think it’s important to sort of establish what’s happening there. Why is your child waking up? It’s also relevant how old the child is. So a baby who was waking up for feeds and who needs still feeding at night then obviously that’s a different situation, where if you have an older baby or a child who no longer needs feeds at night or else just wants to see a parent or whatever reason it is, it’s, first of all, looking at what the cause of that wake up is. Are they looking for reassurance? Is it a habit? And addressing that, the key point of trying to address any kind of sleep issue during the night is being consistent with a process. So whatever process a parent is deciding to do whether it be that they’re going to go in reassure their child and then leave or whether they’re going to sit by them until they go to sleep. Whatever process they decide to go with and it is very much a personal thing. We parents in very different ways and children have different personalities so what suits one child doesn’t necessarily suit another or another family. But whatever process a parent is is going to choose to do with their child when they wake during the night the consistency is really important. However if you have a situation like yourself where you have a milk monster and you know that your child no longer needs the milk and it is just about habit and it has become an association for your child for sleep they know that when they get into that light stage of sleep and they pull themselves into a full wakefulness then they know that milk is forthcoming and that’s what they need, they assume they need in order to get back to sleep. It is about breaking that habit. So whether it’s cold turkey and we just you decide that there is no more milk at night and you use reassurance techniques to get them to go back to sleep or whether you do it gradually. So some people prefer to do it gradually where they start reducing down the amount of milk that they give at any given wake up until they get to very little and then take it away at that point. But the key with whatever process a parent is choosing to do is being consistent, rather than confusing the issue which exacerbates a lot of sleep issues in children, is that the child doesn’t really know what to expect and sometimes they’re allowed to have it and sometimes they’re not allowed to have it. That’s a very confusing situation for children.
Pixie McKenna [00:17:02] It’s funny you say about consistency because my husband, you know, I go into bottle library and he’s like ‘No it’s a transaction. Get in. Hand over the milk. Get out. Don’t wake. Don’t Interact!’ And actually, he was absolutely right. But you know you’re right both parents because you don’t really know what your other half is doing in the middle of the night if they’re up and I mean I was just being ridiculous.
Pixie McKenna [00:17:30] Yeah. Took me a long time to correct the habit but it was the whole milk situation brought it down. Then, in the end, something happened and for some reason, I think we both were asleep for two nights and she didn’t wake and it sort of petered out. Yeah, that was that, tough times, all ahead of you Dave. What are the biggest problems that you see along the way.
Maryanne Taylor [00:17:58] I hate to say this in front of Dave.
Dave Berry [00:17:59] I’m here to be educated as well as be part of this. But it’s great. I want to hear it, hit me with the facts.
Maryanne Taylor [00:18:04] Bring it on. And so I think one of the main problems is if there was a sleep regression. So a baby who is sleeping well and for whatever reason there is some kind of regression, whether it’s teething very badly or unwell and there is also a regression, and I hesitate to say it but there is such a thing as four-month sleep regression. Some babies go through it many babies don’t.
Dave Berry [00:18:28] It’s literally four months tomorrow.
Maryanne Taylor [00:18:30] I know. But some babies don’t.
Dave Berry [00:18:33] So what you’re suggesting is I go back to what I used to do, which is stay out until late and then come home. let’s hope it’s all sorted out when I get back.
Maryanne Taylor [00:18:41] I’m not condoning any of that.
Dave Berry [00:18:44] Okay that’s good to know.
Maryanne Taylor [00:18:47] So there are regressions along the way. It may be caused to the developmental jumps along the way which can cause regressions to sleep as well. And I think some of the problems can happen when sleep regression is underway and then a parent sort of falls into a situation where they’re fuelling it, so they get a situation where they start rocking their baby back to sleep each time they wake up during the night and that becomes the next habit or they give milk each time the baby wakes and that becomes a habit. So whatever it is that a parent falls back on during these times of regression that can then set the scene for ongoing sleep issues. So that’s where we want to be careful if there are regressions to sleep is that you don’t do something to fuel it as an ongoing issue. That’s one thing, also there are always with us certainly with older children, toddlers and older children where they’re they may be scared they might say they’re scared of the dark or there’s something that they’ve seen on TV or heard at nursery or out and about that triggers with them. And it’s scary and that affects sleep as well. So it’s also about addressing that you do need to address your child’s fears and rather than ignore it. But there’s got to be a certain boundary where what you don’t want to do is when a child is saying that there’s a monster in the room start looking around the room for the monster.
Pixie McKenna [00:20:08] Don’t You?
Maryanne Taylor [00:20:09] You’re almost acknowledging the fact that there is one.
Dave Berry [00:20:11] What I am taking from this is, it’s not about Fatherhood, but I’ve been a terrible uncle to Alice and penny. There are monsters everywhere, we’re playing, we’re running away from them. Yeah, I should stop doing that my sister will be thankful.
Maryanne Taylor [00:20:20] But things like monsters for instance if you acknowledge that there may be by looking under the bed or opening the cupboards then that’s an acknowledgement of the fact that well, Yeah, I’m just gonna check that they’re not here. So when your child is lying in bed in the dark looking around the room thinking I wonder if they’ve arrived.
Dave Berry [00:20:40] This looks like it’s news to you?
Maryanne Taylor [00:20:40] She’s doing fine now?
Pixie McKenna [00:20:48] We brought the dog upstairs to sniff the monster out.
Maryanne Taylor [00:20:51] Right.
Pixie McKenna [00:20:56] I mean that was ages and ages ago. It’s all good. She’s good now.
Maryanne Taylor [00:21:01] But things like that which we wouldn’t realise, you don’t assume you just think well I’m just sort of reassuring my child that the monster is not here. But that’s for the here and now. So you just wanna be careful that it doesn’t become a thing where the sort of an acknowledgement of that. Something that does work well just by the by, seeing as we’re on the subject is having a spray a bottle with water with a few drops of lavender which is very soothing for sleep and spraying the room to make it feel like…
Pixie McKenna [00:21:31] To get rid of the Monster? [laughter]
Maryanne Taylor [00:21:33] No so it’s just a safe haven. The monsters waiting outside the door won’t come across the door once who have the spray, and then you’re waking up 15 times a night to spray.
Dave Berry [00:21:49] And you’ve got a super soaker full of lavender. Yeah.
Maryanne Taylor [00:21:49] So it’s things like that that we don’t assume would cause an issue but can.
Pixie McKenna [00:21:54] What about co-sleeping so you were saying that your wife sleeps with your daughter when you’re working, how does that affect things. Well obviously doesn’t affect sleep I guess.
Dave Berry [00:22:05] No I mean obviously I’d like to point out I’m there to lend a hand and all that, we’ve just been fortunate. It would seem very fortunate that Evangeline is sleeping as much she is and we have all co-slept together but Evangeline hasn’t slept on our own yet there’s always been myself or my partner. Yes, we haven’t let her sleep on our own yet.
Pixie McKenna [00:22:23] So how do you feel about that? I was like out, out of my room as soon as you can.
Dave Berry [00:22:29] Take your own lavender spray and get out.
Pixie McKenna [00:22:30] Exactly! I was like yeah, do one. Go.
Maryanne Taylor [00:22:34] I was the same. Maybe it’s the Irish in us!
Dave Berry [00:22:36] Do you think I, we should do that? I’m half Irish! What do you think, what should we do?
Maryanne Taylor [00:22:43] So I think co-sleeping is great if it’s working well for everybody involved. I think of everyone sleeping well. The baby’s sleeping well and the parents are sleeping well and everyone’s happy, then I think that’s great. I think if you fall into a pattern of co-sleeping where it hasn’t been an actual choice then that’s obviously something that you want to address. So if you find that your child is not going into the cot easily and they’re crying and you end up bringing a child into your bed because needs must at 2 o’clock in the morning and you’re just desperate to get to sleep, which is hugely understandable. Then you fall into that pattern of ending up sleeping next to your child not, necessarily by choice then that is something that you would want to address. But I think co-sleeping in itself and obviously want to make sure that the environment is safe and you’re following all the guidelines for that. Then I personally I don’t have an issue with it. It only becomes a problem if it’s a problem and if somebody is not well or not dealing with it well, or if a parent is finding that while the baby is sleeping well they’re lying sort of rod rimmed can’t move and that’s not conducive for good sleep for the parent.
Pixie McKenna [00:23:50] And you get kicked and all kinds of things.
Maryanne Taylor [00:23:52] Yeah, yeah and worried and sort of not able to relax.
Pixie McKenna [00:23:58] What about parent sleep. So you’re getting into. I mean you get up early and you go to bed early and you’re getting enough sleep you as a family do you think you’re getting enough sleep.
Pixie McKenna [00:24:08] I do think we get enough sleep, but we always ask one another if we feel we’re getting enough sleep. Because I think that obviously to touch back on, we know it’s not going to be this easy forever. There’s no point in having a tired mum and dad, I think that’s why I try and come home again we’re fortunate to be able to do that because of the hours that I work and Sarah Jane’s off of work to look after the baby. It means that she can either go to sleep or she can go out and go for a swim or go for a walk or whatever because it’s important that you look out for one another so that you’re as sharp as you can be for the baby. But no we are collectively on the whole not always of course but we’re sleeping pretty well.
Pixie McKenna [00:24:47] One of the best pieces of advice I got was don’t have a ‘tired off’ you know it’s not a competition to see I’m more tired than you, and actually just just be practical about it, as you say. You know if you need to go to sleep, go to sleep.
Dave Berry [00:24:59] A friend of ours said you know if you find that there’s a time in the day where the baby is asleep and you’ve got emails to do or you’ve got housework to do or you’ve got things to get on top of. Just forget about it and just go upstairs and get some sleep.
Maryanne Taylor [00:25:16] It is hard to do that hard it is the advice and obviously that’s the best bet if you can have a sleep during the day when the baby’s sleeping, but it is hard because that’s your time that is because often when you have a new baby you feel like your whole day and sometimes half your night is taken up with just the baby and there’s no time for anything else and any space for anything else. And I suppose there is that sort of situation where the baby goes to sleep and it’s that oh what am I gonna do. I’m going to go to sleep. Am I going to do emails or whatever? So it is it can be tricky to do that, t can be tricky to just leave it all and take yourself off to bed. But obviously from a point of view of how you’re feeling and how much sleep you need as a parent than that’s advisable. If you can.
Pixie McKenna [00:26:00] What about technology. I was on the train the other day and there were two lads on the train and they were fathers of new babies, young babies and they were having this big discussion, everyone was listening to it. I mean you would think they had reinvented the wheel. It was quite it was quite interesting. It was quite enlightening. Anyway one of the topics one of them said to the other well you need to get this app because this app will tell you when your baby is going to sleep or when your baby is going to have a bad night or be grumpy and you plug in the due date and the age of the baby. And I was thinking the last thing I would want to know is if you’re going to have a hellish night tonight, you know, I mean can we use technology to help us get our children to sleep or is it more of a hindrance or should we just use our common sense?
Maryanne Taylor [00:26:48] I would always go with common sense. Yeah, I would always go with instinct parental instinct. I think we get so bogged down with the technology and looking and reading what it should be or how it’s going to be.
Dave Berry [00:27:02] I mean that sounds like it’s been totally made up.
Maryanne Taylor [00:27:07] So the baby wasn’t part of that discussion. It’s like the baby books the babies haven’t read the baby so they’re not part of this. So I do think it can induce a lot of anxiety certainly for new parents is to feel that it has to be what a certain way and when they’re looking at the technology of it. And I think it has a place. I do think it has a place, things like tracking sleep in terms of naps and nighttime sleep and often when I work with parents one to one. I do ask them to keep a sleep log as we’re going through a process, a sleep plan and apps have a place for that. But I think you can get very bogged down with that and it can induce more anxiety than anything else. And I think for people that have issues with sleep or have issues with their children’s sleep then that becomes all consuming.
Pixie McKenna [00:27:53] Yeah so go old school. If you need to write it down make a note of it somewhere I guess but don’t get too bogged down in it.
Maryanne Taylor [00:27:59] Don’t get too bogged down, and I think we also tend, in the current day and with all the technology and the Internet and all the information we could ever want in the world available to us at our fingertips. I think sometimes we’ve lost sight of our instinct, our parental instinct and I think that’s hugely important, hugely important. I mean nobody knows your child better than you as parents. And I think we tend to lose that now and I think that’s a shame because I put a lot of store on instinct.
Pixie McKenna [00:28:31] So what would your advice be. Maryanne in terms of new parents listening who have sleep issues. What would be your sort of top three tips with their children asleep?
Dave Berry [00:28:41] Yes so one is: At the beginning, so from newborn up to let’s say five months or so, your stage. Enjoy the time. Try not to get bogged down. I think there’s this assumption that they have to sleep during the day for X amount of time and then give a nap and that isn’t the case as I said at the beginning. It’s that the sleep patterns aren’t established yet. So 20-minute nap here and there although obviously you yourself would want slightly more time to be able to do a few more things. It is very normal for babies to only sleep in 20 30 minute bursts during the day and it can take a little bit of time for them to start stretching that. So enjoy the time. Don’t feel that you have to be sort of beholden to being in the cot for all the sleep and all of that at the beginning. Then moving towards the 5-6 month mark start trying to shape into more of a regular pattern of naps during the day which will help the night’s sleep as well. Consistency is my top tip. Consistency. So once you’ve decided to address sleep and whatever at whatever level that is then really consistency across the board which will keep frustration levels for your child and baby to a minimum.
Pixie McKenna [00:30:06] And that’s consistency as parents but also anyone else who’s looking them should be quite strict?
Dave Berry [00:30:13] Yes absolutely and also responses to your baby so if you have decided that your child doesn’t need to drink milk for instance during the night any more and you’ve decided between you that this is how you’re going to respond then having everybody do the same thing is really important but also that your child understands that this is what happens when they wake up during the night so it isn’t a situation where one parent goes on to do one thing the other parent goes in to do the other thing their child doesn’t know what where what to expect.
Dave Berry [00:30:43] Yeah all of this, of course, the equivalent of as like get older it will be ‘well Mum said I could, Dad said I could’
Maryanne Taylor [00:30:48] Oh yeah. Lots of that, lots of that.
Dave Berry [00:30:50] This is the seed of that?
Maryanne Taylor [00:30:51] Lots of that. Just one other thing I will say and we mentioned a before about technology is that certainly with toddlers and older children it is very tempting to kind of throw them an iPad to keep them calm in the lead up to bedtime. I would steer away from that. I would steer away from using screens in the lead up to bedtime make bedtime be sort of a bonding experience and the time they have that one to one focus and attention from the parent or a caregiver or whoever is doing Bedtime.
Pixie McKenna [00:31:24] And Dave what would you say to all those new parents just about to have a baby. What in terms of sleep, do you have any secret weapons?
Dave Berry [00:31:32] Well I think our secret weapon. It’s as far as you talking about technology and sleep. It’s the only piece of tech we have really or two pieces there’s a lamp which we put this nice little pink curtain around that we have that gives a lovely glow to Evangeline’s room and we have this owl teddy bear and you press his little foot and he plays a heartbeat. And that and a bit of handholding kind of is our trick at this stage. So get an owl friend and then just basically lock the door and the owl will do everything for you, it’s fine. Just leave him alone and you’ve got ten hours, I’m living proof that can happen. Head turn around all the way is always watching if there’s any danger.
Pixie McKenna [00:32:18] Do you reckon you’re gonna sleep well tonight?
Dave Berry [00:32:20] I’m going to be nervous about what I’ve said on this podcast, I didn’t want to give away my bedtime is 20:00, I used to be such a rock star, I’m devastated.
Pixie McKenna [00:32:28] Don’t worry we won’t tell anyone.
Dave Berry [00:32:30] No, it’s been really nice doing this and I knew that I would learn a lot of stuff to pass on to the family so thank you both for that.
Pixie McKenna [00:32:36] I didn’t help, I had the worst child’s sleeping routine.
Dave Berry [00:32:41] I think it normalizes everything and I would say to go back a step you know you asked the question for parents you know about to be, it is just so wonderful you would have heard that from so many people and I can’t believe I’m saying this already at the four months stage but really do enjoy that first baby bit. Yeah because I can’t believe how quickly that’s gone those little grunts and noises and so queer palm of your hand stuff and that’s already gone and now I’m gonna cry a little bit actually.
Maryanne Taylor [00:33:10] Yeah it goes so quick.
Dave Berry [00:33:10] Yeah.
Pixie McKenna [00:33:11] You might not be saying that now tonight when you’re walking the corridors at 03:00.
Dave Berry [00:33:14] I thought I was going to stay here. I thought we were gonna have a party, Guys, guys. No??
Pixie McKenna [00:33:20] Super. Thank you so much, Dave. Thank you so much, Maryanne. That’s been really really good. I think slightly late for me as my daughter is now 6 but you know, good to know.
Pixie McKenna [00:33:29] Thank you for watching the sleep matters podcast from dreams. If you enjoyed it then please press the like button below and if you want to see more then you can subscribe to the series.